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FAQ: Nuclear Engineering Degrees

What is the Main Focus of a Nuclear Engineering Degree?

Nuclear engineering is one of the most integrated of the engineering disciplines. The many components of nuclear systems (medical imaging, nuclear fission reactors, ultrasensitive contraband detectors, and fusion reactors) must all be understood.  Although principals are related, these represent different categories in nuclear. Nuclear engineers must be experts in their primary field, as well as knowledgeable in other fields such as electronics, thermodynamics, physics, and materials science. The fundamentals of one science are often the same tools used in solving problems in the other disciplines.

An undergraduate degree in nuclear science and engineering develops the fundamentals of nuclear processes—their production, interactions, and radiation measurements. These studies bring the student all the way to the design phase of nuclear-based systems, stressing social, health, environmental, energy and security impacts.

Studies also incorporate computer methods, thermal-fluid engineering, and electronics—critical tools for a nuclear engineering career.

What Types of Nuclear Engineering Degrees Exist?

The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Nuclear Engineering prepares students for careers in the application and engineering of low-energy nuclear physics. This includes design, analysis, and operation of radiation systems and their applications, such as fission reactors and accelerators, and biomedical uses. Students are also prepared for graduate study in a wide range of engineering and physical sciences.

A five-year program offers an opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Master of Science (MS) in Engineering in an accelerated manner.

Students can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nuclear Engineering then work in research & development at national laboratories or colleges.

Nuclear Science and Engineering Source Book

Top Nuclear Engineering Schools

What are the the Prerequisites for a Bachelor of Science?

The BS in Nuclear Engineering includes laboratory courses in radiation physics, measurement, and protection. It is a mix of experimental and computational. Laboratory exercises work with electronics, imaging and computation. This degree includes courses on nuclear reactor systems, radiation and shielding and a senior design project.

Can I Get a Masters of Science (MS) in Nuclear Engineering?

Absolutely. Students who have completed the BS degree in a science or engineering field generally need 24 months to earn a MS degree, assuming they carry a full load of courses each term.

Many students prefer to pursue a master’s in a discipline other than that of their bachelor’s degree. They focus on nuclear science and engineering as graduates.

Master’s degree candidates usually specialize in fission nuclear technology, nuclear science and technology, radiation detection & application, or applied plasma physics.

What Kinds of Classes Do Undergrads Take?

Each discipline of nuclear engineering has a specially focused degree program. The main fields of study are nuclear reactor fission, radiation detection & applications, or applied plasma.

BS students have course loads in, chemistry, physics, calculus, mechanical engineering , humanities, social science and communication classes. Their studies also include nuclear engineering basics, the fundamentals of nuclear energy and engineering, nuclear reactor systems, radiation safety, fuel cycles, nuclear materials and electromagnetism.

Can I Obtain a Nuclear Engineering Degree through Online Study?

A number of colleges and universities offer online nuclear engineering studies toward master’s degrees. Many universities give this option. Online nuclear engineering degrees open a wide range of opportunities for students, at both graduate and postgraduate levels – more on-the-job responsibilities and career advancement.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Nuclear Engineering Program?

The BS degree in Nuclear Engineering can be completed in four years, a MS in Nuclear Engineering in two additional years and a PhD in an additional two to three years pass the MS degree. The accelerated BS-MS program can be completed in five years instead of 4 years for the BS followed by 2 years for the MS degree.

Jobs that Nuclear Engineers Perform

Because nuclear science and engineering has such a broad range, graduates can be prepared for a wide variety of careers. Today’s graduates enjoy research and teaching jobs at colleges; they work at power plants, in engineering firms, in government (e.g. Department of Energy, Department of Defense), nuclear shipbuilding. They manage hedge funds, create interactive science and art displays, design new reactors, improve aircraft components, have medical careers in oncology or medical physics,  and analyze public policy.

Average Salaries for Nuclear Engineers

The Bureau of Labor statistics show nuclear engineers earning a mean annual wage of $106,860. The typical starting salary is in the high $50,000 to low $60,000 range and is dependent on academic performance, industry sector and geographical location.

Associations for Nuclear Engineers

Professional organizations for nuclear engineers include the American Nuclear Society, the American Physical Society, the Health Physics Society, the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, Women in Nuclear, North American Young Generation Nuclear and the International Radiation Physics Society. Membership offers opportunities to stay abreast in the field, to engage with other nuclear engineers, and to share experiences through conferences and publications.


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