Nuclear Technician

What Does a Nuclear Technician Do?
A nuclear technician helps physicists and engineers in laboratory and production assignments, involving nuclear physics. They often handle the operation, maintenance, production and quality control aspects of nuclear technology and research equipment. Some nuclear technicians work with remote-controlled equipment to control radioactive materials and radiation exposure. Nuclear technicians use their math and science skills to conduct tests, using a variety of tools and machines to make particles visible and measure the effects of radiation. Nuclear technicians are concerned with the safety measures that need to be taken around nuclear substances. Therefore, a big part of their job involves adhering to safety regulations and processes to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation, by wearing protective clothing and wearing badges that detect radioactive contamination risks. Their research and gathered data is used for various purposes, all of which bring nuclear engineers and physicists closer to new scientific discoveries.

What Is the Employment and Salary Outlook for a Nuclear Technician?
The employment outlook for nuclear technicians is expected to be favorable, with an employment increase of 9 percent by 2018. This growth can be attributed to the growing need to monitor the country’s old nuclear reactors and research advances in nuclear power. A surge in energy demand has increased the need for nuclear power and technicians who are skilled in nuclear technology. Many nuclear technicians will find work in defense-related occupations, developing nuclear medical technology, as well as improving and enforcing waste management and nuclear safety measures. The salary outlook for nuclear technicians is also expected to be positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nuclear technicians made $32.64 per hour in median hourly wages, which makes them the highest paid science technicians in 2008. There were about 6,400 nuclear technicians employed in 2008, and more than half of them worked for utilities services.

How Can I Become a Nuclear Technician?
In order to become a nuclear technician, you’ll need to complete some type of formal postsecondary education, such as an associate degree. You can earn an associate degree in applied science, nuclear medicine, nuclear technology or another science-related technology subject. During school, you will take courses in physics, chemistry, mathematics, as well as participate in various science experiments. College training, combined with your experimental skills, will prepare you to enter the nuclear technician field and become comfortable working with radioactive materials. Some students do internships or apprenticeship programs that provide industry-specific training. They may also begin working as trainees under the supervision of experienced nuclear technicians to learn on-the-job skills. Students should choose laboratory-oriented courses, with a strong emphasis on technical skills training. Interested job candidates can look for careers on union’s Web sites, such as the Utility Workers Union of America or AFL-CIO, in which many nuclear technicians are union members.