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Numbers of Nuclear Engineering Graduates and
Enrollees on the Rise

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 23, 2008
FY09-01

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Eric Powell and Christy Farmer are among the lucky recent college graduates. Seven months before they graduated from the University of Tennesse, Knoxville, they already had their first professional jobs lined up, choosing from among employers eager to make them enticing offers. Both accepted positions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

A report prepared by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) titled Nuclear Engineering Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2007 Data, provides insight into the numbers and demographics of people whose education, like that of Powell and Farmer, make them candidates for nuclear engineering careers. The report reflects data obtained from all 31 U.S. academic programs with nuclear engineering programs during 2007.

In Their Own Words

Eric Powell, 2008 graduate in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, May 2008; employed by the NRC

Eric Powell

Eric Powell

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in nuclear engineering?

I chose to pursue a degree in Nuclear Engineering because it was challenging and the nuclear industry offered a strong job market.

How would you describe your experience in finding employment after you graduated?

I would describe it as a feeding frenzy! I applied for several jobs and I was contacted by almost all of the companies for interviews. I was being recruited while in school. The job market was strong, as advertised, and I was able to take advantage of that. I secured my job by October of my senior year!

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to obtain my MBA part time while continuing to work full time.

Powell is from Falls Church, Va., and graduated from George Mason High School.

According to the ORISE report, the number of bachelor of science (B.S.) degrees awarded in 2007 was 19 percent higher than in 2006 and this was the fourth consecutive year of increase. Individuals earning master’s degrees in nuclear engineering increased by 6 percent in 2007, and graduate degree enrollment for the field is 45 percent greater than in 2000.

America appears to be on the cusp of a nuclear renaissance, as the first application for nuclear power plants in about 30 years have been submitted to the NRC. While application approval status and construction timelines are currently undetermined, a study conducted this summer by the American Physical Society found that 35 percent of the current nuclear workforce will reach retirement age in the next five years, and heighten the demand for nuclear engineering education, even if the number of nuclear power reactors remains the same through 2050.

In Their Own Words

Christy Farmer, 2008 graduate in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, May 2008; employed by the NRC

Christy Farmer

Christy Farmer

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in nuclear engineering?

I took two years of physics in high school, which helped shaped my desire to be an engineer. Once I started looking at colleges more in depth, I realized that there were tons of different engineering disciplines out there. In order to narrow down my options, I thought back to what sections I excelled at in the two years of physics. My favorite section that we did was the brief introduction to nuclear physics. When I found out that the University of Tennessee had a program in nuclear engineering and that I could get in-state tuition even though I'm from Virginia, I jumped at the chance.

How would you describe your experience in finding employment after you graduated?

I had the easiest time trying to find a job with my degree even before I officially graduated. I actually thought I wanted to continue my education before joining the workforce, and several recruiters convinced me to interview with them. I interviewed with several different recruiters and had a job offer by October of 2007 when I didn't even graduate until May 2008.

What are your plans for the future?

I know I want to finish the Nuclear Safety Development Program [at the NRC] that I'm in and just learn more about how nuclear engineering is outside of a classroom setting.

Farmer is from Fairfax, Va., and graduated from Robinson Secondary School.

Other findings from the ORISE report were as follows:

More Graduates and Enrollees at All Levels

  • The number of B.S. degrees granted in 2007 by nuclear engineering programs totaled 413, which is 19 percent more than in 2006.
  • The number of B.S. degrees increased for the fourth consecutive year.
  • The number of M.S. degrees granted in 2007 by nuclear engineering programs totaled 227, which is 6 percent more than in 2006.
  • The number of Ph.D. degrees granted in 2007 was 89, as compared with 70 in 2006.
  • In 2007, the reported enrollment of junior and senior nuclear engineering undergraduate students was more than 1,300. Undergraduate enrollments have increased annually since 2000 when the lowest number (approximately 460) was reported in the time series.
  • Almost 1,100 students were enrolled in nuclear engineering graduate programs in 2007, up 4 percent from the 2006 total.
  • The continued increase in junior/senior undergraduate enrollments in the last two years indicates that the number of B.S. degrees is likely to continue to increase during the next couple of years.
  • Based on the increased graduate enrollments, the number of M.S. degrees should continue to increase for the next few years.
  • The number of Ph.D. degrees likely will continue to increase for the next several years.
  • Undergraduate enrollments in nuclear engineering are still below the numbers reported from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s.
  • Although the number of graduate students enrolled in 2007 is 45 percent greater than in 2000 and 2001, it is still below the numbers reported from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s.

U.S. Citizens

  • Less than 1 percent of B.S. degree recipients were non-U.S. citizens.
  • Nineteen percent of M.S. degree recipients were non-U.S. citizens.
  • Forty-four percent of Ph.D. recipients were non-U.S. citizens.
  • The higher percentage of non-U.S. citizens among graduate degree recipients is a continuation of a long-term trend common across graduate engineering academic programs.

Women

Twenty-three percent of the B.S. degree recipients, 19 percent of the M.S. degree recipients and 10 percent of the Ph.D. recipients were females.

Minorities

  • Twelve-and-one-half percent of the B.S. degree recipients who were U.S. citizens were members of minority groups.
  • More than 11 percent of the M.S. degree recipients who were U.S. citizens were members of minority groups.
  • Ten percent of the Ph.D. degree recipients who were U.S. citizens were members of minority groups.

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