Working as a nuclear engineer with M.Sc. Physics

IS it possible to work as nuclear engineer or getting into nuclear industry with a M.Sc. in Nuclear Physics instead of Nuclear Engineering?
Absolutely maybe. You'll never know unless you try it. I don't think there are any laws against it, so it will just depend on how well you can sell yourself.


Science Advisor
It will also depend on what you are assigned to do.
If let's say what if I learned some reactor physics, neutron transport but not any thermal hydraulic and heat transfer in my coursework and perhaps some experiment on the application of research reactor for my master thesis but never had any training in operating and controlling nuclear reactor how would it be?

Anyway, what are the roles of a nuclear engineer? And, what does a nuclear engineer need to knowledgeable in?


Science Advisor
A friend once worked in a nuclear plant. He had a BS degree in mechanical engineering. His job was to supervise the ongoing testing and qualification of relief valves. Most of the technical jobs in a nuclear plant are related to the steam generator, steam turbine, electrical generation and controls, standby power, and general plant engineering functions. Not the nuclear reactor.

I remember reading about a debate after a major reactor failure. Apparently some politician thought that reactor operators should have degrees in nuclear engineering. It took some effort to persuade him that operators have an entirely different skill set than engineers, and that engineers would not make good operators.
Anyway, if I enroll in M.Sc. in Nuclear Engineering program, what would be the practical aspect of nuclear engineering that I'd expect to get exposed to? Training in reactor operation? nuclear power plant design?

I'm currently considering Russian university, MEPhI. Basically they offer 2 different program for nuclear related course: M.Sc. in Nuclear Physics and Technology, and M.Sc. in Nuclear Power Engineering and Thermal Physics.

jim hardy

Science Advisor
Gold Member
2018 Award
what would be the practical aspect of nuclear engineering that I'd expect to get exposed to?
Every plant has a small cadre of nuclear engineers who tend to the reactor flux distribution measurements , fuel loading, tracking burnup and the like.
If your school has a test reactor by all means take a course in reactor operation. Learning the mechanics of approach to criticality, 1/m plots, expected instrument response is exciting.

I was an electrical engineer and just curious about the little windowless reactor building on campus. So i knocked on the door and inquired. Yes they offered a course in reactor operation , a semester of reactor physics was a prerequisite. My counselor let me apply those 6 hours of Nuclear toward my EE degree.
It gave me a huge head start on a career in a nuke plant. I had a decent electronics background so it was natural to fall into the instrument support group.

As a nuclear engineer take any courses you can in instrumentation for the instruments are your eyes into the reactor. Getting from volts to f(x,y,z) is not intuitive. Much of my worth to the plant was helping out with inter-discipline communication.

Learn to use an oscilloscope it's a skill you'll need for troubleshooting your nuclear instruments.
Learn how to use RTD's and thermocouples for temperature measurement.
Learn Bernoulli and venturi flowmeters for they're the heart of your calorimetric power measurement on which your reactor protection system safety settings are based. Being in South Florida near the equator we had to account for local gravity, 978.8 cm/s2, in ours.

Another thought would be a term in a nuclear navy. The US Navy nukes i worked with were all exceptionally intelligent knowledgeable and practical.

old jim
I worked for years in nuclear engineering although my degrees were EE. Many of my fellow engineers had degrees in physics. I also know a programmer who worked on nuclear codes even though his degree was archaeology.

In the 60s most universities had no nuclear engineering programs, nor computer science.

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