Best Nuclear Engineering Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Nuclear engineering is a highly specialized field focusing on the application of nuclear science to develop methods and technologies for power generation and other purposes. Some of the top schools for nuclear engineering provide excellent research facilities, renowned faculty, and robust academic programs to equip students for careers in this complex industry.

When evaluating some of the best nuclear engineering schools, key factors include research output, partnerships with national labs and industry leaders, breadth of academic programs, and career outcomes for graduates. The following list highlights ten standout institutions for pursuing nuclear engineering based on these criteria.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT Score: 1520

Tuition: $55,500

Avg Salary: $97,300

Website: http://web.mit.edu/nse/

MIT boasts the top-ranked nuclear engineering program in the U.S., emphasizing real-world problem solving through research partnerships with industry and government. Students benefit from MIT’s expertise in areas like nuclear fusion and fission reactor design. Graduates are highly sought after by top employers.

University of California – Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 9.3/10

Acceptance Rate: 16.1%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition: $44,007 (in-state), $57,357 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $91,600

Website: https://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/

UC Berkeley’s top-ranked nuclear engineering department partners with Lawrence Berkeley National Lab next door for research opportunities. The program provides a solid engineering foundation combined with nuclear-focused coursework and research in areas like radiation detection and imaging.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Location: Atlanta, GA

Rating: 9.1/10

Acceptance Rate: 21%

Avg SAT Score: 1470

Tuition: $33,794 (in-state), $49,965 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $88,200

Website: https://www.nuclear.gatech.edu/

Georgia Tech’s nuclear program allows students to study reactor design, health physics, and fusion technologies. Undergrads gain practical experience through co-ops and research at Georgia Tech’s research reactor. Graduates pursue careers in national labs as well as the nuclear navy and power industry.

Texas A&M University

Location: College Station, TX

Rating: 8.8/10

Acceptance Rate: 63%

Avg SAT Score: 1270

Tuition: $11,300 (in-state), $38,300 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $82,300

Website: https://engineering.tamu.edu/nuclear

Texas A&M’s specialty nuclear engineering courses include radiation detection, reactor theory, and waste management. Undergrads can access the university’s training reactor and interact with experts at Texas A&M’s Nuclear Security Science & Policy Institute. Many graduates work in the nuclear navy and at national labs.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Location: Troy, NY

Rating: 8.7/10

Acceptance Rate: 44%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition: $55,910

Avg Salary: $84,700

Website: https://science.rpi.edu/nuclear-engineering

RPI’s nuclear program emphasizes hands-on learning by incorporating lab work, reactor experiments, and research opportunities. Students learn alongside working nuclear engineers and physicists at RPI’s Gaerttner Linear Accelerator. Graduates work in national labs, reactor facilities, R&D, and more.

Oregon State University

Location: Corvallis, OR

Rating: 8.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 82%

Avg SAT Score: 1170

Tuition: $10,830 (in-state), $31,698 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $78,600

Website: https://ne.oregonstate.edu/

Oregon State offers nuclear engineering degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as a radiation health physics option. The curriculum covers power generation, computational methods, radiation, and more. Research reactors provide hands-on experience. Graduates pursue careers in national labs, utility companies, and related fields.

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

Location: Knoxville, TN

Rating: 8.3/10

Acceptance Rate: 79%

Avg SAT Score: 1210

Tuition: $13,724 (in-state), $38,632 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $76,200

Website: https://ne.utk.edu/

The University of Tennessee offers undergraduate and graduate nuclear engineering degrees focused on power generation and health physics concentrations. Students access research reactors on campus as well as partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory nearby. Many graduates work in the nuclear power industry and supporting fields.

Missouri University of Science & Technology

Location: Rolla, MO

Rating: 8.2/10

Acceptance Rate: 94%

Avg SAT Score: 1260

Tuition: $9,784 (in-state), $24,204 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $80,800

Website: http://nuclearengineering.mst.edu/

Missouri S&T takes an interdisciplinary approach to its undergraduate and graduate nuclear engineering programs, incorporating coursework in fields like radiation science, health physics and reactor physics. Research spans areas from medical physics applications to advanced power reactors. Graduates find careers in labs, power generation, and more.

