How To Become a Nuclear Technician

The role of the Nuclear Technician sounds daunting, dangerous, and difficult; however, in this position, you will assist other professionals in nuclear research and energy production. And, the best part… all you need is an associate degree! But, keep in mind… for career advancement, consider earning a bachelor’s degree.

If you would like to learn more about this profession, take a look at the below information.

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What do Nuclear Technicians do?

Nuclear Technicians work within the field of nuclear production and research. They oversee the operations of the machinery used to do the tasks and monitor waste disposal from the plant. 

Nuclear Technicians measure radiation levels, uphold safety regulations and maintain records. They collect and test samples. 

What are Operating Technicians and Radiation Protection Technicians?

The most popular positions in this field are Operating Technicians and Radiation Protection Technicians. Although duties are similar, the Operating Tech monitors nuclear power plants to keep them running efficiently and safely; therefore focusing on the plant itself.

Radiation Protection Techs use detectors to monitor radiation levels around the plant to keep employees safe from dangerous levels of toxins; therefore, focusing on the employees of the nuclear plant.

How do I become a Nuclear Technician?

Generally, to become a Nuclear Technician, you will need an associate degree in nuclear technology, nuclear science, or a related field. 

What will I study in an associate degree program?

Coursework will include: 

  • Chemistry
  • Math
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Radiation
  • Equipment & Components 
  • Physics
  • And, more! 

Are there prerequisites for entering an associate degree program in Nuclear Technology?

These types of programs generally require you to pass a drug screening and criminal background check. 

Will an internship be necessary?

Yes, you will start as a trainee under the watchful eye of an experienced Nuclear Technician. You can expect your internship to last between six months and two years. 

Is ongoing education necessary to excel as a Nuclear Technician?

As a Nuclear Technician, you will be expected to pursue additional education to keep on top of the latest technology in the field.

How much money does a Nuclear Technician make?

According to the BLS, as of May 2020, the average annual salary for a Nuclear Technician was $84,190. The highest 10% earned upwards of $116,680 per year. The top-earning industry was found in electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, followed by manufacturing.  

Is there a job demand for Nuclear Technicians?

The BLS reports a decline in job opportunities of 12% between 2020 and 2030, as of May 2020. Due to increasing automation, traditional power generation is decreasing; however, alternative forms of power will contribute to some growth adding approximately 700 new jobs per year in the field of nuclear technology. 

Is the job of a Nuclear Technician dangerous?

As with most jobs that are focused on science, there is a certain amount of risk involved. However, a 2005 study from WebMD states that those exposed to low doses of radiation regularly have a 10% higher risk of death due to cancer.

With that being said, safety protocols must be in place to keep employees safe from harm. Federal regulations enforce comprehensive safety measures, according to NEI.

Do I need to be licensed to be a Nuclear Technician?

While a license is not necessary, completing applicable certifications can help you in your career and let employers know how serious you are about your trade. The American Society for Nondestructive Testing and the Nuclear Energy Institute offers certification programs. In addition, the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists also promotes certifications in the field.