Nuclear Technicians Overview
Nuclear technicians work in a laboratory setting. Some employers choose to hire applicants with an associates degree or certificate in applied science, however some employer only hire applicants with a bachelors degree. Employment growth is expected to be about as fast as average, and job opportunities will be best for graduates of applied science technology/technician programs who are experts in equipment used in production facilities and laboratories.
Nature of the Work for Nuclear Technicians
Nuclear technicians are a part of the science technician sector. They use mathematics and science to help with research and development as well as assist in the invention and improvement of processes and products. They differ from scientists because their jobs are more practically oriented. In laboratories, nuclear technicians set up, operate and maintain equipment. In addition, they observe experiments, make observations, record and interpret results. For this reason, they are mandated to keep detailed logs of all their work.
The role of nuclear technicians in research and development has expanded as a result of the increasing complexity of laboratory instrumentation and procedures. Under the direction of scientists, many nuclear technicians are now responsible for creating and adapting laboratory procedures in order to achieve the best results, understand data and develop solutions to problems. In order to recognize when equipment is malfunctioning and so they can adjust settings, nuclear technicians must have expert knowledge of laboratory equipment.
In research and development, nuclear technicians operate nuclear research and test equipment, observe radiation and help nuclear engineers and physicists. In order to manipulate radioactive materials or materials exposed to radioactivity, some nuclear technicians operate remote-controlled equipment.
Nuclear technicians work in laboratory settings. Although nuclear technicians typically work traditional 8-hour shifts, some occasionally work irregular hours to observe those experiments that cannot be completed during regular work hours. Nuclear technicians often use electronic measuring equipment, computers and traditional experimental apparatus. They are required to operate more advanced laboratory equipment as automation and information technology continues to develop.
There is the risk of being exposed to radiation, however as long as proper safety regulations are followed, the risk should remain low.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Nuclear Technicians
Most employers prefer to hire applicants who have at least an associates degree or 2 years of specialized postsecondary training in applied science or science-related technology. Other nuclear technicians have a bachelors degree, and some have no formal postsecondary education and receive on-the-job training.
Programs in science technology at community colleges and technical schools often include more general education in mathematics and science. Many associate degree programs are created to offer students an easy transition to bachelors degree programs at colleges or universities. Technical schools provide less general education and theory and more technical training than a community college. Commonly, certificates and associates degrees earned at a technical institute take between 1 to 2 years. Internships or cooperative-education programs in which students work at local companies while attending classes in alternate terms significantly enhance a student’s job prospects.
Hands-on training is usually required for nuclear technicians either from school or on the job. A shorter training period is usually offered to job applicants who already have extensive hands-on training using a wide array of laboratory equipment. A longer training session provided by an experienced technician is reserved for those who have a high school diploma or not college degree. People interested in careers as science technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible. Science courses taken beyond high school, in an associate or bachelor's degree program, should be laboratory oriented, with an emphasis on bench skills. A solid background in applied chemistry, physics, and math is vital.
High school students who are interested in a career as a nuclear technician should take as many classes in math and science as possible. During the associate or bachelors degree program, students should take science courses that are laboratory oriented. Having a strong background in physics, chemistry and math is paramount to a career for nuclear technicians.
Because nuclear technicians are often required to report their findings orally and in writing, strong communication and interpersonal skills are important to this career. In addition, computer skills, specifically in computer modeling, are needed for research and development. High mechanical aptitude, organizational skills attention to detail and the ability to interpret scientific results are also important. Usually, nuclear technicians begin their work as trainees and work under the direction of a nuclear engineer or more experienced technician. As they gain experience, they carry out assignments under general supervision and take on more responsibility. Those with a bachelors degree are able to advance to a scientist position after only a few years of work experience or after earning a masters degree.
Top 10 Most Popular Science Technologies/Technicians Schools
1. College of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas, Nevada)
2. Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, Arizona)
3. New River Community and Technical College (Beckley, West Virginia)
4. Arizona State University - Polytechnic (Mesa, Arizona)
5. Roane State Community College (Harriman, Tennessee)
6. Clemson University (Clemson, South Carolina)
7. Nashville State Community College (Nashville, Tennessee)
8. Community College of Aurora (Aurora, Colorado)
9. Community College of the Air Force (Montgomery, Alabama)
10. Southwest Tennessee Community College, Memphis (Memphis, Tennessee)
Employment and Job Outlook for Nuclear Technicians
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).
Of the 270,800 science technician jobs, there are 6,290 jobs for nuclear technicians. Over 50 percent of nuclear technicians work for utilities. Although overall employment growth of science technicians is projected to be 12 percent, nuclear technicians should see a growth of about 9 percent, which is about as fast as average. More nuclear technicians are needed to research future advances in nuclear power and monitor the Nation’s aging group of nuclear reactors. There is a recent renewed interest in nuclear energy, which may lead to future construction of new nuclear power plants. In employment in defense-related areas, nuclear technicians will be needed to develop nuclear medical technology. In addition, a demand will arise for individuals to improve and enforce waste management and safety procedures.
Many job openings for nuclear technicians will arise for those who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons. Graduates of applied science technology programs who have received extensive training on laboratory equipment should expect the best employment opportunities. Employers will continue to hire applicants with highly developed technical skills as instrumentation and techniques used in research and development become more complex.
Earnings and Salary for Nuclear Technicians
The median hourly wage for nuclear technicians is $32.37 and the median annual salary is $67,340.
Annual Salary for Nuclear Technicians
On average, Nuclear Technicians earn $67,340 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook