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Nuclear engi­neer­ing is a high­ly spe­cial­ized field that requires very spe­cial­ized edu­ca­tion. Most nuclear engi­neers work with nuclear ener­gy like that found in nuclear pow­er plants, nuclear weapons, and sub­ma­rine propul­sion sys­tems. Oth­er spe­cial­iza­tions include work­ing with diag­nos­tic equip­ment used in the med­ical field, like MRI machines and the pro­duc­tion of food. Waste dis­pos­al facil­i­ties that deal in radioac­tive waste are also places where nuclear engi­neers can be found. These are just a few of the many dif­fer­ent types of jobs that can be found with­in the nuclear industry.

Nuclear ener­gy and engi­neer­ing have sev­er­al spe­cial­iza­tions that an engi­neer can focus on. Even though the num­ber of nuclear pow­er plants has sky­rock­et­ed across the globe and the devel­op­ment of nuclear ener­gy is a top pri­or­i­ty, the oth­er spe­cial­iza­tions are still just as valu­able in their own right. With a nuclear engi­neer­ing degree, a grad­u­ate can work with nuclear ener­gy in a vari­ety of ways includ­ing pow­er plants, weapons, food pro­duc­tion, radioac­tive-waste, and med­ical appli­ca­tions. Under­stand­ing how nuclear ener­gy can be used and why it is so effi­cient will give you a good idea as to why it can be used in so many dif­fer­ent areas.

The nuclear age began over 80 years ago. With its intro­duc­tion, sci­en­tists had to learn how to har­ness the ener­gy that was pro­duced and use it to their advan­tage. A short six years lat­er, the first atom­ic bombs were dropped prov­ing the tremen­dous pow­er this type of ener­gy pro­duced. Since that day nuclear ener­gy has been on the front burn­er. Now, we have many dif­fer­ent ways to use nuclear ener­gy that offer ben­e­fits to almost every­one. As more research con­tin­ues to be per­formed, new ways will be uncov­ered that will allow nuclear ener­gy to be used more effi­cient­ly and in many more ways.

Nuclear Engineering Program Accreditation

Accred­i­ta­tion falls into two spe­cif­ic cat­e­gories, spe­cial­ized and insti­tu­tion­al. There are sev­er­al rea­sons why accred­i­ta­tion is impor­tant. When it comes to nuclear ener­gy in any form, there can be no mis­takes. Accred­i­ta­tion for both the degree pro­gram and the insti­tu­tion is extreme­ly impor­tant. The entire accred­i­ta­tion process must be reviewed reg­u­lar­ly to ensure both the insti­tu­tion and the degree pro­gram are still con­tin­u­ing to adhere to the indus­try’s incred­i­bly high stan­dards. Dur­ing the accred­i­ta­tion process, every aspect of the degree pro­gram and schools’ teach­ing meth­ods are thor­ough­ly reviewed to ensure that all of the infor­ma­tion is accu­rate and the teach­ing meth­ods are effective.

Spe­cial­ized accred­i­ta­tion is a thor­ough review that is per­formed on spe­cif­ic degree pro­grams. There are many dif­fer­ent spe­cial­iza­tions when it comes to nuclear engi­neer­ing. Med­ical imag­ing (MRI), the dis­pos­al of radioac­tive wastes, food prepa­ra­tion, and nuclear weapons are just a few of the dif­fer­ent types of spe­cial­iza­tions that require accred­i­ta­tion. Each spe­cial­iza­tion requires its own type of accred­i­ta­tion to ensure that the degree pro­gram is pro­vid­ing the most accu­rate infor­ma­tion pos­si­ble. With spe­cial­ized accred­i­ta­tion, the stu­dent knows they are get­ting the best pos­si­ble edu­ca­tion and future employ­ers know that the stu­dent has been taught the prop­er skills they will need to per­form the duties that are required for their job.

