How to Become a Nuclear Technician in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a nuclear technician. Learn about the education requirements, job duties, and salary information to find out if this is the 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 in nuclear research or nuclear production, operating machinery and equipment that is used in these activities. Duties are often divided between operating technicians and radiation protection technicians. Operating technicians monitor the status of nuclear power plants, repairing and adjusting systems as needed to keep the plant safe and running efficiently. Radiation protection technicians use radiation detectors to monitor the levels of contaminants in and around the plant, planning safety measures and protecting workers from dangerous contaminants. Workers may also monitor the disposal of waste from the plant.

The table below presents information for this career.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Nuclear science, nuclear technology
Key Responsibilities Operate equipment assisting in nuclear production or research, measure radiation levels, gather soil, water, and air samples for testing
Projected Job Outlook (2018-2028) -4%*
Mean Salary (2018) $79,970*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Nuclear Technician?

Nuclear technicians work in any area that involves radioactive materials, especially in the production of nuclear energy or nuclear research. Nuclear technicians will assist nuclear physicists, nuclear engineers, and other related professionals by operating necessary equipment that produces or monitors radiation. The minimum educational requirement is an associate's degree, though some choose to complete a bachelor's degree program.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Like with most careers, it will help to start preparing for your future as soon as possible. Students still in high school should focus on taking as many high level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classes as possible. Physics and calculus are especially important, as these will be the foundation for many of the courses you take in college. Extracurricular activities where you can practice your skills, such as a math or science club, can also be beneficial.

Step 2: Pursue an Associate's Degree in Nuclear Science Technology

Applying to nuclear science technology programs may require passing a criminal background check and drug screening. In addition to vital education in nuclear science and relevant equipment, degree programs may require internships or apprenticeships in laboratories. Training includes laboratory and clinical experience.

Step 3: Become a Trainee in a Nuclear Power Plant or Elsewhere

After you've completed your degree, but before you can work as a full-time nuclear technician, you most likely will need to complete a mandatory number of training hours in a functioning nuclear power plant, lab, or other area working with nuclear power. Each location should provide its own instruction on safety procedures, regulations and policies.

Step 4: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology

A bachelor's degree in nuclear science may be necessary for career advancement, including positions in teaching and research and supervisory jobs. Some colleges limit admissions to bachelor's degree programs to nuclear technicians with certification and licensure.

Step 5: Consider Professional Certification

Joining professional organizations, such as the American Society for Nondestructive Testing or the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologies is a great way to earn certification. While optional, a certification may advance your knowledge of nuclear medicine technology and increase your career opportunities.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Nuclear engineers develop the techniques and instruments utilized by nuclear technicians to derive energy from radioactive materials. This profession typically requires a bachelor's degree. Hazardous material removal workers clean up and neutralize volatile waste that can be dangerous to people and the environment, such as nuclear waste. Many of these workers only hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive drugs in small doses to patients as a means of internal imaging. While this career only requires an associate's degree, roughly 50% of all states do have licensure requirements for nuclear medicine techs.

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