If you want to help develop and enhance one of the most important energy sources in the world, all while increasing your earning potential and career options, a degree in nuclear engineering might be right for you.
An online nuclear engineering degree is one of the most popular distance engineering degrees. The popularity of this online degree comes from the high percentage of nuclear engineers who work for the military. Many nuclear technicians work on site at remote locations so online learning is perfect for them. Payscale reports that nuclear engineers do well when it comes to wages. Those with bachelor degrees can expect salaries from $54,393 to $113,553. Those who complete a master's of science (MS) in nuclear engineering can up their pay to a range of $60,206 to $124,108.
THE CAREER PATH
Nuclear engineering teaches you how to develop nuclear technology and energy resources, and also enhances your understanding of nuclear safety. It will involve physics, technology, and advanced mathematics to advance this important yet potentially dangerous technology. It is a highly focused education, so there is little beyond a nuclear engineer career for graduates. That said, other career options include nuclear physicist, chemical engineer, mechanical engineer, or other forms of scientific careers.
One of the advantages to working as a nuclear engineer is that the career can take many forms. Most people think of nuclear engineers as white-suited men in radiation suits and booties who work inside nuclear power plants. Many do, but nuclear engineers also design and manufacture medical equipment, such as radiology machines. Others work on nuclear submarines and other vehicles that rely on nuclear propulsion systems.
Both the federal government and private sectors hire nuclear engineering degree online graduates, but career options vary in terms of purpose. The federal government typically employs graduates as researchers, development specialists, or advisors. Some nuclear engineer positions focus on researching nuclear equipment while others monitor nuclear waste disposal. Work conditions vary from office work to being on-site at a nuclear power plant.
The most common career paths are:
- Nuclear Engineer—A nuclear engineer uses all their training to create new processes or equipment that will be used in the harvesting of nuclear energy. Safety is obviously an important factor, so many nuclear engineers work to reduce the chances of a nuclear emergency caused by this energy source. They may try to find productive uses for radioactive technology. This career brings an excellent income, making it a highly desirable position. Nuclear engineers earn a median income of $105,810 a year, while the top 10% can expect salaries over $159,000. Although the career growth is only 4%, there should be over 35,000 jobs for nuclear engineers by 2026.
- Mechanical Engineer—A mechanical engineer analyzes problems with mechanical and thermal devices, specifically sensors, to help solve specific problems. They often use computer-aided technology to create specific designs for subsystems, and will analyze result to reach a conclusion or make changes as needed. This career might not bring as high an income a nuclear engineering, but the $85,880 as a median salary is no small change. When you consider that the top 10% in this field earn over $133,000, you’ll see there is plenty of room for growth. With 9% growth between 2016 and 2026, there will be over 314,000 mechanical engineering jobs available!
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
If you are going to enter into the field of nuclear engineering, you should probably have a few basic skills and characteristics that will help you during your career. A propensity for mathematics, for example, is crucial. Like all sciences and engineering disciplines, nuclear engineering is heavy on mathematical equations and numerical data collections, which means you should have a basic comfort with the fundamentals of math.
An attention to detail is also crucial, as the field works with a vast assortment of variables that can impact the results of your research and your work. Letting one minor detail go wrong can lead to mistakes that might go unnoticed for a long time.
As a nuclear engineer, you also need the ability to work in a team environment. There are hundreds, and possibly thousands of people working on your projects, so the ability to communicate and take direction is essential.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Expect an online nuclear engineering bachelor's degree to include courses in calculus, physics, differential equations, and nuclear reactor theory, design, shielding and safety. Because nuclear engineering requires access to nuclear power sources, this online degree major is usually offered as a master's degree or as a graduate specialty certificate.
Online master's degree programs in nuclear engineering are not all the same. Degrees such as the master of science in radiation health physics and the master of science in medical imaging are meant for those who engineer biomedical appliances.
Click on a program below to get more information tuition, accreditation, and admission requirements. Carefully review degree options so you can make fully informed decision and get started on your nuclear-engineering career today!