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How Do I Become a Nuclear Power Engineer?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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In order to become a nuclear power engineer, a candidate must have a first-class technical education. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for entry into the field, and many positions require advanced post-graduate work. This education is typically obtained through a nuclear engineering program. Some training programs, such as those used by the United States Navy to train its personnel may not require a degree in nuclear engineering, but will require formal training in a similarly demanding technical field.

Nuclear power engineers are responsible for making critical decisions relating to the design and operation of power-generating nuclear reactors. They monitor the operating status of nuclear reactors, design key reactor systems, and oversee procedures to allow reactors to run with a minimum of risk. The nature of this work demands a very high level of skill and professional training as even modest errors in judgment or planning can have dire consequences. Training programs, therefore, ensure that only a fully-competent candidate can become a nuclear power engineer.

A bachelor’s degree in engineering from an accredited university is the standard educational requirement to become a nuclear power engineer. This degree covers aspects of physics and mathematics that are crucial for an understanding of nuclear power generation. It also, like most engineering degrees, includes practical training. In this case, that training focuses on the specific technologies used in modern nuclear reactor systems.

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Graduate education may be required for more advanced positions in the field of nuclear power engineering. To become a nuclear power engineer responsible for the oversight or design of entire reactor complexes typically requires an advanced degree. Continuing education is a critical component of this field, and many firms offer aid and incentives to successful employees in order to make the process of obtaining ongoing education and advanced degrees easier. Such programs are typically designed to allow the gradual completion of graduate coursework without interruption of normal job duties.

The United States Navy and some other large employers of engineers offer modified training programs. These programs require that a candidate possess a solid technical background and excellent academic credentials. A suitable candidate is then offered directed instruction by the Navy or other large institution to formally finish his training as a nuclear power engineer. This training is generally no less rigorous than that acquired through a degree in engineering. It is simply offered through different channels.

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