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NukeWorker Menu 18 years old, just graduated high-school, looking to be a nuclear engineer.

Author Topic: 18 years old, just graduated high-school, looking to be a nuclear engineer.  (Read 38563 times)

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Zewle

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After lots of searching I decided on becoming an nuclear engineer. I've always liked the sciences and this field especially interests me, I'm sure it will challenge me, and I think I'd actually be doing something that would make the world slightly better, no matter how miniscule.

I'm in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Anne Arundel Community College is supposed to be the best community college in the country.

My plan as of now is to start the engineering transfer program at AACC that involves 2 years of core classes, then I'd transfer to UMBC College Park's Nuclear Engineering program.

I imagine this would take 4-5 years, though a friend of mine said to expect more like 10 years of schooling, though he's a bit of a pessimist. I'm curious if he's right though.

Also as I understand it, there's a large demand for people in this field as it apparently doesn't seem to attract too many. I'm guessing due to anti-nuclear propaganda.

I was curious if anyone could give me any advice? It would be very appreciated and thank you in advance.

(I apologize for sounding like an idiot right now, nervous for some reason)



NucEng for Hire

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The road to an engineering degree is a long one, but it is good to have direction and goals and not all 18 year olds have that.

As you seem to know, you'll spend the first two years doing nothing related to nuclear engineering. This is “weed out” time, getting a healthy dose of math, physics, chemistry, and hopefully a chance to take some broad-based engineering courses representative of each of the engineering disciplines. This is also a time when a lot of people who know they want to be engineers really find out exactly what type of engineer they want to be. Know that making a contribution in the nuclear field as an engineer does not necessitate being a nuclear engineer: http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=3&catid=714 . That's for plants alone - there's plenty more options in laboratory work and reactor vendor R&D.

Nuclear enrollments weren’t down because of propaganda, they were down because there were no impetuses for new nuclear plants. That has changed in a big way in the past 5 years or so, and enrollments are climbing accordingly. Expect the field to be highly competitive about the time you’d be hitting your stride (that can be a good thing).

5 years is about right for completion. Get some co-op experience in there as well even if it means graduating later.

Search this site & nei.org for some basics. Good luck.
« Last Edit: Oct 13, 2006, 09:13 by NucEng for Hire »

Zewle

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Thanks for the advice.

I assumed that enrollments were down because of propaganda since it seems to be everywhere. Ironically I first got into Nuclear Power because the my Envrionmental "Science" teacher brought up alot of anti-Nuclear Power talking points that seemed very sketchy, and when we were assigned a project that involved reading alot about Nuclear Power it ended up making me want to get into the field.

So thanks to my Environmental Science teachers rabid anti nuclear stance I ended up getting into nuclear power.

It seems like such a great field. Intellectually challenging and satisfying, well paying, helping society, helping the environment and it makes ignorant hippies upset.

EDIT: "Get some co-op experience in there as well even if it means graduating later."

Sorry for being an idiot, but could you explain "co-op experience"?


Also it seems entering the military is a popular route for this field. Do you have any information on how that would work?
« Last Edit: Oct 13, 2006, 09:29 by Zewle »

NucEng for Hire

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co-ops and internships are time with companies as a paid employee, usually done during your summers off but sometimes also during a regular quarter/semester. you are typically assigned to a company engineer as a project assistant doing low-level items and learning the ropes. this experience is valuable currency on your resume when graduation rolls around. some colleges have placement services for this otherwise it is up to you to set something up. nuclear plants usually welcome 3rd and 4th year students for internships/co-ops.

i was unaware maryland schools had any nuclear programs - their websites don't show any. are they new?

i came up through academia, so i can't give you military advice. there are plenty on this forum that can, and you may want to start with a search to focus any questions you have in this area.

Zewle

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I found the University of Marylands Nuclear Engineering graduate program through our old friend wikipedia http://www.ennu.umd.edu/

NucEng for Hire

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you may not have noticed that UMD is a graduate-only program, meaning you'll need a bachelors in something else first.

i received my bachelors in mechanical engineering and headed into a nuclear graduate program, same as what you'd need to do if remaining in maryland.

Offline ChiefRocscooter

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You are geting good advice!  If you are accademically, maturity, and fincinally ready for college (and how mature fdo you have to be to be a freshman can be a long in and of itself) then by all means go to college!!! If not then the Navy is a viable option but I think you will find most Nuc from the Navy were not planning on going into Nuclear power before they entered Navy.  It just works out that way for most 8) Feel free to ask lots of "dumb questions" cause thats what we would expect of you and will think noe the less of you for it.
Good Luck and I look fwd to helping where I can

Rob
Being adept at being adaptable I look forward to every new challenge!

Zewle

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Oops I feel silly.

Hmm...