Insti­tu­tion­al, or region­al, accred­i­ta­tion ver­i­fies the school’s abil­i­ty to pro­vide the high­est qual­i­ty degree pro­grams. Instead of eval­u­at­ing the degree pro­gram, insti­tu­tion­al accred­i­ta­tion eval­u­ates every com­po­nent of the teach­ing process. The teach­ers are eval­u­at­ed as well as their meth­ods. Every aspect of the school’s teach­ing process is put under strict review. This ensures that the fac­ul­ty, edu­ca­tion­al resources, and var­i­ous types of equip­ment all meet or exceed indus­try stan­dards. Just like with spe­cial­ized accred­i­ta­tion, insti­tu­tion­al, or region­al, accred­i­ta­tion must be renewed on a reg­u­lar basis. It is not a one-time deal. In order for the school to main­tain its accred­i­ta­tion sta­tus, it must be able to pass the rig­or­ous renew­al test each time it comes due.

ABET and SACSCOC are two of the pri­ma­ry agen­cies that are respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing accred­i­ta­tion to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. ABET stands for the Accred­i­ta­tion Board for Engi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­o­gy. It is respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing accred­i­ta­tion for schools all over the coun­try. In the south­ern states, SACSCOC is anoth­er accred­it­ing body. Also known as the South­ern Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­leges and Schools Com­mis­sion on Col­leges. It is both a non-prof­it and a pri­vate orga­ni­za­tion that is ded­i­cat­ed to main­tain­ing the high­est stan­dards of excel­lence. Because of the nature of the nuclear indus­try, the strictest stan­dards must be adhered to at all times. With that being said, it is up to orga­ni­za­tions like ABET and SACSCOC to be dili­gent in their task to check and ver­i­fy both the schools and the degree programs.

Types of Nuclear Engineering Degrees

There are many dif­fer­ent types of Nuclear Engi­neer­ing Bach­e­lor’s degree pro­grams to choose from. Tra­di­tion­al class­room degree pro­grams give the stu­dents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work one on one with the instruc­tor in a hands-on learn­ing envi­ron­ment. This is the ide­al learn­ing envi­ron­ment for stu­dents who pre­fer being in a class­room with oth­er stu­dents. No mat­ter what type of nuclear engi­neer­ing degree pro­gram you choose, the course­work and the fac­ul­ty must be of the high­est qual­i­ty. Look­ing for schools and degree pro­grams that are accred­it­ed will pro­vide you with a sol­id guar­an­tee that you will receive the lev­el of edu­ca­tion you will need to suc­ceed in this tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced industry.

Online Bachelor Degree Programs

Online bach­e­lor’s degree pro­grams offer many ben­e­fits for stu­dents who pre­fer to work alone or in the com­fort of their homes. There are few­er dis­trac­tions and the stu­dent does­n’t have to be ner­vous about keep­ing up with the rest of the class. Online degree pro­grams offer flex­i­ble class sched­ules that allow stu­dents who are already employed, the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue to work and sup­port their fam­i­lies. If they are lucky enough to be work­ing in their cho­sen career field, they can use the skills they are learn­ing in real-time. An online degree pro­gram offers many ben­e­fits that allow the stu­dent to tai­lor their learn­ing expe­ri­ence into the type of degree pro­gram they are look­ing for. Flex­i­ble sched­ules, qual­i­ty con­tent and deliv­ery, as well as hav­ing the option to study at the school of your choice are pri­ma­ry rea­sons why peo­ple choose to enroll in online degree programs.

Traditional Bachelor Degree Programs

Tra­di­tion­al bach­e­lor’s degree pro­grams for nuclear engi­neer­ing stu­dents often pro­vide many of the more basic or gener­ic cours­es. There are sev­er­al rea­sons for this..One rea­son is that nuclear engi­neer­ing is a broad degree pro­gram. There is a lot of impor­tant infor­ma­tion that a Bach­e­lor’s degree stu­dent will need before they begin to advance up to the high­er degree pro­grams. Tak­ing many of these gener­ic cours­es will allow them to learn the basics as well as a small sam­ple of many of the spe­cial­iza­tion cours­es. Once the stu­dent has an under­stand­ing of the basics, they can then begin to explore the spe­cial­iza­tions. This gives the stu­dent a chance to choose which spe­cial­iza­tion they may be inter­est­ed in as a final career choice.


