Are you a nuclear engineer? Do you want to be? This discipline has huge potential in a booming energy industry, and with a closer look at what these highly skilled workers do, you can position yourself to join this elite team of talented workers. Here’s what you need to know about jobs in nuclear engineering.
Day to Day Duties and Responsibilities
Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Many engineers work in nuclear power plants as directors of operation and maintenance activities. Safety is a critical goal of all nuclear engineers and is paramount to their responsibilities within any job description. Overall, nuclear engineers are normally tasked with designing or developing nuclear equipment, such as reactor cores, radiation shielding, and associated instrumentation. They write and direct operational instructions in use in nuclear plant operations, as well as in the handling and disposing of nuclear waste.
Key skills of nuclear engineers include the ability to identify design elements to help build facilities and equipment, work collaboratively with other engineers and technicians, communicate effectively both in writing and in person, pay close attention to what is happening at all times, and ensure that operations comply with all regulations and laws relating to safety and the environment. Logical-thinking skills, math, and problem-solving skills are all very important as well.
Power reactor operators require a license, but licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a nuclear engineer. Such jobs do require a bachelor’s degree at least, and many jobs require a master’s or even a Ph.D. Students interested in studying nuclear engineering should take high school courses in mathematics and science, such as calculus and physics. A Professional Engineering (PE) license allows for higher levels of independence and opportunities overseeing the work of other engineers and providing services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires a degree from an accredited engineering program, a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, relevant work experience (typically 4+ years), and a passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam.
The average salary for the Norfolk, VA area is about $85,000. Hourly, that equates to just over $41 per hour. And while the employment of nuclear engineers is projected to decline slightly by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there will be numerous job openings simply due to the amount of engineers on track to retire in the next few years. As operating extensions are being granted to older nuclear power plants, there are many opportunities for job applicants looking to grow their careers.
How to Become One
If you are still in school, now is the time to focus on the academic disciplines that will prepare you for a job as a nuclear engineer. Explore the programs available to you, and seek to gain as much experience as possible through cooperative-education programs and internships.