As a service to readers, the Salary Sage periodically features jobs that are really hot. What is a hot job?
- A job that is in high demand,
- A job that is well paid,
- A job that has a bright future,
- A job that you don't have to be lucky, wealthy, or a genius to get,
- A job that I consider interesting, challenging and important,
- A job that doesn't have working conditions that would turn most people off.
This month's hot job is Nuclear Engineer.That's right Mr. President, it's pronounced "nook-lee-ur" not "nook-you-lure." And no bad puns about Nuclear Engineers being "hot," okay?
WHY IS IT HOT?
Currently, there are more than 100 nuclear power plants operating in the United States, producing roughly 22% of our nation's electricity. The newest of these plants went into operation nearly 30 years ago. These plants, and the technology they are based on, are in dire need of modernization and expansion. They are viewed as paramount for meeting future energy demands and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Outside of the U.S., nuclear energy is one of the fastest growing energy options. Nuclear power plants currently produce 17% of all electricity in the world. China alone has plans to build more than 40 new nuclear power plants over the next 15 years.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Nuclear engineers are involved in the design, construction, and operation of nuclear power plants for power generation, propulsion of nuclear ships and submarines, and space power systems. Nuclear engineers are also involved in the handling of nuclear fuels, the safe disposal of radioactive wastes, and in medical uses of radioactive isotopes. Below are some examples of typical projects:
- Designing, constructing and operating nuclear power plants for energy generation, powering US Navy ships, and space exploration
- Developing long-term energy strategies for the US and the world
- Developing and improving approaches to medical imaging
- Improving food safety using radiation pasteurization
- Designing and constructing nuclear waste storage strategies and facilities
- Monitoring and remediating environmental exposures to radiation
- Designing improved transport methods for moving nuclear material
- Supervising nuclear plant operations
WHO HIRES THEM?
Nuclear engineers are employed by a wide range of companies including private and governmental research companies, nuclear power plants, factories making nuclear equipment or weapons, and companies involved in medical diagnosis and treatment. Click here for a list of companies that employ Nuclear Engineers --> http://nuclear.tamu.edu/home/links/companies/index.php
HOW DO YOU BECOME ONE?
Becoming a Nuclear Engineer is not for the faint of heart. It requires completing a rigorous and demanding curriculum leading to a Bachelor of Science degree. Currently, there are 22 universities in the US offering this degree. Click here for a list of colleges with curricula in Nuclear Engineering --> http://www.univsource.com/nuclear.htm
HOW MUCH DO THEY EARN?
Because the training is so rigorous and because they are in short supply, and high demand, Nuclear Engineers command high starting salaries relative to other engineering disciplines. Most other engineers in today's market can expect to earn starting salaries between $40,000 and $45,000. Nuclear Engineers start at around $65,000. CLick here for a full comparison of the various engineering disiplines and what they earn --> http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm
WHAT'S THE DOWN SIDE?
Over the years, the word "Nuclear" has become a dirty word, especially for liberals and environmentalists. Declaring yourself to be a nuclear engineer was slightly more popular than serial killer. But not all Nuclear Engineers build bombs. And the simple truth is that unleashing the power of the atom safely and for peaceful purposes may be the world's single best hope for a clean environment and energy independence. But until there is a shift in public opinion, going into nuclear engineering requires a strong backbone.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nuclear engineering is not for everyone. The academic demands alone will eliminate most people, and the public stigma will deter many others, but for those capable of confronting these challenges, and who are fascinated with the inner workings of one of nature's great miracles, the future will be bright.