Nuclear Technician Education Requirements and Career Info
Nuclear technicians specialize in nuclear energy. They operate and maintain equipment in nuclear power plants and may assist scientists with nuclear research.
Nuclear technicians, who are a type of science technician, usually need 2-4 years of postsecondary education. Employers may look for nuclear technicians who have earned a certificate or an associate's degree in an area like nuclear technology. Coursework includes nuclear physics, chemistry, electricity, radiation and mathematics. Programs may also include supervised experiences in the field.
Although nuclear technicians may be able to find work with just a high school diploma, those without postsecondary education need to receive extensive on-the-job training. They should also have completed several advanced math and science courses while in high school. Some nuclear technicians receive prior training from the U.S. Navy, which operates nuclear ships and submarines. Nuclear technician trainees are supervised by experienced technicians. They learn how to service the nuclear equipment at power plants and ensure that safety procedures are followed.
Nuclear technicians operate nuclear equipment, monitor radiation levels, provide quality control support and assist nuclear physicists in research activities. After working as trainees, nuclear technicians may move into positions that have more responsibility and less supervision. With more experience, some nuclear technicians can become supervisors. Because of the nature of their work, nuclear technicians risk exposure to radiation.
Nuclear technicians must have strong communication skills and be able to work well with others. They should be organized, detail-oriented and mechanically adept. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), nuclear technicians held approximately 6,400 jobs in 2008. More than half worked for utilities like nuclear power plants. A nine percent job growth rate is expected between 2008 and 2018. Opportunities will exist mostly in research, development and green energy.
Nuclear Tech Salaries
According to PayScale.com, median hourly wages for nuclear technicians with 1-4 years of experience ranged between $18.49 and $33.70 per hour in 2010. Nuclear technicians with 20 or more years of experience earned between $28.45 and $35.44 per hour. The BLS reported median wages of $32.64 per hour in 2008. According to PayScale.com, the most popular states for jobs in nuclear technology include Texas, California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.
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