In the realm of engineering jobs, nuclear engineering jobs stand out as some of the most difficult, but also some of the best compensated.
We’re going to take a dive into the world of nuclear engineering jobs and salaries, starting with the future of alternative energy and how that all relates back to being a nuclear engineering grad.
The Future of Alternative Energy and Nuclear Engineering
To say that the world runs on oil isn’t an exaggeration. By and large, what we pump out of the ground goes to feed industries and economies around the world. That said, oil is a finite resource, and as our energy appetite grows and grows, mankind has to find alternatives. Enter alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and, of course, nuclear.
Twenty years ago, alternative energy systems were underdeveloped and underutilized, much to the chagrin of power companies. Now, with efficiency and environmental concerns at the forefront of society’s mind, nuclear has emerged as a contender for meeting the world’s energy needs.
Nuclear Can Be Clean
The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that the United States offset more than 476 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2019—the equivalent of taking 100 million cars off the road. At the same time, nuclear energy has a smaller land footprint (as opposed to massive solar farms). Nuclear waste, while dangerous, is minimal and can be recycled easily, and presently only takes up about one football field in length in total quantity.
It’s One of the World’s Fastest-Growing Energy Sources
Renewable and alternative energy sources are on the rise, according to the World Nuclear Association. They predict that nuclear energy should see a modest rise in usage—about a 2.3% increase per year.
What Kinds of Jobs Can You Get With a Nuclear Engineering Degree?
With a bachelor’s degree, you can essentially get a foot in the door at a lot of places. That said, a master’s degree or higher will help you get much further in a company, squarely placing you in management or research positions.
At the bachelor’s or associate’s level, you’ll find plenty of technician work, which will involve you working with nuclear scientists, engineers, physicists and other professionals in nuclear energy production. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a pretty sharp decline in the number of nuclear technician jobs, at a staggering a 19%. That said, the pay is solid, at $82,080 annually with just an undergrad degree.
Nuclear Engineering Jobs at the Graduate Level
Like we said earlier, a bachelor’s or associate’s degree is a good starting point for nuclear technician work, but if you’d like to start at a higher nuclear engineering salary, or higher up in a company, then a graduate degree in nuclear engineering is probably more your speed. The following salaries are general averages for the industry, and will vary heavily by employer, location and experience level.
Nuclear Engineering Jobs and Nuclear Engineering Salaries
A nuclear engineering salary can go a long way in this market. They’re among the highest-paid engineers in their discipline. Let’s go over some nuclear engineering jobs and their associated salaries. Keep in mind that these salaries will vary by years of experience, cost of living and location.
- Department of Energy Nuclear Engineer – $144,746
- Nuclear Engineer (General) – $113,460
- Nuclear Technician – $82,080
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist – $77,950
- Nuclear Power Reactor Operator – $100,990
- Power Plant Operator – $85,950
Nuclear Engineering Career Outlook
According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is expected to see a sharp downturn in employment through 2029—as much as 13%. However, there are plans to increase nuclear energy output in the United States via a $2 trillion funding plan. On top of that expansive funding plan, additional pieces of legislation passed in 2019 have expanded America’s role in the nuclear future.