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Working in the Space industry OR Nuclear/Solar energy as a ChemE?

  1. Aug 28, 2014 #1

    I am a Chemical Engineering major and a sophomore. When I first got to college I hoped to work in Pharma, but lately I'm becoming more and more interested in working for either the Space industry (SpaceX, NASA, etc) or in the alternative energy field (mainly Nuclear, but also Solar). Unfortunately for me, it seems that neither of these industries hire Chemical Engineers in great numbers, although I do know of Space programs needing a few ChemEs for testing/developing batteries and other stuff. That's from my own research at least, you are welcome to correct me.
    I spoke to a faculty member and he advised me to consider switching my major to Mechanical Engineering (my school doesn't offer an Aerospace or Nuclear undergrad program). However, I really like the Chemical Engineering coursework and truly feel like it's the perfect major for my academic interests. Furthermore, switching majors at this point would be a waste of money/time as I'd be wasting a lot of credits (taking orgo II, ChemE computations, and intro to ChemE this semester, for example).
    So I was thinking I'll continue my plan of graduating with a ChemE B.S. (or M.S. if I go for the 5 year combined degree program) then apply for a myriad of jobs. If I can't get my ideal job with as a ChemE, I can then work on a M.S. in either Mechanical/Aerospace Eng (if I want to work for the Space industry) or Nuclear Eng (if I want to work with nuclear engineering) while I work a job in Pharma or some other "traditional" ChemE industry.
    Is this plan silly/non-ideal? Is having 2 Master's degrees in 2 different fields of engineering frowned upon in some way by employers? I feel like a nuclear engineering M.S. would complement a ChemE background quite well, but I'm not so sure about Mech/Aerospace.
    Anyways, any educated opinions are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2014 #2
    There are alot of chemical engineers working in the nuclear industry- at the reactor vendors and at the utility companies that operate the nuclear plants. There is quite a bit of actual chemistry work, but also consider that the power plants are big industrial process facilities, just the sort of thing Chem-E studies. The nuclear engineering part you can either pick up on the job, or like you say, as a masters.
  4. Aug 29, 2014 #3

    The only problem is you may have to take some courses to bring you up to speed. Remember Nuclear Engineering is closely related to mechanical engineering and so is aerospace engineering. Just take a look at the curriculums, I'm a NE major and I've had 24 credit hours worth of mechanical engineering courses. If you compare that to a mechanical engineering curriculum you see that is almost all of their core courses except things like mechanical design. Almost as many credits as the nuclear related courses. Aerospace engineering is even more closely related. So you can either spend the time now taking the courses or spend the time and money as a graduate student. Either way you're going to need the foundation.
  5. Sep 2, 2014 #4
    Thanks for the reply! I'm thinking of maybe minoring in Nuclear and Radiological Engineering, which is offered at the University of Florida. Would that increase my chances of getting a job in nuclear power?

    Thank you. Yeah, I figured getting a master's in either of those subjects after a B.S. in ChemE would require some remedial courses. However, if I'm doing it while working for a company (and acquiring work experience + money) I don't think time or money would be an issue. The biggest question that remains unanswered is whether or not it's a good idea and/or frowned upon by employers to get an M.S. in Nuclear/Mechanical/Aerospace engineering after a B.S./M.S. in Chemical Engineering. I ask this because I might be better off just getting a PhD in Chemical Engineering if it's still feasible to get a job in the aforementioned industries through that path.
  6. Sep 2, 2014 #5

    I doubt they would frown upon it. I mean I know electrical engineers that have a masters in nuclear engineering and work at power plants. I really don't think they care as long as you've covered courses in subjects they are asking. I know the government list courses they look for in evaluating engineering education
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