Nuclear Chemist: Job Description, Career Requirements and Salary

A nuclear chemist requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

While an entry-level position in nuclear chemistry can be obtained with a bachelor's degree, many jobs require a master's or doctorate degree. Nuclear chemists may work in a commercial laboratory or academic setting.

Essential Information

Nuclear chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with nuclear reactions, or those reactions that take place inside atoms. As such, nuclear chemists are involved in several areas of research, from nuclear imaging in medicine to nuclear engineering in power generation. Nuclear chemists who work in laboratories for companies need a bachelor's degree at minimum. They may also conduct research in university settings, where a graduate or doctoral degree is the norm.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in chemistry or a related field for entry-level; master's degree or Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry for research and postsecondary teaching positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% (all chemists)
Average Salary (2015)* $77,860 (all chemists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Requirements

Research positions in nuclear chemistry often require education beyond the undergraduate level. An undergraduate degree in chemistry, followed by a graduate program in nuclear chemistry at either the master's or doctoral level, prepares students for a career in this field. For those looking to teach at the postsecondary level, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is generally a requirement.

Although nuclear chemistry is not one of the five traditional subfields of chemistry, it has many of the same educational requirements as those fields. A thorough grounding in physical science is a significant educational requirement and can prepare students for further specialization in chemistry and nuclear chemistry.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups nuclear chemists in with the larger career category of chemists. According to the BLS, the mean annual income for all chemists was $77,860 as of May 2015. Job prospects for chemists in the years of 2014-2024 are projected to grow slowly, below the average for all industries (www.bls.gov). Some nuclear chemists may also teach at the postsecondary level; the BLS projects that positions in this field will grow faster than average, and the mean annual income for postsecondary chemistry teachers was $86,070 as of 2015.

Nuclear chemists often find work in research or academia. Both research positions and professorship positions require a graduate degree, either master's or doctoral, in nuclear chemistry. To prepare for a nuclear chemistry career, students should start with courses and studies in physical chemistry before moving into specialized programs.

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