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Skip college and become a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator. Really?

  1. Aug 5, 2011 #1

    Math Is Hard

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    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/08...-money-fast-10-high-paying-jobs-that-dont-re/

    OK, the article is a year old, but I don't think things have changed that much, and I think this is a Simpson's-perpetuated myth.
     
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  3. Aug 5, 2011 #2

    Pengwuino

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    What the hell...
     
  4. Aug 5, 2011 #3
    You need a vocational or associates degree.
     
  5. Aug 5, 2011 #4

    BobG

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    Is it? I don't know, but the key is that the job is to be an operator, not an engineer.

    While I don't what qualifications they look for for nuclear power plant operators, the Air Force looks for guys with a high school education for satellite operators - a job that requires understanding some aspects of engineering, physics, and troubleshooting - and some understanding of computers and radio signals (since they're essentially a long distance computer operator). The Air Force does at least look for above average ASVAB scores for its satellite operators (which at least implies above average intelligence), but I think it's gotten to the point where the person doesn't have to be very far above average.
     
  6. Aug 5, 2011 #5
    After the disaster in Japan this year, there has been a trend to move away from nuclear power, so I'm not sure that there will be a lot of career opportunities in the future...
     
  7. Aug 5, 2011 #6
    Really? Any sources?
     
  8. Aug 5, 2011 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  9. Aug 5, 2011 #8
    Germany was already planning on moving away from Nuclear energy. Due to their location it's difficult for them to effectively use nuclear energy and they are trying to use environment friendly energy sources. Many people think they'll just import nuclear energy from elsewhere but I think if Germany's track record for environmentally friendly energy is something to go by that they'll most likely be able to complete their goals with minimal dependence on outside nations.
     
  10. Aug 5, 2011 #9
    A few years back I met a kid in the Navy who was one of the nuclear operators on a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier. He enlisted out of high school and the Navy trained him for that job from scratch. On the whole, though, he was a lot brighter than the average Navy kid I've run in to.
     
  11. Aug 6, 2011 #10
    good to know nuclear reactors are maintained by folks who couldn't stomach 2 years in a community college...
     
  12. Aug 6, 2011 #11

    Astronuc

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    It may be that some operators do not have a BA/BS degree from a university, but considerable training is required, and there is a rigorous examination that one must pass. I'm not aware of the requirements for naval reactor operators, but for someone outside of the Navy, I believe a science or engineering degree is more or less required. Utilities are not about to risk a $multi-billion facility on someone who is not capable.
     
  13. Aug 6, 2011 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    For naval reactors, the operators are enlisted, so a college degree is not required. The supervisors are officers and a college degree is required. However, you need to go to basic training, and sub school, and nuclear power school, and qualify on a shore-based reactor, and then re-qualify on the same reactor at sea. That's assuming your are selected, and this is highly competitive - many of the applicants already have college coursework under their belts.
     
  14. Aug 6, 2011 #13

    Astronuc

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    Most (vast majority) of the nukes I know have degrees - at least a BS in physics or engineering. In the commercial industry, most have BS or MS. At the labs, it seems most have PhDs.
     
  15. Aug 6, 2011 #14

    Vanadium 50

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    The Navy puts a priority on education. Even if you don't have a degree when you start off, it's likely you will when you leave.
     
  16. Aug 6, 2011 #15

    S_Happens

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    In the past it was that way, although the trend in related fields has certainly been towards a minimum of a 1 or 2 year college degree. I do know that a local nuclear facility had all of it's operators eventually get B.S. degrees in Nuclear Engineering.

    I can't speak specifically for nuclear facilities, but currently I'm an Operator in a Chemical Plant. It wasn't until recently that my facility started to require a 2 year associate's degree for the position, and that can be bypassed with 2 years similar experience. There are still many facilities (refining/petrochem/plastics/etc) that do not require a 2 year degree, but maybe only a 1 year certificate or high school diploma.

    I can tell you that those programs don't do much more than provide an artificial means of security to the layman and the HR people who do the hiring (there are technical people who participate in the hiring process as well). I can also tell you that you can find many capable people who have little to no education, and that the practical education and experience gained in these jobs is far more useful than the college education needed even for the AAS.

