Nuclear or Industrial Engineering?

Hello! I am going to be a high school senior this year and the pressure of deciding on a college major has really pushed me to research different engineering careers. The two I am most interested in are Industrial and Nuclear. I have the organization and efficiency-minded abilities to do Industrial, but I also read that job opportunity isn't very promising. And I love the idea of nuclear because it is such an amazing power source that isn't being used for it's full potential. However, many people are scared of nuclear power because of events like Chernobyl, so the field doesn't seem to have made many advances. So, my questions are:
1) If I didn't do very well in dual credit chemistry, does that mean that nuclear isn't a good path to follow?
2) What exactly does a nuclear engineer do every day (as in specific daily tasks)?
3) What is the comparison of job opportunity/job growth comparison between nuclear and industrial fields?
Thank you for reading my questions! And I absolutely love that someone decided to make a website dedicated to increasing the interest of girls in engineering! I go to a STEM academy, so I have taken several engineering courses and realize the need for female engineers. Keep it up! :)
posted by Hayley, Organization/City on July 2, 2013

Answer by Ms Carly Jackson

My advice would be to go for chemical engineering (although to be up front and honest, I am a chemical engineer). Nuclear engineering is a very specialized field and does not cover the whole spectrum of a nuclear site; it focuses on the reactor. A chemical engineering bachelor’s degree opens doors to almost all areas within a nuclear site, both the reactor and the secondary side that includes radioactive waste, environmental, etc. In addition, a chemical engineering bachelor’s still leaves the option for courses or a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

Don’t be scared off by having difficulty with dual credit chemistry! Chemistry takes time to understand. If you struggled in dual credit chemistry, sign up for general chemistry in your first year at university. You will probably have an easier time of it and will get a better understanding that will make all your future classes easier to understand.

For job opportunities, chemical engineering is always a highly sought after degree for employers. Industrial engineers face a lot of competition from mechanical engineers, who are arguably better qualified depending on the particular position. Nuclear engineering, because it is so specialized, has limited job opportunities but would likely pay more than chemical, mechanical or industrial. There are a number of unknowns for the future of the nuclear industry, especially in the US where several sites (SONGS and Kewaunee) have announced permanent shutdowns. When you combine those unknowns with the versatility of a chemical engineering degree and the different opportunities I have been offered, I think that chemical engineering is the best choice.