So, would I be able to get a bachelors in Computer Engineering then enter the Nuclear Engineering graduate program?

NucEng for Hire

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i typically see mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers crossing into the nuclear field (probably in that rank).

but, if you get good grades and standardized test scores, you can enter from any discipline. i'd ask the program chair your question directly - they really do care about helping students and probably would answer your questions in detail.


thenuttyneutron

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The number of programs for a BS in Nuclear Engineering is very low.  Many schools killed their programs due to the very low number of people going through them.  If you are willing to look out of state, you can find undergraduate programs.  I recommend going to a school with a research reactor.  During my academic years I was able to perform labs using my school's reactor and I do think it is a valuable teaching tool.

The Co-op program would be a good thing for you to look into.  I now wish I had.  The first few years of work experience are very important for determining the direction your future career will take.  Knowing in advance what you want to do would very a very good idea.  My plans for NE changed after school when I saw the Air Force was downsizing.  I stumbled into NE by a very lucky accident.  I am very happy with my job.  I know NE will have a big future. Getting in this industry now with all the more experienced people retiring will provide many career opportunities. ;)
 

Offline RDTroja

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Anne Arundel County, huh? I grew up there (Severna Park.)

Constellation Energy often has co-op workers at Calvert Cliffs which is about an hour south of A2C2... you should contact them to check out your options. Also, the advice about going to a school (graduate or post) with a test reactor is a VERY good idea. There used to be one at College Park, I am not sure if it is still there or not. You should also check that out. I have been to the reactor at U of Michigan in Ann Arbor and it was very interesting to see. Even if you are in a mechanical or electrical engineering BS program you may still be able to get some time on a test reactor. BTW... an Electical Engneering degree is also often considered an IT degree if you want to hedge your bets and have a backup option for the future.

Whatever you do, good luck, keep us informed and welcome to Nukeworker.com.
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Zewle

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This is quite a conundrum.

AACC 2 years would be about 7K. If I work a graveyard shift I can save up the whole time. AACC is set in stone.

But the next part is where the trickiness begins. I seem to have about 2 choices.

A) Go to an out of state college for a bachelors in Nuclear Engineering which from looking around seems to be about 30-40K a year.  So altogether collge would be about $80,000K for a bachelors in Nuclear Engineering. It seems like living dorm life might be a fun experience. However that's a lot of money, my mom has no money, and theres no guarantee I could get any real financial help.  I'd have to ask my dad for help (which might be possible since he's apparently a vice president of some company and apparently it was an agreement at divorce for him to help with college)

B) Getting a Bachelors in something like mechanical or electrical engineering (which counting as an IT job for backup makes it all the more attractive) and going for a masters in Nuclear Engineering at UMBC. I'd stay at home the whole time and it would end up costing about $50,000 for 6 years of college.

I'm leaning towards the first if I can get actual help from my dad, and the second if I have to do this on my own.

Offline ChiefRocscooter

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Just a thought??
If you go with choice 2 then you will have even more oiptions with your under grad degree.  If you go Nuc Eng  and then MS NE you are putting your self in a narrower range (not that it is not a good range) but if you go ME or EE you will have more options to choose from should you run into road blocks or bumps at the MS level.

Just somthing to think about

Rob
Being adept at being adaptable I look forward to every new challenge!

NucEng for Hire

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it is fairly rare for a nuclear engineering student to pay for graduate school out-of-pocket. for exceptional students, there are INPO and DOE fellowships (a fellowship is bascially a 1-4 year graduate scholarship covering tuition and living expenses), and others might serve as a graduate associate where those tuition/fees are covered in exchange for work under a faculty member as a teaching or research assistant. there's plenty of research grant money being distributed to the universities in the nuclear field to support the latter.
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 2006, 11:58 by NucEng for Hire »

Zewle

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Another stupid question.

Would getting a fellowship be difficult?

I imagine I would have to get straight A's at AACC. Which I think I could do.

NucEng for Hire

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at a minimum for consideration i would say >3.5 gpa in an accredited engineering undergrad program and top quartile among engineers on the GRE (grad school's version of the SAT or ACT). this would at least get you looked at for the INPO fellowship, which covers the first year of grad school. you could cover the remaining year as a graduate research associate, with duties you pretty much would be doing anyway in development of a grad thesis. know that fellowships are pretty competitive, and there are many that go the route of graduate research associate or graduate teaching assistant and have no regrets.