    They don't just hire anyone into these positions. Whether or not they require a college degree, they do do extensive testing both during the hiring process and during the comprehensive training. Typically good technical positions can be selecting 10-50 out of thousands.

    I work daily with engineers, and am constantly consulted for advice about the process, design of new equipment, and relied upon to quickly understand and control process upsets and malfunctions. Out of the hundreds of engineers we have, only 1 or 2 can sit down with us and operate the unit. Typically when they want to do something, they tell us the goal and we tell them how it can be achieved or what stands in the way.

    Before I got this job and was a failure of an engineering major I had little respect for these people. Now I am truly humbled.
     
  17. Aug 8, 2011 #16

    BobG

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    This is true with satellite operators, as well. To get a good job with a contractor after leaving the Air Force, you generally want a bachelor's degree. Of course, there aren't that many operator jobs once you leave the Air Force. Most of the civilian jobs are in some support function where the operator experience is a huge asset, but the job requires some other primary skill (even it's just in program management).

    NOAA also used satellite operators without degrees to control their weather satellites. The leader of each crew usually had at least an Associate's Degree, but many of the operators had no degree at all. In fact, in the mid-90's, most of NOAA's crews were filled with air traffic controllers fired by Reagan. Those air traffic controllers had a pretty good networking system in place! When NOAA first took over Air Force weather satellites, they changed tactics and were hiring every ex-military weather satellite operator they could get their hands on, whether they had degrees or not. One of the first military guys they hired made the mistake of bringing up Ronald Reagan to one of the crewmembers. Those guys hated Reagan! Passionately!
     
  18. Aug 10, 2011 #17
    As an ex-senior reactor operator and shift manager I can tell you that entry level plant field operator positions do not require college degrees. However, to become a licensed reactor operator RO or senior reactor operator SRO most utilities now require either a college education or nuclear naval background. The late 80s saw the end of hiring people off the street with only an HS education as long as they could pass the entry exam. I was one of them. Now, when hiring even for field operators the utilities tend to look for people who come with the educational background to advance to RO, SRO and management positions as they become available. Hiring people without a degree or naval experience can still happen, but it depends on the utilities staffing needs. Just starting the process of getting your foot in the door requires getting to speak to the right people at the plant that's hiring. Most human resource departments within a utility company are clueless when it comes to the specialized needs of staffing a nuke plant and are more geared towards hiring office staff and general utility workers. Nuke pant management usually does the interviewing and hiring, and only use the human resource departments for processing the paperwork. The next step for getting a job after an interview is taking and passing a standardized test used within the industry which is very heavy on science and math. On the plus side, the test is usually graded factoring in your background and education. Once you're hired how far you move up the ranks will depend on your performance in maintaining your quals, your level of education, and staffing needs.
     
  19. Sep 12, 2011 #18
    I currently work as a power plant operator at a coal facility equiped with Back-end (clean coal) technology with aspirations on moving into nuclear after meeting my 4 year lock-in agreement with the union. While it's possible to move into a position like that without a degree, it's certainly not as simple as it sounds. In fact, it's very unlikely for someone "off of the street".

    It had taken me 2 years of waiting and a lot of favors from employees on the inside just to get an invitation to take a general qualification test. That was followed by an extensive background check and a physical/drug examination which had taken nearly 2 months to complete. Once hired, I began taking one qualification class after another after another after another, and I'm still taking these classes nearly 2 years later. The classroom training, the on the job training, the testing...it never ends. I did go to college, but it didn't really prepare me for what I've learned on the job.

    And this is just the beginning. Making a move into nuclear is going to require far more training and testing. Years of it. It's really as if the employer has a degree program of their own. So... when an article says you don't need a degree don't assume that hard work, an unspeakable number of hours in a classroom, late nights of studying and all the testing your brain can handle isn't part of the process...
     
  20. Sep 13, 2011 #19

    S_Happens

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    Thank you, sir. This is exactly what I was trying to say.

    The flip side is that I was competant enough to move into the many of the engineering positions at my company, but the price of admission is a BS. It has nothing to do with me, or downplaying the positions, just that that's what many of the positions evolved to (not really requiring engineering expertise). Sometimes the minimum requirements far exceed the neccessary skills, and sometimes they don't even come close to hinting at what will be required.

    I decided the cost of admission was worth it.
     
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