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So you want to be a… nuclear engineer

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Rebekah Valero-Lee Career Advice

If you have a keen interest in science and technology, and have good numerical and analytical abilities, you might want to consider a career as a nuclear engineer. As with many nuclear power plant jobs, nuclear engineers also need to have excellent organisational and planning skills to ensure all projects adhere to strict security and safety legislations.

Nuclear engineers have a range of responsibilities, from designing and developing nuclear equipment, such as reactor cores and radiation shielding, to writing operational instructions or examining nuclear accidents.

Think this sounds like the perfect role for you? Take a look at the information below to find out how you can become a nuclear engineer.

What qualifications would I need?

To pursue a career in nuclear engineering, you’ll need either a HNC/HND, a foundation degree or a degree. Not all universities offer courses specific to nuclear engineering, however you can also sidestep into nuclear by studying a science or technology based subject, such as:

  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Chemical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering

Entry requirements for different universities or colleges will differ. If your A Levels aren’t suitable to access the course, you may find you can take a foundation year instead. Engineering and science degrees often require three A Levels including maths and at least one other science subject.

Looking for a course specific to nuclear engineering? The Nuclear Industry Association has a list of courses available here in the UK.

When it comes to getting your first job in nuclear engineering, most employers will be looking for at least a 2:2 in a technical subject. Alternatively, you could look to get into nuclear engineering by becoming a technician through an apprenticeship.

What skills would I need?

To become a nuclear engineer, you’ll need a wide range of skills, many of which go beyond your technical knowledge. Here are some of the qualities you’ll be required to demonstrate:

  • A high level of mathematical and computer skills
  • The ability to be analytical and a good problem-solver
  • Excellent planning and organisational skills
  • Leadership and management abilities
  • A high level of written and verbal communication skills
  • An enthusiasm for science and technology
  • Great teamwork abilities
  • That you’re a responsible individual

How much could I earn?

As a graduate nuclear engineer, you can expect to earn around £20,000 – £25,000. As you gain more experience and progress further in your career, your salary can increase substantially. Most experienced nuclear engineers are likely to earn between £30,000 and £50,000, however depending on your specialism or employer, you could potentially earn much more.

These figures are intended as a guideline only.

What would my working hours and conditions be like?

Your work setting would vary depending on what industry you were working in. Nuclear engineers employed in power generation and supply will tend to work in power plants, however many engineers are based in offices, laboratories or control rooms. Being aware of health and safety regulations in all work spaces is crucial, especially when working with radioactive material.

If you’re working in a power station, your working hours could include weekends, evenings and nights, and may even feature a seven-day shift system. However, if you’re office based or predominately work in research and development, your hours are more likely to fall into the normal 9am-5pm office hours from Monday to Friday.

So, do you think you’re ready to pursue a career in nuclear engineering? Take a look at our latest job listings to see if there are any roles you’d be suitable for.

 

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