Survey Shows High Salary,
It seems to me that nuclear engineering often doesn't even show up as a separate field in many surveys of academic disciplines, so it caught my attention immediately when I saw a recent survey reported in Money magazine that included nuclear engineering. It caught my attention even more when I saw that nuclear engineering was ranked third in a survey that focused largely on expected salary and employment prospects.
The information comes from a study done by Bankrate that covers over 150 professions. As expected, the STEM professions (science, technology, engineering, and math) generally rank higher than other professions, but to see nuclear engineering near the very top was--for me--a bit of a surprise, although, of course, a pleasant one.
As always with such studies, one has to do a deeper dive into the methodology to understand the significance of the numbers. What is particularly interesting about this study is that, while average salary is the most heavily weighted factor, the unemployment rate is also factored in. On this basis, petroleum engineering, which has the highest average salary of the fields identified, but also has a high unemployment rate, doesn't make the top 10.
With some of the current uncertainties in the prospects for new nuclear power plants, or even in the continued operation of some existing plants, some of us have been worried about whether the nuclear field can continue to attract the kind of talent that will still be needed for decades to come. A study like this, that shows nuclear engineering to be a field with high salary potential and excellent prospects for employment, should help persuade students now choosing career fields that the nuclear engineering field is an attractive one.
Of course, there is always some danger in choosing a field just because of the job prospects. I've been around long enough to see the job prospects dry up in some fields, and whole new fields emerge. But under any scenario, the nuclear industry is clearly going to need trained people for a long time to come. And furthermore, nuclear engineering has historically been a very flexible field--with roots in several engineering disciplines, nuclear engineering majors are able to work in a variety of industries. So all prospects appear to be good for nuclear engineering majors.