2 years of community college in engineering transfer courses, followed by 2-3 years in state as a mechanical or electrical eng student, followed by 2 years of nuclear grad school at the best program / best funding you can qualify for isn't a bad basic roadmap to start out with for someone thinking nuclear. it gives you flexible options at each step without investing all your financial and career eggs in one basket.


thenuttyneutron

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One thing I do think you should consider is a personality test.  These tests are cheap, maybe free at your school, and can give you some direction.  Before investing many years and lots of money in to college, you might want to see if you will actually like NE.  When I took the Brigg-Meyers test it gave me some insight about the kind of work I would find more rewarding.  My plans for trying to join the Air Force as a pilot changed quickly after leaving school. 

You may find that working in an office cubicle is something you don't like.  Running computer code as a core designer, a common job for a NE, may not be best for you.  You may find on the other hand that you don't like working in uncomfortable environments like a power plant.  Knowing what you want and don't want will give you a lot of leverage for the decisions you are about to make.  Make reasonable goals and have a plan with contingencies.  Your best thought out plans will change at some point.

Using the information from my personality test and the advice of some college advisors I applied for NLO positions at any plant that was looking for them.  It is a bit different than the other industries, but I am considered a blue collar worker with a college degree.  This job is great and I would have never looked for it had I not had the guidance I received.  The power industry is in need of skilled workers.  If you earned an engineering degree you could work in many positions for a utility.

You are young and can write your own ticket if you want.  The supply for NE is shrinking due to the more experienced people retiring.  You could make a great career as a NE in any of the job positions that we fill.
« Last Edit: Oct 14, 2006, 09:28 by Nutty Neutron »

Zewle

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Really good idea, I'll have to try that personality test.


And yet another stupid question.... whats an NLO?


EDIT:

Also, is it true that working in a Power Plant requires security clearance, which would cost the company alot of money so they pretty much only go with ex-military who already have it?
« Last Edit: Oct 15, 2006, 07:59 by Zewle »

Offline Imaginos

NLO - non-licensed operator. These are the folks from the Operations department who perform the "hands on" functions throughout the plant, such as valve line ups, circuit breaker manipulations, documenting systems data and myriad other duties that help keep the plant running.

It is true that a security clearance is required to work in a plant, but to answer the rest of your question, no. Even ex-military types are subject to background investigations; they don't get a "Get Into Commercial Nuclear Power Free" card just because they may have had some kind of security clearance in the past.
"I'm not quiet; I just don't demand to be heard." ---George Harrison

Zewle

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I mean less of would being in the military get me a free pass to a nuclear plant, but more of, would I be able to get a job in a plant without being in the military. I've heard that it's difficult to get a plant to hire you if you're civilian. (It's a "heard from a friend of a friend" scenario, but still worth checking to see if I should be concerned.)

Offline Imaginos

You most certainly would have a great shot at getting hired by a plant even without having been in the military. While it's true that the Operations departments at some plants (a certain Region IV facility, for instance...) look specifically for ex-navy nukes or for people who have been in Ops elsewhere, that is for the experience that presumably comes with them and not for any reason relative to security.

Edited to say "There are many departments at a plant; Ops is not the only game in town."
« Last Edit: Oct 15, 2006, 11:03 by rjc2112 »
"I'm not quiet; I just don't demand to be heard." ---George Harrison

Offline RDTroja

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A background investigation is a background investigation. It doesn't matter even a little bit what other clearances you have had, the investigators go through exactly the same thing. So being in the military does not help (and being a civilian does not hurt) in that respect.
"I won't eat anything that has intelligent life, but I'd gladly eat a network executive or a politician."

                                  -Marty Feldman

"Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to understand that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
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I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it.

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thenuttyneutron

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Unescorted access to a nuclear facility is not hard to get if you stay out of trouble.  The biggest thing I saw for people in college was alcohol.  I saw many people end up losing their contracts with ROTC and some even being forced in to enlistment for alcohol.  If it is over 5 years old you can get the access but some utilities will just pass you over and not take the risk.  Stay out of trouble with the police.  A speeding ticket will not matter.  A pattern of speeding tickets will not look good however, so try to keep the police attention off of you.  While at college you might get the bug to experiment with illicit drugs.  It is best to stay away from that crap completely.  Don't make friends with drug users and you will be ok.

Also try to keep your finances in order.  Bad credit will not completely keep you out, but it will make it harder to get past the screening process.  You will also probably take the MMPI.  Answer these questions honestly and you will have no problem.  You will have an interview with a physiologist and he will follow up on questions.

Zewle

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Excellent to know.

Don't drink or do drugs, nor am I interested in em,  never been in trouble with the law and I'm not the type to speed.

I suppose being a geek has it's advantages in employment.

Oh yeah, minor question, but, for engineers and jazz, to get grants/fellowships and and general hiring, is there a big condition on looking professional? Like would long hair be ok if tied back? For most professional jobs I'm sure I'd have to cut it, but I've heard alot of things about the scientific field being a tad less hardlined on having a professional demeanor. I'll cut if I have to, but would prefer not to.

 


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