What do Nuclear Engineers Do?

Consider the opportunities! With a degree in nuclear engineering you could become involved in:

  • Providing future electical energy systems, such as advanced fission and fusion reactors, needed not only by the U.S. but also by developing nations for economic and security growth.
  • Designing power systems, nuclear propulsion systems, and radiation sources and detectors for deep space missions.
  • Applying radiation for sterilization of medical instruments and food processing equipment, and for food preservation.
  • Developing advanced radiation sources and detectors for use in scientific research as well as in precision manufacturing.
  • Applying radiation to diagnose and combat cancer and other diseases.
  • Optimizing the use of plasmas for the processing of semiconductors and other materials.
  • Contributing to national security through the stewardship of nuclear weapons and engineering safeguards against nuclear proliferation
  • Protecting the environment by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, developing nuclear fuel cycles that reduce waste production, and designing facilities that can safely store nuclear waste.


In addition to these possibilities, nuclear engineers find exciting careers outside of their field and with many types of companies where breadth as well as depth of education is recognized and rewarded. For example, a number of our graduate students have found rewarding careers in the information industry where computational skills and knowledge of plasma processing are in demand

If we consider the nuclear energy industry alone, nuclear engineers find all kinds of opportunities.

  • Many work in electric utilities, supervising reactor systems operations, refueling schedules, and the design and licensing of plant modifications.
  • Others work for the regulatory agencies, providing the knowledge base and oversight for safe and proper reactor operation.
  • Still others work for vendors - the companies that design reactor systems, manufacture subsystems and components, and provide inspection and engineering services for the global market.
  • Many who have a bent for research find positions in the national laboratories of the Department of Energy, where they engage in advanced energy studies, new uses of nuclear energy and radiation science, and the computer modeling, simulation and visualization of complex phenomena.