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Are there any careers that would allow me to pursue nuclear engineering AND musical theater ?

My current goal is to double major in those two subjects at University of Michigan (hopefully with a scholarship, as it's out of state and EXPENSIVE), but from what I've found, it's practically impossible to find a way to do them both "in the real world" I don't want to look back and regret not doing theater, but I know it's not the most practical career. I'm not the best at nuclear science or engineering, but I have time to improve my skills. Is there anything out there for me (that pays well, LOL)?

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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Mickey !

Although I cannot and no one really can tell you if there's anything out there for you, I would like to give you some advice.

To begin with, you do not have to double major. Before you start college try to make a decision as to whether you will major in Theatre or Nuclear Engineering, since you are struggling with two of these possible majors and double majoring besides. Since I was a Theatre Major myself, I speak on the perspective of what it's all about. Although you do not need a college degree for Theatre, it is recommended for the education and benefits it will have for your career. But you really have to pick one major between Nuclear Engineering and Theatre. I know it's probably difficult to do, but you do sound more connected to Theatre by what you've written here.

Majoring in theatre has all benefits and no downsides. Here's the thing about it: your time, energy, lab hours, practicums, performances (whether on campus or in the community), studying and classes will take up every moment of your life. I can't see how anyone could double major - the course load would be a tremendous demand. It's perfectly acceptable to have one major. This is just advice and you should do what you decide is best. So, not only will you be busy (but will love it) your evenings and weekends will be taken up by rehearsals and performances. There will be time to study for written tests and for doing term papers for theatre and even socializing and some great parties too, but theatre is a very strict commitment for which I do not see a double major being compatible with. You don't have to do them both.

In what you've written, you've acknowledged that theatre is very close to your heart and you may regret not going forward with it. You've also mentioned that you're not really good with nuclear science or engineering. Think about that. This situation is actually very easy to advise on because in general it's clear that you would be taking on way too much with a double major.

Advice: do not worry about whether or not the career is stable. You can make it stable. My first career job when I moved to Hollywood after graduation was in professional theatre but not as an actor but I fit in some acting too. You never know how your career will go. Things have greatly changed and there are nation-wide opportunities, on site and remotely. Go to some non-acting websites like Indeed or Linked in and set notifications for remote acting work. You will be surprised. You could also become a private freelance acting teacher and charge students as you teach anything from beginning acting to voice over acting or anything. You can work in Theatre Administration in some capacity. My first career job was in audience relations, sales and I even was a lobby hostess at the Academy Awards through that job. It can be done. Follow your heart and your instincts.

I strongly advise that you consider majoring in Theatre, not Musical Theatre. You can learn musical theatre through actually being directed in it by getting a part in a musical. Getting a degree in Musical Theatre would indeed limit your career opportunities.

I was also an out of state student but put in my 12 months residency before enrolling so I didn't have to do the tuition. Since I went to college in California, at that time the schools were tuition free. You paid only a small registration fee each semester. Gone are those days.

Besides all this, who's to say that nuclear careers are stable either ? I wouldn't stress it, just go with your conscience, which career would you make the most profound contribution in and get more feedback on this and hopefully from people who know exactly what is demanded from a theatre major. Ask more questions here at Career Village if you need to. I support you all the way but urge you to rethink what a double major would be like. Most likely you wouldn't have the energy to do both. I just put myself in your shoes and determined that I believe you really want to go into theatre. Thanks for reaching out to us ! Best wishes in all you do !
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James Constantine’s Answer

Dear Mickey,

Fusing Nuclear Engineering with Musical Theater in Your Career Path

Marrying the fields of nuclear engineering and musical theater may appear as an unconventional blend, but it's certainly achievable. Here are some potential career trajectories that could enable you to integrate both passions at the same time:

1. Entertainment Technology within Nuclear Facilities: Museums or educational centers, which are part of nuclear facilities, often integrate entertainment technology to captivate visitors and impart knowledge about nuclear science. In such a role, your nuclear engineering expertise could enhance the technical aspects of exhibits. Simultaneously, your musical theater skills could be employed to craft compelling presentations.

2. Science Communication and Outreach: This career path allows you to utilize your nuclear engineering proficiency to demystify complex scientific concepts for the public. Your musical theater background could prove beneficial for public speaking events, educational performances, or generating educational videos that make science both accessible and enjoyable.

3. Technical Theater for Specialized Events: Offering technical support for specialized events related to nuclear engineering, such as science conferences, industry expos, or educational workshops, could be another way to merge your interests. Your skills in both fields could be valuable for managing lighting, sound, and special effects.

4. Research and Development in the Entertainment Industry: Exploring opportunities in the entertainment industry's research and development sector could be another option. Here, your nuclear engineering background could offer a unique viewpoint when working on projects involving state-of-the-art technologies for stage productions.

5. Arts Administration Focused on STEM Education: A career in arts administration, emphasizing STEM education initiatives, could be another method to integrate your passions. You could contribute to organizations that encourage interdisciplinary learning experiences by merging arts and sciences, using your expertise in both fields to devise innovative programs.

While it may demand a bit of creativity and adaptability, there are certainly methods to fuse your love for nuclear engineering and musical theater into a rewarding career path.

Top 3 Credible Sources Used:

National Science Foundation (NSF): The NSF offers valuable insights into cross-disciplinary careers that connect STEM fields with arts and humanities.

Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI): SNMMI provides resources on careers in nuclear medicine, inspiring ideas for merging nuclear engineering with other disciplines.

American Association of Community Theatre (AACT): AACT offers information on opportunities at the crossroads of theater arts and other industries, suggesting potential career paths for individuals with varied interests.

May God bless you!
James Constantine Frangos.
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Joseph’s Answer

As you've seen, careers that truly combine these two very different fields don't really exist. However, there's still ways to do one and involve small aspects of the other.

From a theatre perspective, you might be able to find an occasional role in shows that relate to nuclear. I've seen a performance of 'A Very Expensive Poison', about the murder of Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive Po-210; which I really enjoyed and did include some musical aspects. Shows with nuclear aspects aren't common, though, and I doubt you could make a career out of such a narrow focus. I understand it's enough of a challenge to keep finding roles in theatre as it is, without trying to restrict yourself to any particular subject. Even as a script/songwriter where you're the one choosing the subject matter, I can't imagine there would be sufficient demand to sustain a career writing solely nuclear-related shows.

From a nuclear engineering perspective, the creativity encouraged by the arts is still valuable in technical careers, especially in research. In fact the acronym used to collectively group technical fields 'STEM' (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is often extended to 'STEAM' to reflect the importance of creativity in the Arts - so while a nuclear engineering role won't involve the more performative aspects of theatre, you will still find your creative side is valued. You could also continue theatre as a hobby (amateur theatre) while pursuing a more technical career.

Perhaps one field that could better combine aspects of both could be outreach and science communication - that's a great field to take STEM subjects in a more creative and performative direction to spark the interest of the public and the next generation in science and technical careers.
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Alexis’s Answer

First off this is an awesome question! Props to you for really asking for what you want!

Short answer is, no. You can’t be a nuclear engineer and also be a professional musical theater performer. The amount of time, energy, experience, training and skill it takes to even do one of those remotely well is massive. I agree with Michelle: double major and you’ll get a glimpse of what each potential career could be and how much of yourself you’d have to invest in each path. Sometimes the choice is made for you.

Long answer, though? Why not? I know a medical doctor who DJs. I know a high-end gallery sculptor who works in the public sector for the benefits and stability. College is for you to ask and find the answers to your exact question. So go to a place where you can explore lots of options! Take every opportunity to learn how it’s done, to ask people in those industries what it’s like, to learn what it takes to be at the level you aspire to. Maybe a Broadway star and a Nobel laureate is a bit much. But a nuclear technician who also writes musicals and maybe performs in a cabaret on the weekends? You probably won’t be the first!

Enjoy learning about these paths and seeing where the learning takes you. Be open to one, or both or neither. Explore and where you are meant to be will find YOU.

Alexis recommends the following next steps:

Research what kind of schooling/training is required for each career choice
Find a college with strong departments in both
Learn more about each career through career fairs and research. Or interning!
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Marylou’s Answer

Very interesting question! When I got to college in 1974 there wasn’t a degree that appealed to me. I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to be a teacher. So I went to the department, head of the education department and the theater department and I told them to get together and make me a a degree. And they did! I was the first person to graduate with it. A bachelor in science in theater, communications education. And to this day it lives on at Villanova University. I created it.

So that said, don’t be shy. Ask yourself what you want. And don’t be afraid to ask to get it. You might be surprised! I certainly was.

I wish you all the best. And I’d like to hear what happens!
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