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
  • 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
  • research, design, and develop nuclear equipment
  • develop 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
  • 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.

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. There is often fieldwork to teach you the basic engineering and math principles. These are  necessary to develop an educational background that will lead to success.

You 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
  • nuclear power systems

Because professional experience is so important for aspiring nuclear engineers, many programs give you 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. However, it’s not the only way. For some students it may not be the best way, either. Some institutions now offer dual degree programs that culminate in you 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, you 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. It allows them to gain more extensive professional experience outside the classroom.

Whichever path you choose, 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.  Experienced professionals earn 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. These include fields like healthcare, space travel, and various industries.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris