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Is being a nuclear technician a family-friendly job?

I am asking because I am deciding between majors and I want to pick the most family oriented career. #technician #nuclear #college-major #career-counseling #career

Thank you comment icon Hi Brennan, great question. Whether a job is family friendly or not can vary depending on your definition of what that is. If you're basing your decision on the work schedule, then consider this: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most nuclear technicians work full time. In power plants, which operate 24 hours a day, technicians may work variable schedules that include nights, holidays, and weekends. Occasionally, plants stop operations for maintenance and upgrades. Workers may need to work overtime during these periods. In laboratories, technicians typically work during normal business hours. Another thing to consider is the risk of exposure to radiation. I hope this helps and I wish you the best. Mireia
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Spruce’s Answer

Hey Brennan,

I like your question. You’re getting right down to the nucleus of the work / life balance issue. Interestingly, you asked specifically about nuclear technician. I’m not sure what you mean, but I’m going to assume it requires a (2-year degree) as opposed to nuclear engineering (4-year degree). My answers apply to both in general, although technicians and engineers do work in different orbits.

The main nuclear-oriented disciplines that I can think of are: weapons, weapons effects, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), survivability analysis, EMP survivability analysis (I worked on this as an engineer), terrestrial power generation and distribution (two cousins worked on this), naval vessel / submarine power and propulsion, deep-spacecraft power and propulsion (I’m working on this now as a volunteer), safety, medical imaging, health analysis, academic / industrial research.

“Family-friendly” usually means a job that has regular 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM hours, little travel, good sick leave / maternity / paternity / vacation plans, etc. Given the definitions above, I believe that all nuclear disciplines are “family-friendly” except maybe for naval vessel / submarine power and propulsion, but that’s only if you go out with the boat.

All the others should be family-friendly because they’re taking place in office buildings and hospitals and universities which are pretty stable environments to work. Hospitals do rotate shifts now and again so you might periodically get nights or weekends.

I do recommend that you talk to individuals who have the types of jobs that you’re considering because of the apparent importance you’ve placed on family. For this, you should not rely entirely on other people’s opinions, especially online, but you should hear it from the horse’s mouth. All the best, Brennan.

Spruce recommends the following next steps:

Talk to someone who has the schooling and the job for each of the types of jobs you are considering.
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Neil’s Answer

There are varying degrees of Nuclear technicians. If you are talking about working in a Nuclear Power Plant in the field of Radiation Protection, there are several ways to become involved. The easiest way is to find a local community college that offers a program in Nuclear Engineering Technology. During the time you are enrolled in classes, apply to work as an intern at a nearby Nuclear plant. Typically these are paid internships and offer great exposure to the folks that work at the plant for future career opportunities. The most beneficial aspect of an internship at a Nuclear Plant is you can see if the work is right for you.

Another more difficult route is to "chase work" as a brand new Junior Radiation Protection Technician. There is some training involved on your own time, but you can get hooked up with a good company like BHI Nuclear or DZ Atlantic. Both companies are recruiters for temp work at power plants around the country and can help get you started in the industry.

I took the hard route, working for the contract companies, because I did not want to go back to college. I traveled around the country working at different Nuclear Power plants during refuel outages. This allowed me to gain vast experiences that ultimately helped me land a job at a Utility Company near me. It was challenging for my family while I was on the road traveling, because my wife and I had our first child 6 months after I started traveling. I was hired into my current company 8 years ago, 20 days after our second child was born. Since making the transition away from traveling from plant to plant the career has allowed me to enjoy tremendous quality time with my family.

With you being in the Syracuse area, there are several plants that are relatively close to you and could keep you pretty busy and close to home for family purposes.

Nuclear Power plant work can be demanding, and several of the jobs will require occasional long hours, or odd shift work. (ie. 5 week rotations between nights and days) Typically the shift workers have the most time to take vacations with family, but may periodically need to miss weekend parties, school concerts, etc.

Another typical way people start working in Nuclear power is via the Navy. There is a Naval Nuclear program that sets folks up for long careers in commercial nuclear power and the sky is literally the limit if you want to become a Commercial Reactor Operator.