Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Nuclear Engineering jobs for Mechanical Engineers?

  1. Nov 1, 2008 #1
    I'm currently a mechanical engineering undergrad who has taken an interest in nuclear engineering. However, an undergraduate nuclear engineering program is not offered at my school.

    My question is, can a mechanical engineer still get the same kind of job as a nuclear engineer?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Well yes and no. Jobs such as core designer or fuel cycle engineer would require a nuclear engineering degree. However, for just about every other job, a mechanical engineering degree would suffice. I know a number of engineers in the nuclear industry who have mechanical engineering degrees.

    At the vendors, people doing plant design or power system design (which largely involves thermodynamics, fluid mechancics, structural mechanics, . . . .) would have mechanical engineering experience. Many people involved with fuel manufacturing and design have mechanical engineering backgrounds.

    At power power plants, most of the engineers are mechanical, civil/structural, electrical, . . . depending on the area/discipline in which they work. The nuclear fuels group would have a concentration of nuclear engineers.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
  4. Nov 2, 2008 #3
    I can second Astronuc on this one - many many many of the people working in the commercial nuclear plants and at the vendors are mechanical engineers. There are way more mechanical engineers than people with nuclear degrees in this business. And if you are interested in the real nuke parts, you can learn alot on the job and/or you can go back for a masters in nuclear. Lots of people have done it.
  5. Feb 3, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor


    Nuclear engineering is primarily an area of graduate specialization anyway.

    Most undergraduate nuclear engineering programs are principally preparation for
    Masters or Doctoral level study in graduate schools. The University of Michigan
    Nuclear Engineering Department has an undergraduate program they call
    "Engineering Physics":


    Here's a description of the undergraduate program at MIT:


    A mechanical engineering degree is a good start to graduate study of nuclear engineering;
    if you want to do the nuclear engineer's job as mentioned above. However, if you want
    to do mechanical engineering work applied to the nuclear field; that is also possible as
    has also been pointed out above.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  6. Jan 17, 2010 #5
    I have read much about mechanical and electrical engineers going on to become nuclear engineers. I have not heard that much about chemical engineers, or the merits of a chemical engineering background in nuclear engineering.

    How come?

    I thought that ChE would be closer (both involve fuel processing; both study rx'n mechanisms; both have a heightened emphasis on safety/risk, etc).

    Any comments?

    PS For any of you familiar with my thread on math in engineering, I will likely switch to chem, mech, or electrical eng for next year. I like physics more than math per se, but that is a different story.
  7. Jun 4, 2010 #6
    what about a graduate degree in ME finding a job in nuclear engineering?
  8. Jun 4, 2010 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Yes, it's quite possible depending on the specialty.
  9. Jun 4, 2010 #8
    I was thinking of focusing on CFD or heat transfer for my MSME. Anyways, how are the job opportunities in nuclear engineering compared to the aerospace/defense industry? Someone told me once that in aerospace/defense, you can expect job security to come in intervals every 6 months or so. Since those companies get their funding from contracts from the government, so economic and political climates affect the job outlook. But some people have never been laided off in their entire careers in aerospace/defense.
  10. Jun 4, 2010 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    There are similarities between nuclear and aerospace. The nuclear industry is expecting loan guarantees from the federal government in support of construction of new NPPs.

    I'd recommend learning or getting experience in CAD/CAE, FEA, CFD and multiphysics applications, as well as learning about materials.
  11. Jun 5, 2010 #10
    I was hoping nuclear would be more stable than aerospace but I guess not..
  12. Jun 5, 2010 #11


    User Avatar

    The school I went to didn't offer an undergrad nuclear engineering degree either, so I took a couple of grad courses instead... if you've got the grades and talk to the Professors, they may let you in.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook