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Career Outlook

Overview

Students with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering will find diverse career opportunities in advanced research and studies, in the medical field, and in the energy indsutry. 

Over the past decade, 38% of our Nuclear Engineering graduates have pursued advanced degrees, 28% of them have gone into working in the industry, and the remaining 34% have gone into various research and post-doc positions in universities, government agencies, and national laboratories.

Starting salaries are about $55,000 for college graduates, $60-65,000 for Master's students, $80,000 or higher for Ph.D's.  The nuclear energy and environmental field will continue to provide excellent employment opportunities for nuclear engineers.
 

Graduate Study

Many of our students continue toward advanced degrees, which allow them greater opportunities for teaching and research at universities and national laboratories.  Various research areas include bionuclear physics, nuclear energy systems, plasma physics, and nuclear safety, etc.

In recent years, our nuclear engineering graduates have attended MIT, Harvard, Oregon State, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin to pursue more advanced degrees.
 

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear processes have an amazingly diverse range of medical applications; over 1/3 of all medical procedures in the United States use nuclear techniques. Nuclear processes are used to provide images inside the human body, to detect and measure biochemical processes, and to provide therapy.  Students focusing on bionuclear engineering in NE learn how the principles of engineering physics can be applied to imaging and therapy.

Nuclear engineering students will find great opportunities and growth in the following medical areas: radiation therapy and dosimetry, diagnostic radiology and imaging, nuclear medicine, and radiation protection.

Some of the medical organizations our graduates have worked at include the National Cancer Institute, UC San Francisco, and Varian Medical Systems, etc.

Nuclear Energy

In the last two decades nuclear energy has become the world's largest single source of emission-free energy.  There are 433 nuclear power plants worldwide; 103 of them are in the US alone, and they account for over 20% of the country's electric supply.  These plants also help stabilize domestic energy cost, and reduce carbon dio

Current nuclear power plants are expected to apply for a 20-year license extension, which means that current nuclear plants are expected to operate past 2030.  There are various research and development projects underway to improve reliability and safety of the next generation nuclear fission power plant.

In addition to fission nuclear power, development of economical nuclear fusion energy is also a huge research area to be explored.  In the past decade, there have been magnetic fusion experiments that created over 13 million watts of fusion power.  In the coming decade, we expect to see new breakthroughs in fusion power, especially with research being done at various universities, national laboratories, and the National Ignition Facility.

Radioactive Waste Management

In tandem with utilizing nuclear materials for medicine and power, radioactive waste disposal and safety have also been an extensive area for research.  International research and efforts are ongoing to improve models for the transport of radionuclides from geologic repositories, and the quality of the engineered barriers that contain the waste, so that the probability of radionuclide release can be reduced further.

Nuclear Engineering faculty and researchers at UC Berkeley are actively participating in this research area.  Professor Per Peterson is a co-chair of the the Reactor and Fuel Cycle Technology Subcommittee of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.  This Commission was established by the Obama Administration in 2010 to explore alternatives for the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle.