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Engineering Prospects for nuclear engineering

  1. May 19, 2012 #1

    I entered college this semester and I planned to major in Electrical Engineering. However, I've heard that my college will begin offering Nuclear Engineering next year, and I'm wondering if I should transfer to that other field of Engineering. However, Nuclear Engineering is a relatively new course in my country (my college will be the second one here to offer such a course - the other began offering it just some three years ago).

    I'm wondering what the prospects of a Nuclear Engineer are. How do their wages fare when compared to other engineers? Given that the prospects for nuclear power look a bit shaken after Fukushima, what type of salary can I expect if I end up working in another area (i.e. in the medical area)?

    Last but not least: when I applied to college, I faced one of the toughest decisions in my life. I really wanted to major in Physics, but given the limited job opportunities for a Physics major and my family's financial conditions, I decided to take a safer bet and choose Engineering instead. However, I haven't really abandoned the idea of doing research in Physics or in a closely-related area. Would a nuclear engineer have better prospects in doing research than an electrical engineer? Have you heard of any Nuclear Engineers that ended up doing research?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2012 #2


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    One could still major in physics, and in fact I encourage engineering students to take as much physics as possible. I started out as a physics major before migrating to nuclear engineering. If I could do it over, I'd do a double major in physics and nuclear engineering.

    I'm one of several nuclear engineers from my university department who ended up doing research. Several of us work for private corporations, others work in various national/government research labs or NASA, and others returned to academia. Yet others left the nuclear industry altogether. One colleague at university did a double major in Electrical and Nuclear Engineering. I took quite a few courses in electrical engineering beyond circuits: subjects included electromechanics, power system design and analysis, control theory, signal analysis and digital relaying/SCADA.

    Engineers and physicists should be diversified as much as possible in various aspects of the field. I also strongly recommend as much advanced math as possible.

    A particularly important area these days is computational physics, which is becoming more of my work. One must be comfortable with solving systems of coupled non-linear partial differential equations, so math and physics is a key part of that. The engineering comes from knowing how systems and their components function on multiples spatial and temporal scales from macro to atomic, and from years to milliseconds.

    US (Westinghouse, GNF) and European (e.g., AREVA) multinational companies have offices in many countries with nuclear programs, and often have relationships with national companies in those countries.
    Last edited: May 24, 2012
  4. Jun 2, 2012 #3
    And how do the salaries of a nuclear engineer fare in comparison to other branches of engineering?
  5. Jun 2, 2012 #4
    I think in the United States, nuclear engineers have some of the highest unemployment
  6. Jun 2, 2012 #5
    Ouch! Why?
  7. Jun 2, 2012 #6
    I think we've closed down nuclear plants over the past years, but Astronuc would be better to ask about it.
  8. Jun 2, 2012 #7
    Yeah, this part of replacing nuclear energy with other forms of energy is what scares me the most if I go to this area. It seems to me that the most exciting jobs in this engineering are related to energy production. This is why I also asked what Nuclear Engineers earn in other areas as well.
  9. Jun 13, 2012 #8
    I am in the same dilemma except I have not entered college yet. Astronuc, how do you feel about the future of nuclear engineers (involved specifically in energy production or weapons defense) in America after Fukushima? This field interests me greatly but I am worried that there will not be jobs. The large anti-nuclear crowd is intimidating as well.
  10. Jun 14, 2012 #9
    I'm not sure on what data you are basing this statement but I do not think it is true.

    Information about unemployment for engineers can be found here:


    Of course, that doesn't take into account the amount of engineers there are in each field at large. For example, there are of course more EEs than NEs. I decided to look into that and by using the data that can be found on BLS.gov for the number of jobs there were for each engineering field for same year, 2010, I found NEs to have one of the lowest rates of unemployment at 2.1%. Compare that with 8.2% for both MEs and EEs and I would say that nuclear engineers are doing quite well getting work.

    I can also add anecdotally that, according to my adviser, of the 207 nuclear engineers my program at UofI graduated last year, about 30% went on to grad school. Of the remaining only 2 have not yet found work.
  11. Jun 14, 2012 #10
    Does anyone have statistics comparing how Nuclear Engineers' salaries compare to other branches of Enginheering?
  12. Jun 14, 2012 #11
    Yes, it's one of the highest, second only to petroleum engineers (no surprise there). That information and much more can be found at BLS.gov here:

  13. Jun 19, 2012 #12
  14. Jun 19, 2012 #13


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    I know companies who are hiring. There are many senior folks in the industry who will be retiring in the next 10 years, and they will need to be replaced.

    Fukushima hasn't really affected current plants, but it put a stop on the South Texas Project.

    Two new plants are underway at Vogtle and hopefully soon at V. C. Summer.

    Nuclear engineering overlaps with other engineering disciplines, e.g., mechanical engineering (in thermodynamics and fluid mechanics), electrical engineering, materials science, civil engineering. I encourage engineering students to take as many math and physics courses as possible, be diverse by branching into other areas of engineering, and get a graduate degree.

    The industry is looking for skilled individuals who are willing to tackle challenging problems.

    The salaries are very good, and are commensurate with experience and capability/proficiency.
  15. Jun 20, 2012 #14


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    The prospects for nuclear engineers are looking good, just not yet. In a few years it could be booming. In the mean time, I agree with astronuc - diversify. BTW, I worked at the south texas project in the mid 80's. It is a good company.
  16. Jun 20, 2012 #15


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    Yes. Most of my work (failure analysis and predictive analysis - theory, tools and application) though is explaining why things failed, and more importantly, preventing failure in currently operating systems. I (and my colleagues) have a very good record. In a previous position, I did a lot of manufacturing oversight (technical assessment and QA (performance-based, before it became a buzzword) auditing) and design assessment.

    Acutally, a component that a colleague and I designed is being tested.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012
  17. Jun 20, 2012 #16
    You have been extremely rude. Whether or not someone gets a job within their field is dependent on their own attitude towards getting a job/starting a career in their field. Regardless of their training, engineers are engineers and they have the ability to mix and match their jobs in different industries and fields.
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