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Nuclear Engineering Careers

Career Description

Nuclear Engineers conduct research on nuclear engineering problems or apply principles and theory of nuclear science to problems concerned with release, control, and utilization of nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal.

Common Work Tasks

  • Research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation
  • Design, develop, monitor, and operate nuclear plants to generate power
  • Work on the nuclear fuel cycle—the production, handling, and use of nuclear fuel and the safe disposal of waste produced by the generation of nuclear energy—or on the development of fusion energy
  • Find industrial and medical uses for radioactive materials, as in equipment used to diagnose and treat medical problems
  • Examine accidents to obtain data that can be used to design preventive measures
  • Work to solve problems related to land reclamation and water and air pollution
  • Monitor nuclear facility operations to identify any design, construction, or operation practices that violate safety regulations and laws or that could jeopardize the safety of operations
  • Keep abreast of developments and changes in the nuclear field by reading technical journals and by independent study and research
  • Perform experiments that will provide information about acceptable methods of nuclear material usage, nuclear fuel reclamation, and waste disposal

Other Job Titles

Nuclear Engineers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Materials Engineers
  • Industrial Engineers
  • Environmental Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a natural science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand.

Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Many programs also include courses in general engineering. A design course, sometimes accompanied by a computer or laboratory class or both, is part of the curriculum of most programs. General courses not directly related to engineering, such as those in the social sciences or humanities, are also often required.

Graduate training is essential for engineering faculty positions and many research and development programs, but is not required for the majority of entry-level engineering jobs. Many experienced engineers obtain graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology and broaden their education. Many high-level executives in government and industry began their careers as engineers.

Certification and Licensure
All 50 States and the District of Columbia require licensure for engineers who offer their services directly to the public. Engineers who are licensed are called professional engineers (PE). This licensure generally requires a degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, 4 years of relevant work experience, and successful completion of a State examination. Recent graduates can start the licensing process by taking the examination in two stages. The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination can be taken upon graduation. Engineers who pass this examination commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Several States have imposed mandatory continuing education requirements for re-licensure. Most States recognize licensure from other States, provided that the manner in which the initial license was obtained meets or exceeds their own licensure requirements. Many nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, and nuclear engineers are licensed PEs. Independent of licensure, various certification programs are offered by professional organizations to demonstrate competency in specific fields of engineering.

  Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are becoming increasingly important as engineers frequently interact with specialists in a wide range of fields outside engineering.


The median annual salary for a nuclear engineer is $94,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $133,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $66,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of nuclear engineers are:

  • Scientific Research and Development Services  - $105,240
  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $110,110
  • Federal Executive Branch - $87,440
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services  - $112,730
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises - $89,510

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  7%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 1,100
  • Employment 2006 : 15,000
  • Employment 2016:  16,000
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