Career Definition for a Nuclear Equipment Technician
A nuclear equipment technician is responsible for monitoring and measuring nuclear output and radiation levels at reactors and nuclear plants, as well as on some medical and laboratory devices, such as x-ray and diagnostic imaging machines. They ensure nuclear energy safety standards are met, use testing equipment and issue reports of their findings.
|Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear power technology or nuclear engineering|
|Job Skills||Good communication, organizational, math, detail-oriented, mechanical aptitude, and computer skills|
|Median Salary (May 2017)*||$80,370 (nuclear technicians)|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||1% (nuclear technicians)|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
An associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear power technology or nuclear engineering is necessary to become a nuclear equipment technician. Many community colleges, universities and technical colleges offer degree programs in nuclear power technology and nuclear engineering. Courses in physics, mathematics, engineering technology, and chemistry are usually part of the curriculum. Computer and technical writing classes are also important.
A nuclear equipment technician needs good communication and organizational skills as well as strong math skills. They should be detail-oriented and have mechanical aptitude. Computer skills are also essential. The abilities to adhere to strict safety regulations and accurately record data are also important career skills.
Job growth for nuclear equipment technicians is expected to increase 1% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Nuclear equipment technicians are among the highest paid science technicians, with a median annual salary of $80,370 as of May 2017. Job opportunities will be best in states that have the highest number of nuclear reactors, such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina as well as heavily-populated areas with an increasing number of hospitals and medical laboratories.
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Alternative Career Options
Individuals who are fascinated with nuclear technology may consider similar careers in medicine or engineering:
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists conduct diagnostic tests using specialized imaging machines. They work with patients to explain the procedure to them, prepare and give radioactive drugs to patients that will allow abnormal tissue to show up on the scan, and operate the imaging machine, passing the images to a physician for evaluation. Completion of an associate's degree program in nuclear medicine technology is generally required for employment; some states also require nuclear medicine technologists to earn a license. For graduates of related 2- or 4-year degree programs in a healthcare field, completion of a 1-year certificate program may qualify them for employment. The BLS reports that jobs for nuclear medicine technologists are expected to increase 10% from 2016-2026. The median salary for workers in this occupation was $75,660 in 2017, per the BLS.
Nuclear engineers apply their knowledge of nuclear energy, its behavior and uses to industrial, medical, transportation and aerospace problems. They may work in research and development, such as looking at ways to dispose of nuclear waste or ways to improve diagnostic imaging, or in applied settings, such as nuclear plant operations. Nuclear engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering. The BLS predicts that nuclear engineering jobs will increase 4% from 2016-2026. The agency also reports that nuclear engineers earned a median salary of $105,810 in 2017.