Nuclear Engineer

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Job Outlook:
Little or no change
Education: Bachelor's degree
High: $169,580.00
Average: $124,540.00
Average: $59.88

What they do:

Conduct research on nuclear engineering projects or apply principles and theory of nuclear science to problems concerned with release, control, and use of nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal.

On the job, you would:

  • Initiate corrective actions or order plant shutdowns in emergency situations.
  • Monitor nuclear facility operations to identify any design, construction, or operation practices that violate safety regulations and laws or could jeopardize safe operations.
  • Design or develop nuclear equipment, such as reactor cores, radiation shielding, or associated instrumentation or control mechanisms.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Nuclear engineers must evaluate technical information for safe use of nuclear energy and materials.

Communication skills. Nuclear engineers collaborate with other engineers and technicians. They must be able to convey information clearly, both in writing and in person.

Computer skills. Nuclear engineers need a working knowledge of programming languages and computer systems.

Detail oriented. Nuclear engineers supervise nuclear facilities and must pay attention to ensure that they operate safely.

Logical-thinking skills. In designing complex systems, nuclear engineers must order information clearly and sequentially.

Math skills. Nuclear engineers use calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced math in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Nuclear engineers must be able to identify and fix problems that arise in designing and maintaining facilities.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

94% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
94% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
90% Analytical Thinking  -  Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
83% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
73% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
72% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
70% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
68% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
67% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
66% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
66% Persistence  -  Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
A3 Your Strengths Importance


100% Investigative  -  Work involves studying and researching non-living objects, living organisms, disease or other forms of impairment, or human behavior. Investigative occupations are often associated with physical, life, medical, or social sciences, and can be found in the fields of humanities, mathematics/statistics, information technology, or health care service.
72% Realistic  -  Work involves designing, building, or repairing of equipment, materials, or structures, engaging in physical activity, or working outdoors. Realistic occupations are often associated with engineering, mechanics and electronics, construction, woodworking, transportation, machine operation, agriculture, animal services, physical or manual labor, athletics, or protective services.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

78% Achievement  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
78% Recognition  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
72% Support  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
70% Working Conditions  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
67% Independence  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

88% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
78% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
78% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
78% Written Comprehension  -  The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
75% Information Ordering  -  The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
75% Written Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
75% Deductive Reasoning  -  The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
75% Category Flexibility  -  The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
72% Inductive Reasoning  -  The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
69% Near Vision  -  The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
66% Mathematical Reasoning  -  The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
66% Speech Recognition  -  The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
66% Speech Clarity  -  The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Skills | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

68% Reading Comprehension  -  Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
68% Critical Thinking  -  Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
66% Writing  -  Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
66% Operations Analysis  -  Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.

Job Details

Investigate the environmental impact of projects.
Develop operational methods or processes that use green materials or emphasize sustainability.
Prepare detailed work plans.
Coordinate safety or regulatory compliance activities.
Prepare technical or operational reports.
Analyze test or validation data.
Document design or operational test results.
Research energy production, use, or conservation.
Confer with technical personnel to prepare designs or operational plans.
Communicate technical information to suppliers, contractors, or regulatory agencies.
Investigate safety of work environment.
Monitor processes for compliance with standards.
Update technical knowledge.
Research energy production, use, or conservation.
Direct energy production or management activities.
Design energy production or management equipment or systems.
Resolve operational performance problems.
Advise others on health and safety issues.
Prepare procedural documents.
Test performance of electrical, electronic, mechanical, or integrated systems or equipment.
Direct equipment maintenance or repair activities.
Direct energy production or management activities.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

100% Electronic Mail  -  How often do you use electronic mail in this job?
95% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
95% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
93% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
86% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
83% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
83% Responsible for Others' Health and Safety  -  How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?
81% Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results  -  What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the image or reputation or financial resources of your employer?
79% Spend Time Sitting  -  How much does this job require sitting?
75% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
73% Consequence of Error  -  How serious would the result usually be if the worker made a mistake that was not readily correctable?
68% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
78% Duration of Typical Work Week  -  Number of hours typically worked in one week.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

89% Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards  -  Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
83% Working with Computers  -  Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
82% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
82% Analyzing Data or Information  -  Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
78% Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials  -  Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
78% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
76% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
76% Processing Information  -  Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
74% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
72% Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings  -  Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
70% Documenting/Recording Information  -  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
67% Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information  -  Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.

What Nuclear Engineers Do

Nuclear engineers
Nuclear engineers monitor nuclear facility operations.

Nuclear engineers research and develop projects or address problems concerning the release, control, and use of nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal. Some of these engineers research new reactor designs. Others may specialize in the development of safety regulations related to the handling of nuclear materials or operation of nuclear power.


