What’s the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Nuclear Engineer?

When you make a major decision like choosing a college degree program to pursue, there are several factors for you to consider: future career opportunities, expected job growth, earning potential and of course your own personal level of job satisfaction. One career that ranks highly is that of a nuclear engineer. Nuclear engineers are professionals who dictate protocol in nuclear plants and research, design, and develop nuclear equipment and ways of using it in medicine, transportation and other fields. A career as a nuclear engineer is an excellent choice if you are good at mathematics, problem-solving and logical and analytical thinking, but these characteristics alone won’t get you your dream job in nuclear engineering. You will need a college degree to get started in the field, but first, you need to decide which academic path works best for you.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

The minimum level of education required to begin a career in nuclear engineering is a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate degree programs in nuclear engineering combine classroom lectures and coursework with laboratory projects and often fieldwork to teach students the basic engineering and math principles necessary to develop an educational background that will lead to success. Like their peers in other disciplines of engineering, students will learn engineering fundamentals and principles and participate in project design. Nuclear engineering students in particular should expect to study subjects such as energy engineering, nuclear materials, neuron physics, nuclear structure, fuel cell creation, fusion technology and nuclear power systems. Because professional experience is so important for aspiring nuclear engineers, many programs allow students the opportunity to partner with organizations to gain real-world experience.

Dual Degree Options

A bachelor’s degree may be the quickest way of preparing for a career as a nuclear engineer, but it’s not the only, and for some students it may not be the best way, either. Some institutions now offer dual degree programs that culminate in students earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. These programs take a little longer to complete than a traditional bachelor’s degree program. Instead of spending just four years studying, students will spend five or six years in school. However, for aspiring nuclear engineers who will need a graduate degree in the future – like those who are eyeing a career in research and development – the program may save them time and money and allow them to gain more extensive professional experience outside the classroom.

Whichever path you choose to prepare for your career as a nuclear engineer, you will ultimately be ready for a career that many find both personally fulfilling and financially rewarding. Nuclear engineer is among the top paying engineering jobs, with experienced professionals earning a median annual salary of more than $98,000. In addition, many nuclear engineers enjoy the opportunity to make an impact on the safety of nuclear plants and equipment, and in fields like healthcare, space travel, and various industries.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris