a dark blue TraitLab logo
Sign up

Have an account? Sign in

Career profile Nuclear Engineer

Also known as Engineer, Nuclear Design Engineer, Nuclear Engineer, Nuclear Licensing Engineer, Nuclear Process Engineer, Nuclear Reactor Engineer, Radiological Engineer, System Engineer

Nuclear Engineer

Also known as Engineer, Nuclear Design Engineer, Nuclear Engineer

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$74,800 - $185,550 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Science
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active Listening
Knowledge Areas
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
Core tasks
  • 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.
Is Nuclear Engineer the right career path for you?

Would Nuclear Engineer be a good fit for you?

Explore how your personality fits with Nuclear Engineer and hundreds of other career paths.

Create your free account

What does a Nuclear Engineer do?

Nuclear Engineers 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.

What kind of tasks does a Nuclear Engineer perform regularly?

Nuclear Engineers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • 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.
  • Examine accidents to obtain data for use in design of preventive measures.
  • Direct operating or maintenance activities of nuclear power plants to ensure efficiency and conformity to safety standards.
  • Recommend preventive measures to be taken in the handling of nuclear technology, based on data obtained from operations monitoring or from evaluation of test results.
  • Write operational instructions to be used in nuclear plant operation or nuclear fuel or waste handling and disposal.
  • Conduct environmental studies on topics such as nuclear power generation, nuclear waste disposal, or nuclear weapon deployment.
  • Direct environmental compliance activities associated with nuclear plant operations or maintenance.
  • Prepare environmental impact statements, reports, or presentations for regulatory or other agencies.
  • Prepare technical reports of findings or recommendations, based on synthesized analyses of test results.
  • Develop or contribute to the development of plans to remediate or restore environments affected by nuclear radiation, such as waste disposal sites.
  • Conduct tests of nuclear fuel behavior and cycles or performance of nuclear machinery and equipment to optimize performance of existing plants.
  • Design or oversee construction or operation of nuclear reactors, power plants, or nuclear fuels reprocessing and reclamation systems.
  • Design or direct nuclear research projects to develop, test, modify, or discover new uses for theoretical models.
  • Design fuel cycle models or processes to reduce the quantity of radioactive waste generated from nuclear activities.
  • Consult with other scientists to determine parameters of experimentation or suitability of analytical models.
  • Perform experiments that will provide information about acceptable methods of nuclear material usage, nuclear fuel reclamation, or waste disposal.
  • Discuss construction project proposals with interested parties, such as vendors, contractors, or nuclear facility review boards.
  • Keep abreast of developments and changes in the nuclear field by reading technical journals or by independent study and research.

The above responsibilities are specific to Nuclear Engineers. More generally, Nuclear Engineers are involved in several broader types of activities:

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.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.

What is a Nuclear Engineer salary?

The median salary for a Nuclear Engineer is $116,140, and the average salary is $125,130. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Nuclear Engineer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Nuclear Engineers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Nuclear Engineers earn less than $74,800 per year, 25% earn less than $92,440, 75% earn less than $143,000, and 90% earn less than $185,550.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Nuclear Engineers is expected to change by -8.1%, and there should be roughly 900 open positions for Nuclear Engineers every year.

Median annual salary
$116,140
Typical salary range
$74,800 - $185,550
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
-8.1%

What personality traits are common among Nuclear Engineers?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Nuclear Engineer are usually higher in their Investigative and Realistic interests.

Nuclear Engineers typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Nuclear Engineers typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Nuclear Engineer tend to value Achievement, Recognition, and Support.

Most importantly, Nuclear Engineers strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Second, Nuclear Engineers strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Lastly, Nuclear Engineers strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Nuclear Engineers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as attention to detail, integrity, and analytical thinking.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Nuclear Engineers, ranked by importance:

Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Nuclear Engineers need?

Many Nuclear Engineers will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Nuclear Engineers usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Nuclear Engineers

  • 0.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 3.0% completed high school or secondary school
  • 7.1% completed some college coursework
  • 6.9% earned a Associate's degree
  • 49.4% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 25.7% earned a Master's degree
  • 7.4% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear Engineers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as engineering and technology, mathematics, or physics knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Nuclear Engineers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Engineering and Technology
Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Physics
Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes.
Design
Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
Chemistry
Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.

Important Abilities needed by Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear Engineers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Nuclear Engineers need abilities such as problem sensitivity, oral comprehension, and written comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Nuclear Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

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.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Nuclear Engineers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Nuclear Engineers frequently use skills like science, reading comprehension, and active listening to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Nuclear Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

Science
Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.