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Offline nukeng

Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« on: May 27, 2012, 09:07 »
Hi, I am a student at a Canadian university studying Engineering. I am currently doing co-op at a Nuclear Reactor. As of late I have developed a strong interest in becoming a Nuclear Operator. I have a few questions I hope you guys can help.

1. What is the difference between a Nuclear Operator and Nuclear Engineer?
2. If I become a Nuclear Engineer, could I use my knowledge to become an Operator?
3. Generally, which one has better pay?
4. To become a Nuclear Operator, a university education is not required. If I go to college, what should I study? (ex. Electrical Engineering Technology/Chemical Engineering Technology)? Which program will help me to develop the skills I need?
5. Am I better off having a university degree or a college diploma if I want to become an operator?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2012, 09:51 »
Hi, I am a student at a Canadian university studying Engineering. I am currently doing co-op at a Nuclear Reactor. As of late I have developed a strong interest in becoming a Nuclear Operator. I have a few questions I hope you guys can help.

1. What is the difference between a Nuclear Operator and Nuclear Engineer?
2. If I become a Nuclear Engineer, could I use my knowledge to become an Operator?
3. Generally, which one has better pay?
4. To become a Nuclear Operator, a university education is not required. If I go to college, what should I study? (ex. Electrical Engineering Technology/Chemical Engineering Technology)? Which program will help me to develop the skills I need?
5. Am I better off having a university degree or a college diploma if I want to become an operator?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

1. Operators operate. Engineers solve problems that make it difficult for operators to operate.
2. Yes. Success is a mixed bag.
3. Operators, by far.
4. Just about any technical study will work, but mechanical or electrical engineering seems best suited.
5. I'm not sure of the difference, but in today's competitive market, a 4 year degree would be best.

Good luck!

Justin
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

Offline tr

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2012, 10:25 »
I have a nuclear engineering degree, and was SRO licensed at a BWR.  My advice:

1.  Operators operate, engineers tell operators HOW to operate  ;) (engineers typically define what the operating limits such as pressure, temperature, flow, system lineups, preventative maintenance frequency, etc. are for the various systems and components)
2.  To some extent (reactor physics, thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid flow)
3.  Agree, but engineer pay isn't shabby (we have a bunch of engineers making $120k+ at the plant I work at)
4.  I would argue for Mechanical over either Electrical or Chemical, and for an engineering degree over a technology degree.
5.  Due to the tight job market, and high wages, many entry level operators DO have degrees (including engineering degrees).  

Also, be aware the lifestyles of the two, at least in the US, are vastly different.  Operators typically work rotating 8 or 12 hour shifts (including holidays, kid's baseball games, etc), while engineers typically work a more normal M-F day job.  Both work schedules have their pluses and minuses, but they can have a vastly different impact on your family life.




« Last Edit: May 27, 2012, 10:30 by tr »

Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2012, 10:44 »
That is something else to keep in mind, each response will be different for each of the stations represented here. There are some generalities that can be made, but some things differ vastly. For example, at my station, there is no engineer making 120K..., except at the supervisor/manager level. Just to give a current example in my current PWR class, an engineer made the transition where he was making 65K/year to ops, where he'll double that. YMWV.


Justin
« Last Edit: May 27, 2012, 10:45 by Higgs »
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

Offline tr

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2012, 02:44 »
Just to be clear, the 120k I quoted is for senior level engineers (10-15 years of experience), in an area with a high cost of living.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2012, 02:47 by tr »

thenuttyneutron

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2012, 06:24 »
I am not sure about Canada but I can tell you how it works in the US.  Any engineering degree should get you an interview and an opportunity to take an aptitude test called the POSS for becoming a non-licensed operator.  With enough experience, you can go to a license class as either a RO candidate or a DSRO candidate.  ACAD.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2012, 07:02 by Nutty Neutron »

Offline tr

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2012, 03:23 »
I am not sure about Canada but I can tell you how it works in the US.  Any engineering degree should get you an interview and an opportunity to take an aptitude test call the POSS for becoming a non-licensed operator.  With enough experience, you can go to a license class as either a RO candidate or a DSRO candidate.  ACAD.

Per the referenced ACAD 10-1, Figure 2-3, the requirements to get a direct SRO license for an individual with a technical degree are as follows.  Nowhere is there a requirement to be a non-licensed operator.

Have a BS degree or equivalent in engineering, engineering technology, or related sciences; or a professional engineer license.

Have 18 months of nuclear experience (as a manager, supervisor, or staff engineer responsible for the coordination and implementation of plant equipment controls, integrated operations procedures, operations, maintenance, radiological support, modifications, maintenance planning, work control, chemistry, or accredited training at the current or a comparable (BWR/PWR) facility. Experience at a noncomparable facility may be credited on a 1.5 : 1.0 basis.

Have at least 6 months on site.



Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2012, 04:40 »
Correct, there are a couple of paths in for folks without Navy experience. NLO and engineering are two of them. However, there isn't a path simply out of college straight into DSRO.
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

Offline cheme09

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2012, 08:03 »
Just to give a current example in my current PWR class, an engineer made the transition where he was making 65K/year to ops, where he'll double that. YMWV.

Wow, how long was that individual and engineer before going to class?  That seems a little low on the payscale.  Also, would this individual be making more while in class, or not until he has a license?

Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2012, 12:32 »
Wow, how long was that individual and engineer before going to class?  That seems a little low on the payscale.  Also, would this individual be making more while in class, or not until he has a license?

He met the minimum requirements for the ACAD. He is young, still lives at home. Academically fine, but no other life experience to bring to the job. It will be interesting to see how he does on shift. He got a bump to 85ish for class, and will get bumped again to be closer to the standard rate for SRO here if/when he licenses.

Justin
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

Offline retired nuke

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2012, 12:42 »
He met the minimum requirements for the ACAD. He is young, still lives at home.

Justin

Wait, at 65k/yr, he still lived with his parents?

Must be BZ's kid - I hear he coddles young'uns...   ROFL ROFL :-> [OT] [dowave]
Remember who you love. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true.
Remember that you will die, and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live, may the blessing of the Lord be with you

Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2012, 01:20 »
Wait, at 65k/yr, he still lived with his parents?

Must be BZ's kid - I hear he coddles young'uns...   ROFL ROFL :-> [OT] [dowave]

Hhaha. He's a good kid, but one of those, I don't know..., tight families? He was home schooled and what not. And yes, he has zero debt and pays no rent or bills so he is socking away a crap ton of money. Can't fault him for that. ;D

Justin
« Last Edit: May 29, 2012, 01:21 by Higgs »
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

mhs25

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #12 on: Jun 11, 2012, 11:13 »
Operator vs. Engineer is a question I've been thinking about for a little while now (and going to have to make a decision somewhat soon).  I'm headed in to my final year of a Nuclear Engineering degree from GaTech.

It's hard to get a grasp on some of the salaries though for comparison (especially for operations) because they're all hourly vs salary for engineer.  I see most NLO starting pay is ~25-30 an hour, which when calculated normally (2080 hours a year) is ~50-60k.  I feel like starting engineer salary will be slightly above this (but not too much).  Early on as an NLO, you start in a classroom type setting correct? Does that mean working 40 hours a week? At what point does an NLO typically start working overtime, and how long does it take to become "fully qualified"?  How does the pay progression of an NLO compare to an engineer?  If the goal is SRO, is starting out working as an NLO or engineer better/quicker?  Are there any other things to consider (bonus, benefits, etc.) when considering the compensation between the two?  Also, is SRO considered the end point, or is it just the ticket to even better opportunities?