Nuclear engineers typically do the following:

  • Design or develop nuclear equipment —such as reactor cores, nuclear batteries, and radiation shielding—and its associated instruments
  • Test whether methods of managing nuclear material or reclaiming nuclear fuel are acceptable
  • Write instructions to be used in operating nuclear plants or other nuclear equipment or in managing nuclear materials
  • Monitor nuclear facility design, construction, and operation practices to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations

Nuclear engineers may work in the following areas:

Defense. Nuclear engineers in the military work on nuclear propulsion systems for naval vessels. They may help design or evaluate these systems to ensure compliance with safety standards and system specifications. They also work aboard nuclear-powered vessels to monitor and maintain the nuclear systems. In addition, they may review and evaluate technical information related to nuclear weapons, such as readiness and safe storage.

Medical. Nuclear engineers provide dose and shielding calculations for medical isotope production. They design and conduct irradiation experiments and then analyze and document the results of these experiments.

Research and regulation. Nuclear engineers research new uses and management of nuclear power or material. They examine nuclear accidents and analyze the data to aid in designing preventive measures. Some test whether methods of using and managing nuclear material or reclaiming nuclear fuel are acceptable. They may assist in drafting new regulations and standards based on research and experiments.

Space exploration. Nuclear engineers design nuclear batteries used in spacecraft, satellites, and space rovers. They also may design radiation shielding for spacecraft and calculate and analyze radiation in space.

Utility power generation. Nuclear engineers who work for utilities help design and operate nuclear power plants. They also may direct maintenance activities to ensure that these plants meet safety standards.

Work Environment

Nuclear engineers held about 13,800 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of nuclear engineers were as follows:

Nuclear electric power generation 28%
Federal government, excluding postal service 20
Scientific research and development services 16
Engineering services 7
Manufacturing 5

Nuclear engineers typically work in office settings. However, where their office is located varies with the industry in which they work. For example, those employed in power generation and supply work in power plants. Those working for the federal government may be in the military or employed by a regulatory agency or a national laboratory. Others may work for professional, scientific, and technical services, which include consulting firms.

Nuclear engineers work with others, including mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, to incorporate other systems into their own designs.

Work Schedules

Most nuclear engineers work full time. Their schedules vary with the industries in which they work.

Getting Started

Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree

How to Become a Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engineers
Nuclear engineers need a working knowledge of programming languages and computer systems.

Nuclear engineers typically need at least bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering or a related field of engineering.


High school students interested in studying nuclear engineering should take classes in mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, and calculus; and science, such as biology, chemistry, and physics.

Entry-level nuclear engineering jobs commonly require a bachelor’s degree in engineering, engineering technologies, or a physical science field. Some jobs, such as those in research and development, require a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Bachelor’s degree engineering programs often consist of classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include calculus, physics, and nuclear design. Colleges and universities may offer internship or cooperative-education programs with businesses, allowing students to gain work experience while completing their education.

Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs that lead to both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Programs in nuclear engineering are accredited by ABET.


At a nuclear power plant, new employees usually must complete onsite training in topics such as safety procedures, practices, and regulations. Length of training varies, depending on the employer and the power plant. In addition, nuclear engineers must undergo training every year to stay current on applicable laws, regulations, and safety procedures.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level nuclear engineer positions. Experienced engineers may obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows them to oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.

State licensure typically requires a bachelor’s or higher degree in engineering, a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, several years of relevant work experience, and a passing score on the PE exam.

Each state issues its own license. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.

Nuclear engineers may be licensed as a Senior Reactor Operator, a credential granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Contact the NRC for more information.

Other Experience

Some nuclear engineers get their training in the military. Experience in a related military occupation may be beneficial for transferring to a civilian position.


Nuclear engineers may advance to supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Some become engineering managers or move into sales work. For more information, see the profiles on architectural and engineering managers and sales engineers.

Job Outlook

Employment of nuclear engineers is projected to show little or no change from 2022 to 2032.

Despite limited employment growth, about 800 openings for nuclear engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Traditionally, utilities that own or build nuclear power plants have employed the greatest number of nuclear engineers. However, the increasing viability of renewable energy and limited construction of new nuclear power plants puts economic pressure on traditional nuclear power generation and reduces demand for these engineers.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Nuclear Society

American Society for Engineering Education

Health Physics Society

Nuclear Energy Institute

Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Technology Student Association

For more information about licensure as a nuclear engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying

National Society of Professional Engineers

For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit


For information about engineering summer camps, visit

Engineering For Kids

To see vacancies for nuclear engineer positions in the federal government, visit


Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of nuclear engineers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
Civil engineers Civil Engineers

Civil engineers plan, design, and supervise the construction and maintenance of building and infrastructure projects.

Bachelor's degree $89,940
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technologists and Technicians

Electrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians help engineers design and develop equipment that is powered by electricity or electric current.

Associate's degree $66,390
Electrical and electronics engineers Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor's degree $104,610
Health and safety engineers Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage.

Bachelor's degree $100,660
Mechanical engineers Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor's degree $96,310
Physicists and astronomers Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the interactions of matter and energy.

Doctoral or professional degree $139,220

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.