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Engineering Nuclear Engineering and Electrical Engineering; Career Choices

  1. Jul 16, 2008 #1

    I am an undergrad student, currently studying Electrical Engineering. However I have recently developed an interest in Nuclear Engineering upon reading some nuclear physics material in my Modern Physics class. Does anyone have any insight regarding Nuclear Engineering? I don't dislike Electrical Engineering per say, but I found radiation phenomena and similar things quite fascinating.

    Also, the school I plan to attend has a concentration within Nuclear Engineering with various Electrical Engineering power courses (the same ones that the Electrical Engineering majors take) so I am looking into it. I have also heard that many Nuclear Engineers work as either Mechanical or Electrical Engineers at times, depending on the work availablility.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2008 #2
    I think you should do it, doesn't seem you have anything to lose. Go for the concentration.
  4. Jul 17, 2008 #3
    Make sure you know what nuclear engineering is actually about before you switch to it. I switched my major to nuclear engineering last fall for a similar reason - I thought nuclear physics was pretty cool. However, nuclear engineering (at least at the undergraduate level) doesn't really go very deep into the field of nuclear physics. You'll learn a lot about the applications of radiation, and radiation protection, but if you want a lot of theory you'll have to look elsewhere. If applications and radiation protection are what you are interested in - great! If you are more interested in theory, then look into just taking a class on nuclear physics (if your college offers it).

    Also look into the kind of jobs that nuclear engineers have. Running/supervising a reactor or the building of a reactor, testing radiation levels, doing safety inspections, writing up nuclear policy, etc. It's a very politically charged field, too (at least currently). This was another turn-off for me, since I am rather apathetic about politics, and having to learn about nuclear policy bored me to tears.
  5. Jul 17, 2008 #4
    well i took modern physics, but that had only one chapter on nuclear physics. the rest was about the electron/introductory quantum physics, or special relativity. If I were to go for it, I would not just stop at a BS, I would likely pursue an MS, or perhaps go further depending on my intrest at that point. I guess I will talk to some coworkers who went into Nuclear or some academic advisors to see what NEs actually do for work. So what did you end up going into?
  6. Jul 17, 2008 #5
    I'm a physics (and possibly applied math) major now. It's what I wanted to do before college (though I came in as some wierd liberal arts/comp sci hybrid because I wanted to go into video games, but that was a red herring left over from when I was younger), but I didn't like the career prospects for someone with just a BS and didn't want to go to grad school*. My attitude pretty much took a 180 this spring though, once I realized how great my passion for physics was. I don't dread the idea of grad school anymore; I'd say that I look forward to it but all of the grad students I know are worked very hard.

    *This was primarily due to my sister, who is working on her PhD in Public Health right now and is always very stressed. It's a bit frightening.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2008
  7. Jul 18, 2008 #6
    But I have heard that Physics jobs aren't that great at the BS level

    I personally don't have a problem with grad school, but it depends if my situation changes
  8. Oct 16, 2008 #7
    Anyways, since this discussion, I have decided to stay with EE for undergrad, concentrating in power. I am planning on going into Nuclear Engineering for grad school, either concentrating in fission/reactor physics or radiation detection/protection. The medical applications are interesting, but it is a far jump from EE power....lol

    Also, I can get a second BS in engineering physics along with the BS in EE....but it will delay my graduation one semester, any opinion on this? (either way I am gonna go to grad school for NE)
  9. Nov 4, 2008 #8
    why not take the extra BSc? I would do it. It's a huge asset when trying to get somekind of job.

    And good for you having reached a decision and actually telling us back what you choose. :D It's always nice with feedback, people should do that more recurringly, because it makes for interesting bumps of threads.
  10. Nov 4, 2008 #9
    well the extra BSc in Nuclear would delay me 1-1.5 years, so I might as well get the MSc

    As for the second BSc in Physics, I am still somewhat weighing the options. It would delay me one semester, which I guess is not much, especially since (I hear at least) graduate school starts in the spring. I am actually thinking of the medical physics side of nuclear engineering (since it is related to radiation protection), so I might need to squeeze in some biology courses, so if I have to stay for that, might as well get the second BSc. I'll keep you all posted after I talk to a few people in the departments
  11. Nov 4, 2008 #10
    I don't know about masters, but PhD programs very rarely start in the spring.
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