Sorry about all the questions, I know many have been talked about in other threads (trust me, I've used the search function to death).  It just seems a lot of the time the answers are heavily debated/old, so I don't know if they have changed or if the new fatigue rule that's been talked about changed things a lot.  I appreciate all the help you guys can give! (Go easy on me Broadzilla, I'm a newbie...  :) )

Offline cheme09

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #13 on: Jun 12, 2012, 11:26 »
He met the minimum requirements for the ACAD. He is young, still lives at home. Academically fine, but no other life experience to bring to the job. It will be interesting to see how he does on shift. He got a bump to 85ish for class, and will get bumped again to be closer to the standard rate for SRO here if/when he licenses.

Justin

Oh ok.  Well for meeting the min ACAD requirements for direct SRO, his engineering compensation was on par with what I would expect.  I hope I'm lucky enough to go to class after such a short time.

Offline cheme09

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #14 on: Jun 12, 2012, 11:41 »
Operator vs. Engineer is a question I've been thinking about for a little while now (and going to have to make a decision somewhat soon).  I'm headed in to my final year of a Nuclear Engineering degree from GaTech.

It's hard to get a grasp on some of the salaries though for comparison (especially for operations) because they're all hourly vs salary for engineer.  I see most NLO starting pay is ~25-30 an hour, which when calculated normally (2080 hours a year) is ~50-60k.  I feel like starting engineer salary will be slightly above this (but not too much).  Early on as an NLO, you start in a classroom type setting correct? Does that mean working 40 hours a week? At what point does an NLO typically start working overtime, and how long does it take to become "fully qualified"?  How does the pay progression of an NLO compare to an engineer?  If the goal is SRO, is starting out working as an NLO or engineer better/quicker?  Are there any other things to consider (bonus, benefits, etc.) when considering the compensation between the two?  Also, is SRO considered the end point, or is it just the ticket to even better opportunities?

Sorry about all the questions, I know many have been talked about in other threads (trust me, I've used the search function to death).  It just seems a lot of the time the answers are heavily debated/old, so I don't know if they have changed or if the new fatigue rule that's been talked about changed things a lot.  I appreciate all the help you guys can give! (Go easy on me Broadzilla, I'm a newbie...  :) )

You can read through the responses to some of my old posts, I had a lot of the same questions.

As far as length until fully qualified, it really depends on the station (moreso than the company) and whether or not it's a union station.  At my current station, a fresh, non-navy nuke would take approx 3 years to become fully qualified.  We have a union.  At another station in my company, I've been told it takes them somewhere between 1 and 1.5 years.  They aren't unionized.  I interviewed with another company, and at that specific station they said it would be about 12-14 months to be fully qualified.

SRO wouldn't be a bad end point but it definitely does open a lot of doors for you.  Another thing to think about is that you could theoretically have a SRO license in hand in less than 4 years after graduation, would you really want to spend your whole career there?

Im pretty sure the engineering vs NLO path has been covered in the threads, as well as the compensation.  In your research, I think you'll find that the compensation issue really boils down to a struggle betwee quality of life and compensation (ie, do you feel rotating shift work is worth the pay you're receiving?). 

Good luck with your decision.   

Offline JayDurt

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #15 on: Jun 19, 2012, 10:07 »
I am currently debating the Operator v. Engineer paths as well.

My background:
MMN1/ELT (SS) - 6yrs - Honorable Discharge
MS - Civil / Environmental Engineering
Married

My understanding, based on reading this forum, is that as an operator you will be an hourly worker (not sure about how the OT works) and subject to rotating shift work with long hours (plus stress on par or exceeding those enjoyed in the Navy).  As an engineer, you will be paid a fair amount less and work on a regular schedule.
The career advancement opportunities (long-term) seem to be weighted towards engineering as well.

Please correct any errors in my understanding.
Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: Jun 19, 2012, 11:45 by JayDurt »

Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #16 on: Jun 19, 2012, 10:40 »
Hmm, I guess it is subjective, but the stress of my civilian job, while great at times, still isnt as stessful as going to sea under bad leadership for years on end. YMMV.

