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Nuclear Engineers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Beginning engineering graduates usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers and, in large companies, also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As new engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects with greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions. Engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a staff or team of engineers and technicians. Some eventually may become engineering managers or enter other managerial or sales jobs. In sales, an engineering background enables them to discuss a product's technical aspects and assist in product planning, installation, and use.

Numerous professional certifications for engineers exist and may be beneficial for advancement to senior technical or managerial positions. Many certification programs are offered by the professional societies listed as sources of additional information for engineering specialties at the end of this statement.

In 2008, engineers held about 1.6 million jobs. About 36 percent of engineering jobs were found in manufacturing industries, and another 30 percent were in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries, primarily in architectural, engineering, and related services. Many engineers also worked in the construction, telecommunications, and wholesale trade industries.

Federal, State, and local governments employed about 12 percent of engineers in 2008. About 6 percent were in the Federal Government, mainly in the U.S. Departments of Defense, Transportation, Agriculture, Interior, and Energy, and in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Many engineers in State and local government agencies worked in highway and public works departments. In 2008, about 3 percent of engineers were self-employed, many as consultants.

Engineers are employed in every State, in small and large cities and in rural areas. Some branches of engineering are concentrated in particular industries and geographic areas; for example, petroleum engineering jobs tend to be located in States with sizable petroleum deposits, such as Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alaska, and California. Other branches, such as civil engineering, are widely dispersed, and engineers in these fields often move from place to place to work on different projects.

Job Outlook
Nuclear engineers are expected to have employment growth of 11 percent over the projections decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Most job growth will be in research and development and engineering services.

Job Growth
Although no commercial nuclear power plants have been built in the United States for many years, increased interest in nuclear power as an energy source will spur demand for nuclear engineers to research and develop new designs for reactors. They also will be needed to work in defense-related areas, to develop nuclear medical technology, and to improve and enforce waste management and safety standards. Nuclear engineers are expected to have good employment opportunities because the small number of nuclear engineering graduates is likely to be in rough balance with the number of job openings.

Earnings for Nuclear Engineering vary significantly by education. The mean annual salary for Nuclear Engineering is $104,000.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Engineering Physics
Engineering physics is an academic degree, available mainly at the levels of B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. Unlike other engineering degrees (such as aerospace engineering or electrical engineering), Engineering physics does not necessarily include a particular branch of science or physics. Instead, Engineering ...more
Nuclear Engineering
Nuclear engineering Application of the breakdown of atomic nuclei and/or other sub-atomic physics, based on the principles of nuclear physics. It includes, but is not limited to, the interaction and maintenance of nuclear fission systems and components - specifically, nuclear reactors, nuclear power ...more