Pennsylvania State University

Location: University Park, PA

Rating: 8.1/10

Acceptance Rate: 50%

Avg SAT Score: 1270

Tuition: $18,450 (in-state), $35,514 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $74,500

Website: https://www.nuce.psu.edu/

Penn State’s nuclear program emphasizes hands-on learning through the Radiation Science and Engineering Center’s research reactor. Students can access specialized labs for biomedical, thermal-hydraulics research. The curriculum also covers power generation, radiation detection and related areas. Graduates pursue opportunities in R&D, medicine, labs and more.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 7.9/10

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Avg SAT Score: 1440

Tuition: $15,948 (in-state), $51,200 (out-of-state)

Avg Salary: $77,900

Website: https://ner.engin.umich.edu/

Michigan offers top nuclear research facilities such as the Ford Nuclear Reactor and Phoenix Memorial Lab. Students access world-class research in fission, fusion, radiation science and imaging. The program maintains partnerships with major national labs. Graduates pursue careers across the nuclear industry and related engineering fields.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a nuclear engineer do?

Answer: Nuclear engineers work in nuclear power generation, national defense, medical technology, and other nuclear science applications. Their work may include designing reactor systems, ensuring safety protocols, handling radioactive materials, and developing nuclear technologies for energy, medicine, imaging, and more.

How much do nuclear engineers make?

Answer: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for nuclear engineers is around $105,000 per year. Pay typically increases based on experience level and supervisory responsibility. Those working in research and development tend to earn the highest salaries.

What classes do you take as a nuclear engineering major?

Answer: Core nuclear engineering classes include reactor theory, nuclear materials, radiation detection, nuclear fuel cycles, computational methods, and lab courses using research reactors. Students also take foundational engineering coursework in areas like thermodynamics, engineering design, and more.

Is it dangerous to work with nuclear materials?

Answer: Nuclear engineers follow extremely stringent safety protocols and use specialized equipment to minimize exposure risks when handling radioactive materials. Facilities must adhere to strict regulatory standards for radiation safety as well. Advanced safety training is required.

Do you need a master’s degree to become a nuclear engineer?

Answer: While some entry-level nuclear engineering positions are open to bachelor’s degree holders, earning an advanced master’s or doctoral degree significantly boosts your opportunities. Many research roles and leadership positions require an advanced graduate degree in nuclear engineering or a related specialty.

How much education do I need to work in the nuclear industry?

Answer: Most nuclear engineering roles require at least a bachelor’s degree. Operator and technician positions at nuclear facilities may only need an associate’s degree or certificate. Highest paying positions and work in research/development generally expects a master’s or doctoral degree in nuclear engineering or a related field.

Is nuclear engineering a growing field?

Answer: Yes, nuclear engineering is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2020-2030. As demand for carbon-free energy sources grows, nuclear power offers reliable base-load electricity. Applications in medical technology, space exploration, national defense, and more will also drive demand for nuclear engineers.

What courses should I take in high school if I’m interested in nuclear engineering?

Answer: Students interested in pursuing nuclear engineering should focus on building a strong foundation in STEM courses like physics, chemistry, biology, advanced math (calculus, statistics), and coding. Technical electives like electronics or robotics are also helpful. Developing strong technical, analytical, and problem-solving skills is key.

Can you tell me about the job outlook for nuclear engineers?

Answer: Employment of nuclear engineers is projected to grow 14 percent between 2020-2030, much faster than the average across all occupations. Demand will be driven by need for more engineers in nuclear power generation as well as applications in medical technology, space exploration, national defense programs, and more.

What entry-level jobs are available for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering?

Answer: Some entry-level positions for nuclear engineering graduates with a B.S. include nuclear equipment operations and maintenance technicians, engineering assistants, quality engineers, and junior safety analysts. Lab technician roles or internships can provide a pathway to more advanced engineering roles.

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