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Career profile: Nuclear engineer

Career profile: Nuclear engineerNuclear science is used for lots of different things we take for granted in the modern world from medicine to electricity. Find out more about the people who work in this area.

A what?

Nuclear engineers are responsible for designing and maintaining the nuclear technology used in medicine and to produce energy.

On the job

Nuclear engineers can work in a range of environments from laboratories and offices to power plants and hospitals. They could be employed by the medical profession, the government, universities or the military. Nuclear engineers play an important part in operating nuclear technology and making sure that any waste is disposed of carefully with as little as possible impact on the environment.

As they are obviously dealing with radioactive substances, nuclear engineers need to be very safety-conscious and often have to wear protective clothing.

Salary and future prospects

You often start off on a graduate training programme (once you’ve finished your studies), which may last two years. During this time, you can earn around £22,000 a year. As you gain more experience your salary could increase to £35,000 and once you’ve become a chartered engineer (a nationally recognised stamp of approval) and maybe start managing a team, your annual salary could go up to £65,000.

The future of the nuclear industry is always being argued about, with some people saying that it is too dangerous, and others claiming that it is the quickest way to get clean energy and stop global warming. At the moment, it looks like this area is increasing, so your chances of work in this field are better than ever.

How do I get there?

You will need a degree in physics, maths or engineering. You can find details of universities offering degree courses with nuclear technology content from the Institution of Nuclear Engineers and the Nuclear Industry Association websites.

For a degree course you will need at least five GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3) and two A-levels/three H grades or equivalent, normally including maths and/or physics. Some universities offer a foundation year for applicants without qualifications in maths and science. It’s worth checking with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

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