Nuclear Technician: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for nuclear technicians. Get the facts about job duties, job outlook, education requirements, and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nuclear Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Nuclear Technician Do?

Nuclear technicians work with engineers and scientists in variety of essential roles in power plants, defense facilities, and waste management. Many find employment in power plants, though others work in research laboratories and healthcare facilities. Because of the varied nature of the technology involved and the different types of radiation you can work with, it is not uncommon for technicians to specialize in a specific area of nuclear science.

Read about the career essentials for nuclear technicians in the following table.

Degree Required Associate's degree, or equivalent experience in the U.S. Navy
Training Required On-the-job training
Education Field of Study Nuclear science, nuclear technology
Key Responsibilities Measuring radiation levels, following radiation safety protocols, monitoring equipment
Job Growth (2014-2024) -5%*
Median Salary (2015) $80,260*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Be Doing as a Nuclear Technician?

Nuclear technicians work with a team of engineers and scientists in the development, research, and maintenance of nuclear technologies. Some of these technologies can include nuclear power plants, particle accelerators, nuclear monitoring equipment, and nuclear medicine. Because of the differences in technologies used, you will generally focus your work in one area. For example, as a fuel technician, you retrieve, process, and dispose of nuclear fuel used in reactors.

What Can I Expect for the Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 5% decrease in employment for nuclear technicians over the 2014-2024 decade. The decline is expected to be driven by demand for alternative fuel sources and increased automation within the industry.

What Education Do I Need?

An associate's degree in nuclear technology is generally required to prepare for a career as a nuclear technician. A degree program designated by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) may require courses in nuclear math and physics, radiation safety, reactor plant operations, nuclear facility components, reactor safety, and reactor operations management.

Some nuclear technology programs allow you to gain hands-on experience and develop skills that you can apply towards your career. These internships involve many hours of work in an actual nuclear company or energy provider. Internship topics can include radiation protection, nuclear reactor operations, and reactor maintenance. Once you are hired, significant additional on-the-job training is common.

Aspiring nuclear technicians may also gain training through the military. The U.S. Navy in particular can offer trainees experience with nuclear technology that's equivalent to earning an associate's degree in the field.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Chemical technicians do a similar job to nuclear technicians, fulfilling similar tasks as a nuclear technician for chemists and chemical engineers. Mechanical engineering technicians do the same, only for mechanical engineers. Nuclear medicine technologists, however, are healthcare professionals that use radiation to treat illness through different drugs and as a form of internal imaging.

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