Being a Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear energy has to be handled carefully because it can be very volatile and dangerous. This energy can also be used for peaceful and practical uses. It is useful in finding treatments for diseases. It’s used in space exploration and can even clean and help to preserve fruits and vegetables. But because it can be dangerous, it needs to be handled by the right people. That is where nuclear engineers come in. Most nuclear engineers work in the power industry, where they design power plants and equipment, and sometimes handle nuclear reactors. Nuclear engineers often face some of the hardest math and science problems out there. Other engineers work with nuclear fuels, such as the radioactive Uranium or Plutonium. They make sure that the fuels are used and produced safely. Some engineers work in food production, where they create equipment and processes that irradiate and clean foods so that they are safe to eat. Also, some engineers work in health care, where they make health equipment or find treatments for diseases, like cancer. Many engineers work for colleges, where they do research for the government or large companies. The researchers also work in labs to solve complex science issues, and try to solve problems related to nuclear energy (Career Cruising, Job Description).Working conditions for a nuclear engineer are pretty good. Most of the time engineers spend their time in an office, lab, or plant. The only risk for an office is the frequent desk work, which can cause a sore back or neck, and eye strain. You must be more careful when operating in a lab or plant. You should usually wear safety gear, such as a hard hat, steel-toed boots, and safety goggles. The engineers who work with radioactive materials or reactor fuels must take even more precaution. They have to wear a device that senses how much radioactive material they have been exposed to, called a Radiation Dosimeter. Being a nuclear engineer can be stressful, where in power plants they might have to work in high-pressure situations. Most nuclear engineers work an average of 5 days, 40 hours a week. But overtime hours may be necessary (Career Cruising, Working Conditions).Most nuclear engineers earn a yearly salary, where they earn in a range of $66,000 to $152,000, but the median income is about $102,000 annually. There are some factors that can affect this though, like location, the employer, and area of expertise. Some of the best engineers move into senior positions, where they can earn well over $200,000 a year. There are also benefits to being a full-time engineer, where they can be provided with health care, or a retirement plan (Career Cruising, Earnings). Education is very important to becoming a nuclear engineer too. Math and science are crucial parts of this, so you must have good grades in these areas. Taking extra classes like these in high school are recommended for this job. Taking computer classes, engineering, electronics, chemistry, and physics are all good ways to start on the path to becoming a nuclear engineer. To be a nuclear engineer, you must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, but other fields in engineering are suitable too, just try to get in classes of nuclear science and engineering. Having a graduate degree is also good to have to be in one of those better senior positions where you make more money. But to become a professor in these areas, you have to have a PhD (Career Cruising, Education).Nuclear engineers deal with the nuclear energy powered from nuclear reactions. Being or becoming a nuclear engineer can be tough, but the job itself makes up for it because it is so interesting and cool. I hope I can become a nuclear engineer one day!