Engineering

Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes and systems used to derive benefits from, and utilise, nuclear energy and radiation.

  • Entry-level education

    Bachelor’s degree

  • Job outlook

    1 2 3 4 5

What does a Nuclear Engineer do?

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes and systems used to derive benefits from, and utilise, nuclear energy and radiation.

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Work activities

As a nuclear engineer, you might:

  • design and construct nuclear reactors and power plants
  • direct and monitor the operations of nuclear power plants, ensuring efficiency and safety standards
  • evaluate potential environmental and ecological impacts of nuclear power plants
  • monitor and measure radiation levels
  • work on the production, handling and use of nuclear fuel
  • dispose safely of the waste produced by generating nuclear energy
  • apply radiation for sterilisation of medical instruments and food processing equipment, and for food preservation
  • develop radioisotopes for medical or industrial uses
  • develop advanced radiation sources and detectors for use in scientific research as well as in precision manufacturing.
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Key skills and interests

To become a nuclear engineer, you would need:

  • an interest in science and technology
  • problem-solving and analytical skills
  • strong adherence to health and safety rules and regulations
  • good planning and organisational ability
  • excellent maths and IT skills
  • good spoken and written communication skills.
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Working hours and conditions

Working Hours

In research and development roles in Australia, you would usually work standard office hours, Monday to Friday.

Conditions

In Australia, your work would take place in laboratories or offices. You would need to be very aware of health and safety rules and regulations. You would wear protective clothing when you were dealing with radioactive material.

While there are limited positions in Australian nuclear research facilities, roles may be available overseas, particularly in the USA or Europe. In countries with a nuclear industry, employment is usually divided between government positions, regulatory agencies, utilities companies and research roles with defence and engineering companies.

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How to become an Nuclear Engineer?

Entry Level Education

To work as a nuclear engineer in an entry-level role, you would usually need to complete a degree in engineering, physics, materials engineering, or materials science, with a major in nuclear engineering. To get into these courses, you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. Mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.

Alternatively, you could complete a bachelor's degree, followed by a Master's degree in Applied Nuclear Science. To operate a nuclear reactor, you would usually need a PhD.

There are a limited number of courses available in Australia in this area. You may need to travel overseas to study in order to become a nuclear engineer.

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Job outlook

  • 1 2 3 4 5

Employment of nuclear engineers is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.

There are limited opportunities in this field available in Australia. Employment in countries with nuclear power plants is likely to be favorable because of the likely need to decommission and build nuclear reactors, as well as upgrade safety systems at power plants.

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