In order to become a nuclear technician, you'll need an associate's degree in an appropriate field as well licensure from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear production. They have many on-the-job safety responsibilities. Prospective nuclear technicians may consider associate's degree programs in nuclear technology engineering, applied science or a related major. In addition to classroom work, students can expect to complete significant hands-on training. Licensure may be required.
|Required Education||Associate's degree|
|Licensing Requirements||Provided by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-5%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$78,850|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nuclear technicians assist physicists and nuclear engineers (www.bls.gov). These professionals use their skills in math and science to work in research, development and maintenance. Nuclear technicians are often monitoring for quality and safety in the workplace.
Nuclear technicians may specialize as either equipment operating or radiation monitoring technicians. According to O*Net Online, nuclear equipment operating technicians manage the equipment that controls the flow of nuclear energy, while radiation monitoring technicians collect and tests nuclear samples (www.onetonline.org). Both specializations require individuals to use technical equipment and record data.
Prospective nuclear technicians may consider associate's degree programs in nuclear technology engineering, applied science or a related major. According to ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, engineering technology programs differ from engineering programs in that their coursework is more practical than theoretical (www.abet.org). Courses may cover science and industry-related topics, such as health physics, radiation physics and nuclear systems.
These programs have general science and math requirements in chemistry, applied calculus and physics, which may be completed with other general education requirements in the first year. Some programs require technical writing and computer science courses.
These programs include hands-on training through experience requirements and laboratory sessions. Labs may be required for topics in nuclear materials, nuclear equipment and radiation safety. These sessions familiarize students with the equipment and procedures they'll use on-the-job. Some schools have a nuclear simulation lab, which allows students to practice operations and emergency procedures.
Some programs require field experience or an internship that provides technical on-the-job learning. Programs that don't require experience for graduation may still allow internships to count for credit.
Some nuclear technician positions may require individuals to be licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). According to the NRC, individuals who operate or supervise the operation of a plant's control systems must be licensed. Applicants for licensure must meet several standards, including a passing score on an exam.
Career and Salary Information
The BLS estimates a -5% job growth for nuclear technicians in the years 2014-2024. In May 2015, the BLS also reported that the average annual wages for nuclear technicians were $78,850.
With hands-on training and internships, nuclear technician programs prepare students for a career in nuclear technology. After earning an associate's degree and obtaining the appropriate licensure, graduates can go on to pursue a more advanced degree and obtain voluntary professional certification.