Nuclear engineers work in a variety of settings. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, of the approximately 17,700 nuclear engineers, many work in the energy industry; 16 percent in federal, state, and local government; and 15 percent are in scientific research and development services. Of those who work for the federal government, many are civilian employees of the U.S. Navy, and most of the rest work for the U.S. Department of Energy. Some nuclear engineers work for defense manufacturers or manufacturers of nuclear power equipment.
Most students begin their job search while still in college, collecting advice from job counselors and their schools' career services centers and using organizations and Web sites to find open positions. For example, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) offers members the opportunity to post their resumes or find job matches through its Web site. Networking with those already employed in the field is an excellent way to find out about job openings. Networking opportunities are available during meetings of professional organizations, such as the SWE's annual national conference.
As with other engineering disciplines, a hierarchy of workers exists, with the chief engineer having overall authority over managers and project engineers. This is true whether you are working in research, design, production, sales, or teaching. After gaining a certain amount of experience, engineers may apply for positions in supervision and management.
Because the nuclear engineering field is so young, the time is ripe for technological developments, and engineers must therefore keep abreast of new research and technology throughout their careers. Advancement for engineers is contingent upon continuing education, research activity, and on-the-job expertise.
Advancement may also bring recognition in the form of grants, scholarships, fellowships, and awards. For example, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) has established a Young Members Engineering Achievement Award to recognize outstanding work performed by members. To be eligible for this award, you must be an ANS member, younger than 40 years old, and demonstrate effective application of engineering knowledge that results in a concept, design, analysis method, or product used in nuclear power research and development or in a manufacturing application.
Tips for Entry
Take a virtual tour of a power station, or research opportunities in your area to visit one in-person.
Become a member of the American Nuclear Society, attend one of their local events, or explore their Web site for more information on nuclear science and opportunities in the field.
Speak with your career services office about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs, camps, and workshops in your area. The Technology Student Association may have a chapter in your region that sponsors local competitions and events.