Nuclear Chemist: Job Description, Career Requirements and Salary

Research nuclear chemist career information. Learn about the job description, education requirements, and salary to make an informed decision about becoming a nuclear chemist.

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Job Description of a Nuclear Chemist

Nuclear chemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with nuclear reactions, or those reactions that take place inside atoms. As such, nuclear chemists are involved in several areas of research, from nuclear imaging in medicine to nuclear engineering in power generation. While nuclear engineers apply the ideas behind nuclear science to practical use in power plants and nuclear waste facilities, nuclear chemists are often more involved in theoretical research.

Nuclear chemists who work in laboratories for companies are sometimes referred to as 'bench chemists.' These individuals work in areas of research that can further the development of products for their employers. They may also conduct research in university settings, where a higher level of education is the norm. Nuclear chemists who do their research at universities are likely to combine their work with educating and training future generations of nuclear chemists.

Career Requirements

Research positions in nuclear chemistry often require education beyond the undergraduate level. An undergraduate degree in chemistry, followed by a graduate program in nuclear chemistry at either the master's or doctoral level, prepares students for a career in this field. For those looking to teach at the postsecondary level, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is generally a requirement.

Although nuclear chemistry is not one of the five traditional subfields of chemistry, it has many of the same educational requirements as those fields. A thorough grounding in physical science is a significant educational requirement and can prepare students for further specialization in chemistry and nuclear chemistry.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups nuclear chemists in with the larger career category of chemists. According to the BLS, the median annual income for all chemists was $71,770 as of May 2012. Job prospects for chemists in the years of 2010-2020 are projected to grow slowly, below the average for all industries (www.bls.gov). Some nuclear chemists may also teach at the postsecondary level, the BLS projects that positions will grow about as fast as average, and the median annual income for postsecondary chemistry teachers was $71,140 in 2012.

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