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Nuclear Engineers

What Nuclear Engineers Do

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RX_V2Tt0c4w

Work Environment

Nuclear engineers typically work in offices; however, their work setting varies with the industry in which they are employed. Most nuclear engineers work full time.

How to Become a Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering. Employers also value experience, which can be gained through cooperative-education engineering programs.

Pay

The median annual wage for nuclear engineers was $113,460 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of nuclear engineers is projected to decline 13 percent from 2019 to 2029. Traditionally, utilities that own or build nuclear power plants have employed the greatest number of nuclear engineers. However, utilities often are opting for cheaper natural gas in power generation.

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Many of these engineers find industrial and medical uses for radioactive materials—for example, in equipment used in medical diagnosis and treatment. Many others specialize in the development of nuclear power sources for ships or spacecraft.

Duties

Nuclear engineers typically do the following:

  • Design or develop nuclear equipment, such as reactor cores, radiation shielding, and associated instrumentation
  • Direct operating or maintenance activities of operational nuclear power plants to ensure that they meet safety standards
  • Write operational instructions to be used in nuclear plant operation or in handling and disposing of nuclear waste
  • Monitor nuclear facility operations to identify any design, construction, or operation practices that violate safety regulations and laws
  • Perform experiments to test whether methods of using nuclear material, reclaiming nuclear fuel, or disposing of nuclear waste are acceptable
  • Take corrective actions or order plant shutdowns in emergencies
  • Examine nuclear accidents and gather data that can be used to design preventive measures

In addition, nuclear engineers are at the forefront of developing uses of nuclear material for medical imaging devices, such as positron emission tomography (PET) scanners. They also may develop or design cyclotrons, which produce a high-energy beam that the healthcare industry uses to treat cancerous tumors.

Nuclear engineers held about 16,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of nuclear engineers were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 20%
Scientific research and development services 14
Manufacturing 9
Engineering services 6

Nuclear engineers typically work in offices. However, their work setting varies with the industry in which they are employed. For example, those employed in power generation and supply work in power plants. Many work for the federal government and for consulting firms.

Nuclear engineers work with others, including mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, and they must be able to incorporate systems designed by these engineers into their own designs.

Work Schedules

The majority of nuclear engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week. Their schedules may vary with the industries in which they work.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of nuclear engineers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Civil engineers

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems. 

Bachelor’s degree $87,060

Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment.

Associate’s degree $65,260

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor’s degree $101,250

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage.

Bachelor’s degree $91,410

Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor’s degree $88,430

Physicists and astronomers

Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact.

Doctoral or professional degree $122,220

For more information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Nuclear Society

American Society for Engineering Education

Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information

Health Physics Society

Nuclear Energy Institute

Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Technology Student Association

For more information about licensure as a nuclear engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit

ABET

For more information about engineering summer camps, visit

Engineering Education Service Center

For more information about federal government education requirements for nuclear engineer positions, visit

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

O*NET

Nuclear Engineers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nuclear Engineers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/nuclear-engineers.htm (visited ).


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Kate Williams

Kate Williams is a business communications expert and is the editor of Job Affirmations. She is a professional resume writer and has studied Myers-Briggs personality types and how they influence career choice. Job Affirmations has hundreds of job descriptions categorized by the 16 Myers-Briggs types, by career interests and work values. Kate also shares her best writing tips including the proper formatting of emails and cover letters You'll find positive affirmations for work, inspirational quotes, career vision boards for your best year ever.

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