There are many dif­fer­ent spe­cial­iza­tions in the field of nuclear engi­neer­ing. They can include, but are not lim­it­ed too:

Med­i­cineNuclear ener­gy has many uses in the med­ical field. It is used with MRI or mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing. It can also be used in some types of med­ica­tion, espe­cial­ly those used to treat thy­roid can­cer. Nuclear ener­gy has many uses in the med­ical field that peo­ple are con­tin­u­al­ly learn­ing about. Although food pro­duc­tion and prepa­ra­tion are a spe­cial­ty on their own, they also fall under the med­ical cat­e­go­ry since the debate about how safe it is to radi­ate food is still ongo­ing. Main­tain­ing the nutri­tion­al val­ue of foods as well as ensur­ing that the pro­duc­tion and prepa­ra­tion meth­ods meet or exceed safe­ty stan­dards is extreme­ly important.

Secu­ri­tyWith this type of spe­cial­iza­tion, stu­dents are taught how to keep nuclear com­po­nents secure and out of the hands of hack­ers and oth­er nuclear ter­ror­ists. They learn how to mon­i­tor and track var­i­ous types of advanced radi­a­tion using spe­cial­ized detec­tors. This type of spe­cial­iza­tion is extreme­ly impor­tant and can be used to pro­tect not only the envi­ron­ment but also human life. Indi­vid­u­als who take on this type of job must have a sol­id under­stand­ing of how nuclear ener­gy works, the risks involved in its use, and how to han­dle a leak if one should hap­pen to occur.

Envi­ron­mentRadi­a­tion appears nat­u­ral­ly with­in our envi­ron­ment. Nuclear engi­neers are respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing detec­tors and track­ing sys­tems that can be used to iden­ti­fy poten­tial sources of nat­ur­al, radioac­tive mate­ri­als. The abil­i­ty to mea­sure radi­a­tion pre­cise­ly requires a high lev­el of skill that is need­ed for 100% accu­ra­cy. The envi­ron­men­tal spe­cial­iza­tion includes the study and test­ing of Radon gas and many oth­er radioac­tive ele­ments that are found in the envi­ron­ment. When it comes to the envi­ron­ment, an engi­neer must also rec­og­nize what will hap­pen to an area if radi­a­tion is leaked in any way. They must know how to con­tain the prob­lem and take the right pre­cau­tions to min­i­mize the impact on all life forms in the area.

Ener­gyNuclear engi­neers often deal with nuclear ener­gy that are used as major pow­er sources. Nuclear fis­sion, for exam­ple, is the type of ener­gy pro­duced by large nuclear reac­tors. Engi­neers are respon­si­ble for devel­op­ing new reac­tors, mon­i­tor­ing exist­ing reac­tors, and mak­ing sure every­thing runs smooth­ly on all lev­els. Fusion is anoth­er type of nuclear ener­gy. Although fusion is the type of reac­tion pro­duced by the sun, man has had a more dif­fi­cult time har­ness­ing this type of ener­gy. Anoth­er type of nuclear ener­gy is the space pow­er that we use to pow­er our small­er space­ships. The more the world embraces nuclear ener­gy, the more engi­neers and sci­en­tists will be need­ed to con­tin­ue to do the required research.


Because of the nature of nuclear ener­gy and how spe­cial­ized the field is, nuclear engi­neers and oth­er spe­cial­ists who work in the field must be prop­er­ly licensed and cer­ti­fied. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and licen­sure prove that the indi­vid­ual has the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence to take prop­er action if an acci­dent or major issue were to reveal itself. Being cer­ti­fied and licensed also ensures that the per­son knows what to do in case of an emer­gency as it relates to deal­ing with the pub­lic and fol­low­ing local, state, and fed­er­al pro­to­cols. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and licens­es should be renewed every year or so, depend­ing on the state and fed­er­al guide­lines. This includes enrolling in a spe­cif­ic num­ber of con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion cours­es each year to keep your cre­den­tials cur­rent and in good standing.

Careers in Nuclear Engineering

Stu­dents have sev­er­al nuclear engi­neer­ing careers to choose from, depend­ing on their spe­cial­iza­tion. With more and more job posi­tions open­ing up in the field of nuclear engi­neer­ing, a new grad­u­ate can prac­ti­cal­ly choose from mul­ti­ple options in almost every spe­cial­iza­tion. They include:

Nuclear engi­neer – Nuclear engi­neers devel­op and build nuclear reac­tors, pow­er plants, and oth­er pieces of equip­ment that pro­duce large amounts of nuclear ener­gy. Nuclear engi­neers are respon­si­ble for not only build­ing reac­tors and pow­er plants, it is up to them to come up with the nec­es­sary safe­ty pro­to­cols to keep every­one safe.