As for schedule, yes, you'll work rotating shift work and be paid extra for overtime as an NLO.

You're right, there is something to be said about a normal schedule. It isn't always about the money.

But on the stress, naw, not as bad ad the navy IMO, either as NLO or licensed operator. Really just a different kind of stress..., but you get to go home everyday, and that is huge.
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

Offline cheme09

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #17 on: Jun 19, 2012, 01:53 »
As far as career advancement for engineering, if you're planning on going into a supervisory or management role you'll most likely need an STA or SRO license or cert.

Offline a|F

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #18 on: Jun 19, 2012, 10:08 »
STA isn't a license.  It's a week or two of training post SRO licensing, and a little clip that says STA.

At my plant, the Equipment Operators (AO/NLO/EO) and Reactor Operators are union and seldom have much stress to deal with.

One thing you'll learn, either quickly or painfully - follow the procedures as written or stop and get help from someone above you.  It makes everyone's lives easier (and less stressful).  

Engineers have a solid base pay, as do operators.  However, operators often get "shift differential", OT, and some other bonuses that aren't available to engineers.  Also, engineers sometimes have a "duty" week where they're required to work afternoons and be a part of the emergency response team.  Rotating shift work doesn't correlate to "long" hours.  Operators are all subject to work hour rules.

Quit worrying about pay.  If you're concerned with being home on weeknights, not working weekends, and want to work at a desk, then you MIGHT enjoy being an engineer.  If you don't mind getting your hands dirty and working rotating shifts, then operations MAY be for you. 

Something else to consider:  our site prefers Shift Managers who have worked outside OPS at some point - if you're an engineer for a few years and then go to license class, you'll already have that box checked.  
« Last Edit: Jun 19, 2012, 10:12 by a|F »

Offline JayDurt

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #19 on: Jun 20, 2012, 10:54 »
Thanks for the clarifications.  My worries with operations are related to marriage and family.  I would probably be alright being stuffed in another metal tube for months on end without contact to the outside world, but my wife would kill and/or divorce me in the order of her choosing!  Can you divorce a dead person?

Anyways, on the operations side, even with my background, I would still have to experience the NLO->RO->SRO qualification track, correct?  And this evolution of operator-ness would take a matter of years - around 3 to 6?
« Last Edit: Jun 20, 2012, 10:55 by JayDurt »

Offline Higgs

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Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #20 on: Jun 20, 2012, 05:20 »
Thanks for the clarifications.  My worries with operations are related to marriage and family.  I would probably be alright being stuffed in another metal tube for months on end without contact to the outside world, but my wife would kill and/or divorce me in the order of her choosing!  Can you divorce a dead person?

Anyways, on the operations side, even with my background, I would still have to experience the NLO->RO->SRO qualification track, correct?  And this evolution of operator-ness would take a matter of years - around 3 to 6?

Yes, as a 6 an outer you'll start as NLO. How long it takes to SRO depends on many things.
"How feeble is the mindset to accept defenselessness. How unnatural. How cheap. How cowardly. How pathetic.” - Ted Nugent

Offline VTnuke

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #21 on: Jul 12, 2012, 10:30 »
Go OPS or go home!

Offline Joe_Fission

Re: Nuclear Operator vs Nuclear Engineer
« Reply #22 on: Jul 19, 2012, 09:11 »
Currently debating this myself. This site has really been a great source of information about the industry from the eyes of people actually in it. It has really helped me with my decisions.

Anyway, I finished a degree in Chemical Engineering last May and am a year into my Masters degree in Nuclear Engineering. I will probably finish up next May/June so I have been really looking at what to do after school. The operator positions is interesting to me as it seems more hands on, something I prefer.

Now I just have to find a plant that is hiring in the next year! Is the best course of action to just keep checking the online job boards for the various utilities?

By the way, thanks to all the people who post on this forum. Very helpful to people like me who are on the outside wanting to get in!

 


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