Nuclear Engineering

What is the job outlook for nuclear engineers?

  • Dec 30, 2021
  • Nehal Jain

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. At one point, the highest number of nuclear engineers were employed by utilities that own or build nuclear power plants. However, there is a growing trend towards using alternative sources of power generation that are not only cheaper but also a form of renewable energy. 

Owing to the gradually increasing adaptation of renewable sources of energy, employment is on the decline for nuclear engineers. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nuclear engineers is projected to decline 13 percent from 2019 to 2029. In 2019, the number of nuclear engineers employed was about 16,400. In 2029, it is projected to be about 14,300, a decline which numerically amounts to approximately 2,100. 

The good news is, despite declining employment, about 900 openings for nuclear engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Further, there are several related fields to nuclear engineering such as nuclear medicine, for which job prospects may be more favorable.

So if you have a keen interest in science and technology and have good numerical and analytical abilities, you might want to consider a career as a nuclear engineer.

What Do Nuclear Engineers Do?

Individuals who choose a career as Nuclear Engineers understand the science behind how nuclear facilities work. Nuclear Engineering career involves analyzing energy transmission, conversion, and storage systems and solving operational problems with the reactor cores and shielding, hydraulic and electrical systems, and complex instrumentation such as the monitoring equipment. 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.

On the job, they 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.

How to Become a Nuclear Engineer after High School? 

Students interested in studying nuclear engineering should take high school courses in mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. 

To pursue a career in nuclear engineering, you’ll need to pursue a foundation degree or a degree after High School. Not all universities offer courses specific to nuclear engineering, however, you can also sidestep into nuclear by studying science or technology-based subjects, such as Maths, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Electrical Engineering. A bachelor's in nuclear engineering enables you to work in an entry-level position and provides a solid background in topics related to nuclear science and technology. 

Even though it's not a requirement to enter the field, a master's degree in nuclear science and technology can expand your access to job opportunities, especially within management and executive positions. Additionally, you can specialize in related nuclear engineering subsets, which can further your credentials in the field.

Depending on your state's requirements, you may need to obtain a license to work in nuclear design and technology. 

Would You Make a Good Nuclear Engineer? 

Take InternMart's Career Map Test to get a detailed breakdown of why you may or may not make a good nuclear engineer.

The free career aptitude test will do the math for you and help you figure out your personality traits and how they relate to the career pathways you can explore and pursue. 

Do you want to know more about making the right choice for your college and career?
Book a Free One-on-One consultation with a career expert.

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