The energy industry is an exciting market for new professionals. Many long-time employees are just about to hit retirement age, so there is an increased demand for qualified applicants. If you are interested in becoming part of this profession, consider exploring the nuclear technician opportunities. This skilled profession is well paid, provides on-the-job training, and has a strong outlook. Here’s what you need to know to get hired as a nuclear technician.
What Nuclear Technicians Do
Nuclear Technicians are hired to assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and energy production. They operate special equipment used in these activities and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced. Many nuclear technicians work for power plants, using computers and other equipment to monitor and operate reactors. The work environment is mostly in office or control rooms, and schedules range from full-time to variable schedules. Technicians, like other employees working with nuclear power, must take safety precautions to avoid exposure to radiation.
Key skills for nuclear technicians include communication skills to receive and act on complex instructions from scientists and engineers. Nuclear technicians must be able to explain their work to other professionals, instruct others on safety procedures, and warn them of hazardous conditions. Many daily work procedures must also be documented for future reference.
Nuclear technicians also must be able to use computers for plant operations and normal office work and exhibit strong critical thinking and interpersonal skills to work collaboratively as part of a team. Math skills and mechanical skills are also critical to manage complex operations and maintain a safe working environment. Monitoring skills are also key, as technicians need to be able to review and assess data from sensors and other instruments to ensure everything is functioning properly and radiation levels are controlled.
Education and Training
Nuclear technicians typically need at least an associate’s degree in nuclear science or a related technology. Technicians go through extensive on-the-job training to ensure they know the correct procedures and protocols relevant to their individual role and work environment. Nuclear technicians who operate reactors also require licensing.
The annual mean wage of nuclear technicians in Virginia as of May 2016 was between $59,850 and $62,710. Other states, such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee saw even higher average salaries, up to almost $90,000 annually.
How to Become One
Once you have the baseline education or equivalent experience from serving in the U.S. Navy, there are various licenses or certifications that can be helpful in landing a job as a nuclear technician. The Nuclear Energy Institute offers a certificate through its Nuclear Uniform Curriculum program, and the American Society for Nondestructive Testing offers certification in Industrial Radiography and Radiation Safety. The National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists also offers certification as a Registered Radiation Protection Technologist. While not every technician role will require these certifications, they’re worth exploring to see how you can differentiate yourself as a candidate and give your career a boost both in the short and long term.
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