Nuclear weapons spe­cial­ist – A nuclear weapons spe­cial­ist is famil­iar with how nuclear weapons work. They know how they are built, what sets them off, and how they are deac­ti­vat­ed. A weapons spe­cial­ist will be called in if a weapon is dis­cov­ered and needs to be dis­armed. This works in much the same way as if the bomb squad was sent to dif­fuse a bomb. Nuclear weapons spe­cial­ists must be high­ly skilled and have high atten­tion to even the small­est details

Secu­ri­ty spe­cial­istSecu­ri­ty spe­cial­ists are spe­cial­ly trained to main­tain secu­ri­ty in loca­tions where large amounts of radioac­tive mate­ri­als are kept. They are taught all of the required safe­ty mea­sures and pro­to­cols to keep them­selves and oth­er work­ers safe from any type of expo­sure to radioac­tive mate­ri­als. This includes know­ing how to prop­er­ly trans­port and care for radioac­tive materials.

Med­ical technician/radiologist – Med­ical technicians/radiologists work with MRI machines and oth­er radioac­tive mate­ri­als that are used in the med­ical field. They are taught how to reduce a patien­t’s expo­sure to var­i­ous radioac­tive mate­ri­als dur­ing and after treat­ment. In many cas­es, a med­ical tech­ni­cian or radi­ol­o­gist may need to have at least a mod­est amount of med­ical train­ing as well.

Nuclear main­te­nance spe­cial­ist – Nuclear main­te­nance spe­cial­ists work in envi­ron­ments where nuclear mate­ri­als are stored or used. They are respon­si­ble for keep­ing all pieces of equip­ment in good work­ing order so that the risk of expo­sure to any radioac­tive mate­r­i­al is kept to a min­i­mum. Main­te­nance spe­cial­ists also work with nuclear engi­neers to come up with solu­tions when parts or pieces of equip­ment break down. They are the ones who are called in to make the nec­es­sary repairs and keep the machin­ery work­ing at top capacity.

Nuclear aero­nau­tics spe­cial­ist – Space pow­er is what dri­ves small satel­lites and oth­er air­ships that trav­el into out­er space. A nuclear aero­nau­tics spe­cial­ist is capa­ble of design­ing these nuclear pow­er sys­tems so they oper­ate at max­i­mum effi­cien­cy and keeps the entire crew safe and out of har­m’s way. Work­ing with space-relat­ed nuclear activ­i­ties can be excit­ing and will open the door to many new opportunities.

Salary for Nuclear Engineering

In 2019, the aver­age pay for some­one with a Bach­e­lor’s degree in Nuclear Engi­neer­ing was about $113,000 per year. That aver­ages out to approx­i­mate­ly $55 per hour. A grad­u­ate who is just start­ing to find work in their cho­sen field may make con­sid­er­ably less, even with a stel­lar edu­ca­tion. Indi­vid­u­als who have been work­ing in some capac­i­ty with­in the nuclear engi­neer­ing job clas­si­fi­ca­tion and have actu­al­ly returned to school and earned a high­er degree may be able to earn quite a bit more.

When it comes to salary, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that the nuclear engi­neer­ing field is quite diverse. The range of pay between spe­cial­iza­tions is con­sid­er­able and will be affect­ed by sev­er­al dif­fer­ent fac­tors. These fac­tors include loca­tion, edu­ca­tion, expe­ri­ence, and will­ing­ness to take on more respon­si­bil­i­ty once hired into a posi­tion. With this type of career, salary is also some­times nego­tiable, espe­cial­ly if a com­pa­ny wants a par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­ual on their team. A per­son­’s lev­el of expe­ri­ence work­ing in cer­tain areas may be the tick­et to a long and very lucra­tive career.

Professional Organizations in Nuclear Engineering

The nuclear engi­neer­ing job clas­si­fi­ca­tion is much like the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty in that it has spe­cial orga­ni­za­tions that are ded­i­cat­ed to it. The fol­low­ing orga­ni­za­tions are just a few of those that are com­mit­ted to work­ing with nuclear engi­neers and pro­mot­ing their safe­ty and expertise.

