Carly Jackson

Carly Jackson

Project Engineer
Columbia, SC, United States
Carly Jackson
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Answers by Ms Carly Jackson

1) According to US News and World Report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is best. A large number of major schools have bachelors and/or masters programs so your options are great. If you want to narrow it down to a geographic area or a handful of schools, you can then go to US News to see how they stack up academically.

2) It’s not easy and you might find it’s not what you want to do and that is okay! You should do something you enjoy because you’ve got a lot of years to go after college. If you really enjoy it and are struggling, just keep going and work hard. You will struggle at times and there are definitely learning curves that you have to climb but eventually it’ll click and get easier.

3) They might not be. A lot of countries are going in to decommissioning and nuclear engineers are used primarily in reactor design so aren’t needed in decommissioning. You can still be in the nuclear industry with a chemical or mechanical (or any) engineering degree. I suggest chemical because you can do a focus in reactor/nuclear science and criticality, while having a broader range of prospects in a nuclear or non-nuclear future.

4) Countries with growing nuclear programs like China, India and the United Kingdom.

5) No, but you may find that the school you want to attend only offers a masters program and requires a chemical or mechanical bachelors.

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.

You can definitely have a great family life while being an engineer. You're young now and there is plenty of time to change your mind about which specific field to go in to; for now focus on taking math and science courses that you enjoy. I took calculus, physics and two years of chemistry when I was in high school. When you apply to college, be sure to identify which major you want; there may be opportunities for extra scholarships for being a female in engineering. College will take about 4 years, maybe a little longer if you do a job experience (I worked in a paper mill!). As you get close to finishing your bachelor's degree, you might decide to go get a master's degree or even a PhD. When you get into the engineering world, you should have a few options of which company to go to. Try to find a company that matches your ideals and respects their employees' dedication to a work-life balance. Work to live, don't live to work! Good luck!!!

I love that this question is from a Southern girl, like me! Every engineer encounters diversity in the workplace and its a good thing if you can embrace it. Engineers come from all over the world and each one has been trained managed a little bit differently. I was an engineer in the US for 5 years before coming to England and Ive since had to learn the different ways people interact and how tasks are managed. The most important things Ive learned are to tread lightly and be confident. Tread lightly Whenever meeting someone new, whether one co-worker or a new group, remember that they havent been trained and managed the same way you have. The way you are trained and managed has shaped how you behave and who you are. The same goes for others. People will get defensive if you are overbearing and behave as though its my way or the highway. Take time to listen to others and work with them to achieve the goal youve been assigned. Learn something new every day, sometimes you will learn something just by watching how others interact. Be confident When you are done with engineering school you get a lovely degree from your university that is tangible evidence that you know a lot. Always always always remember that there is even more that you dont know! You cant know everything, and if you could youd have to spend a lot of time learning it and thered be no time left for having fun! Be comfortable answering questions about things you know, it builds credibility and lets others know that you are a resource to be utilized. I have found it is even more important to be comfortable acknowledging what you dont know. Any credibility you have gets washed away if you get caught pretending to know about something you dont. Example: Yesterday I was being asked about a piece of equipment I have worked with for several years. I answered questions all day about its operations, what would happen if certain scenarios arose, etc and I answered each one that came up. Then they asked me if a certain item was hard-wired or software. I always get nervous when asked about electrical stuff, Ive never really understood it or even been very interested in it and Im afraid people will think Im not as good an engineer. I smiled, put my hands up and told them I was guilty of not being good with electronics and having limited knowledge of the details of control systems. But what has happened almost every time before happened again: They said, Thats fine. Would you find out for us? I happily obliged. The important part is that you provide a correct answer, not an immediate answer. I hope this helps! Carly L. Jackson