Are you wondering how to become a nuclear engineer? In the following article, we answer this question to help you take the steps you need for a career as a nuclear engineer.
Nuclear engineering is an in-demand, lucrative profession. With so many young people facing an uncertain job market, it is no surprise that many are asking the question, “How do I become a Nuclear Engineer?” Well, the answer is: hard work and dedication. It is not easy to become a nuclear engineer, but many feel that the sacrifice is worth the reward.
What Is It Like to be a Nuclear Engineer?
It is a high stress but rewarding profession. Nuclear engineers must be detail-oriented professionals who rarely make mistakes. Making a mistake when overseeing or working on a nuclear power plant can have dire consequences. For that reason, nuclear engineers must be able to work under near constant pressure.
Not only is nuclear engineering a high-stress field, it is one that requires long hours. There are not enough engineers who specialize in nuclear power to go around. As a result, when you become a nuclear engineer, you will be expected to work long hours. Some weeks you will be on duty for over seventy-two hours of the workweek.
What Education Should You Obtain to Become a Nuclear Engineer?
To become a nuclear engineer, you must master a unique skill set. If you are still a high school student, you want to pay particular attention in your math and science courses. These basic skills are of the utmost importance when applying to nuclear engineering programs across the country. When you reach college, your first degree will need to be in either physics or engineering. It will be the first of many degrees. Most advanced positions within nuclear engineering require a doctorate or master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree is enough to get your foot in the proverbial door, but you should plan to return to school to seek an advanced degree.
Once you obtain your bachelor’s degree, it is time to prepare for your Fundamentals of Engineering Examination. This test is designed to ensure that you possess the necessary skills and knowledge to enter the engineering field. Once you past this test, you will be given the title of Engineer Intern. At this point, you can begin working under an experienced engineer.
After 4 years of on the job training, you can take your Principles and Practice of Engineering examination. Passing the PPE Exam means you can now call yourself an engineer, and work without direct supervision. The road to become a nuclear engineer is long and difficult, but for many, it is worth it in the end.
What Kind of Salary do Nuclear Engineers Earn?
Because the demand for nuclear engineers is so high and the supply so low, nuclear engineers can expect to earn significantly more than engineers in other fields do. The average starting salary for an engineer is approximately $45,000. The average starting salary for a nuclear engineer is $65,000.
Even though demand is high, obtaining a job in nuclear engineering is not easy. Employers are very selective. Your best means of landing a job involves making contacts in the industry. You can do this by securing an internship while still pursuing your degree, using your professors’ contacts in the industry, or even receiving education and on the job training in the military.
Not all nuclear engineers work at a nuclear power plant, and you should not limit your job search to nuclear plants. Many nuclear engineers find gainful employment in factories that make nuclear equipment, as consultants for the military, research facilities and in the medical field.
The opportunities for advancement in the nuclear engineering field are many. Most people start out at the same level, but as they gain experience, many segue into supervisory and managerial roles. Some use their intimate knowledge of nuclear power to transition to an executive position or operate as freelance consultants.