Amer­i­can Nuclear Soci­ety – The Amer­i­can Nuclear Soci­ety (also known as the ANS) is a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion with a glob­al reach. It is made up of engi­neers, sci­en­tists, and oth­er pro­fes­sion­als who work in the nuclear indus­try. The ulti­mate goal is to sup­port the nuclear indus­try’s engi­neers, sci­en­tists, and oth­er pro­fes­sion­als. With­in the orga­ni­za­tion, there are three pri­ma­ry groups. They include the pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­ni­ty, plant branch­es, and local com­mu­ni­ties, and a stu­dent com­mu­ni­ty. With­in the orga­ni­za­tion, there are sev­er­al mem­ber­ship lev­els includ­ing fel­lows, pro­fes­sion­als, and stu­dents. Large cor­po­ra­tions, edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and a vari­ety of asso­ci­a­tions are also rep­re­sent­ed with­in the tight-knit orga­ni­za­tion. The group has over 10,000 mem­bers across the world. In 2020, at least 40 coun­tries are rep­re­sent­ed with­in the organization.

Nuclear Insti­tute (UK) – The Nuclear Insti­tute is based in the Unit­ed King­dom and rep­re­sents pro­fes­sion­als who work with­in the nuclear indus­try. The char­i­ty is not affil­i­at­ed with the indus­try but does pro­mote it and what it rep­re­sents. By pro­mot­ing nuclear ener­gy and its ben­e­fits to the pub­lic and to the groups’ mem­bers, it offers an avenue that can be fol­lowed if some­one wants to receive pro­fes­sion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tions that can be used to advance their career. This is avail­able to nuclear engi­neers and sci­en­tif­ic pro­fes­sion­als who are work­ing in the field. The group works to sup­port edu­ca­tion so that indi­vid­u­als can gain the skills and knowl­edge they will need to con­tin­ue to move for­ward with their careers. This ini­tia­tive pro­vides stu­dents with the abil­i­ty to design, con­struct, oper­ate, tear down, and elim­i­nate wastes pro­duced by nuclear sites. Although the orga­ni­za­tion is strict­ly pro­fes­sion­al, the meet­ings can be attend­ed by the pub­lic and there is no charge to attend.

Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency – The IAEA, or Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency works on a glob­al lev­el to pro­mote nuclear ener­gy in a peace­ful and sus­tain­able man­ner, The goal of the orga­ni­za­tion is to help min­i­mize the use of nuclear weapons and mate­ri­als in the mil­i­tary. Estab­lished in 1957, it works hand in hand with the Unit­ed Nations and has an inter­na­tion­al treaty that allows it to oper­ate. It is known as the IAEA Statute. The Agency works direct­ly with both the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and the Unit­ed Nations Gen­er­al Assem­bly. With its head­quar­ters locat­ed in Vien­na, Aus­tria, the Agency has a glob­al reach that allows it to col­lect valu­able infor­ma­tion and report it back to inter­na­tion­al leaders.

Job Outlook for Nuclear Engineers

The job out­look for nuclear engi­neers is very good over the next few years. Even with the con­tin­ued growth with­in the nuclear indus­try, the num­ber of pro­fes­sion­al nuclear engi­neers and sci­en­tists has been drop­ping steadi­ly over the last few years. This means that as new jobs con­tin­ue to be cre­at­ed, more and more jobs are being left open. Grad­u­ates with sol­id grades and min­i­mal expe­ri­ence are being able to enter the work­force at a much high­er pay rate than ever before, sim­ply because their skills are in such high demand.

If you are think­ing about mak­ing nuclear engi­neer­ing your career of choice, now is a great time to take those first steps. You can pick and choose from a wide vari­ety of job open­ings that will allow you to advance into high­er posi­tions in a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od of time. Once you have enrolled in the final year of your Bach­e­lor’s degree pro­gram, you can begin to look for work in the field of nuclear engi­neer­ing. Many com­pa­nies will hire you and put you to work pri­or to grad­u­a­tion so that you have a head start on your career by the time you receive your diploma.

Relat­ed Rankings:

25 Best Bach­e­lor’s in Nuclear Engineering

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10 Fastest Online Bach­e­lor’s in Nuclear Engineering

10 Most Afford­able Bach­e­lor’s in Nuclear Engineering

15 Best Online Train­ing and Devel­op­ment Programs

15 Best Engi­neer­ing Man­age­ment Bach­e­lor Degree Online