How to Become a Nuclear Chemist

How to Become a Nuclear Chemist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a nuclear chemical, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a nuclear chemist:


Those who become nuclear chemists are typically individuals who are detail-oriented, have a high degree of mental focus and discipline, and they have a natural aptitude in chemistry, biochemistry and statistics. They are individuals that have a keen interest in understanding radioactive substances and nuclear processes.


As the amount of knowledge necessary to become a successful nuclear chemist is quite significant, those who wish to pursue this career require a high level of dedication to their studies.


Many of those who become nuclear chemists are drawn to this career because it allows them to perform a diverse range of tasks and use a variety of skills when performing these tasks, such as computer skills and laboratory skills. Many nuclear chemists draw satisfaction from working within a team to help solve very critical problems in healthcare and energy.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a nuclear chemist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Nuclear Chemist

The education to become a nuclear chemist depends on your career goals; typically, the higher the level of education you achieve, the more career options that become available to you. Regardless of the level of education you wish to achieve, developing a solid background in chemistry, organic chemistry, medical chemistry, biochemistry and statistics is great way to develop the knowledge necessary for careers in nuclear chemistry.


Earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, organic chemistry, medical chemistry, biochemistry or chemical engineering is typically the minimum requirement to get an entry-level job in nuclear chemistry, such as Research Assistant.


If you want to become a nuclear chemist that completes your own research projects, directs others in applied research, you will likely need a master’s degree in chemistry or a closely related field such as biochemistry or medical chemistry. Some employers may require you to have a Ph.D. in an area related to nuclear chemistry in order to be hired as a nuclear chemist.


Many students will also complete post-doctorate work in an area in which they seek to specialize, such as radiochemistry, radiation chemistry or nuclear reactions.





Nuclear Chemist Job Description

Nuclear chemists are concerned with researching and understanding radioactive substances and nuclear processes. They then apply that knowledge to the development of innovative solutions to problems in a variety of industries, (although primarily in medicine and energy) such as medical treatments and the safe disposal of nuclear waste.


Medical Sector: In the medical sector, nuclear chemists typically conduct research as to how radioactive materials affect living organisms and make changes to their biochemistry. Their findings lead to the development of various medical treatments and diagnostic techniques, such as external beam radiotherapy, radionuclide therapy, brachytherapy and X-ray.


Energy Sector: In the energy sector, nuclear chemists typically focus their research efforts into areas such as nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, the synthesis of thorium and uranium, and the absorption of fission products. This research is important for the development of fuel products, radioactive waste transportation and storage solutions, and safety procedures during nuclear reactor operations.


The work of nuclear chemists provides assistance to engineers and physicists who are responsible for designing and developing practical solutions to problems in the energy sector, such as developing  and improving reactors and radioactive dyes.



Nuclear Chemist Job Duties

• Confer with physicists and engineers in order to conduct analysis on radioactive materials and interpret test results

• Evaluate and study biological absorption of nuclear materials

• Provide other scientists with testing data that helps them understand how to medically treat individuals who have been exposed to nuclear materials

• Test methods in which exposing humans to certain levels of radiation may cure certain types of cancers not yet curable through common forms of radiation therapy



Who Hires Nuclear Chemists?

Nuclear chemists are employed in all aspects of the nuclear research in industry, academia, and government. Organizations that hire nuclear chemists include:


• Private research, development and quality control laboratories

• Medical research laboratories and product development companies

• Energy companies and energy research laboratories

• Government agencies

• Colleges and universities





Qualifications Needed to Become a Nuclear Chemist

In order to become a successful nuclear chemist, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Familiarity with research methods

• Adept at applied mathematics and the use of laboratory equipment

• Able to use statistical software and computer modeling tools

• Willingness to travel, as much research involves international collaboration

• Excellent verbal and written communication skills

• Patience, persistence and the ability to pay close attention to detail



Nuclear Chemist Salary

The highly complex nature of their work implies that nuclear chemists can typically command relatively high salaries. Although the salary level of nuclear chemists can vary based on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, whether they work in research or applied nuclear chemistry, the specific responsibilities of their job, and many others. 


Nuclear Chemist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Chemists occupational group earn an average of between $28.03 and $45.00 per hour.


Nuclear Chemist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Chemists occupational group is $63,190 per year.


Nuclear Chemist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Chemists and Materials Scientists occupational group is $69,790 per year. 



Working Conditions for Nuclear Chemists

Work Environment: Nuclear chemists typically work in laboratories and spend the majority of their time conducting, documenting and analyzing research. Working in a laboratory typically involves working with hazardous organic materials and inorganic chemicals.


Working Hours: The working hours of nuclear chemists may vary from employer to employer, but are usually normal weekday working hours; between 35-45 hours per week. Occasionally, nuclear chemists may be required to put in extra hours during evenings, weekends and national holidays in order to meet research deadlines.



Careers Similar to Nuclear Chemist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Nuclear Chemist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Materials Scientist

Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear Physicist

Organic Chemist

Petroleum Chemist



References: How to Become a Nuclear Chemist

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a nuclear chemist.


Occupations in Alberta:Chemist.” (March 5, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 5, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Chemists and Materials Scientists.” (September 10, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 5, 2020.

College to Career:Nuclear Chemistry.” (n.d.). American Chemical Society website. Retrieved January 5, 2020.



Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer


Scholarships for Becoming a Nuclear Chemist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Nuclear Chemist can be found on our Chemistry Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Nuclear Chemist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a nuclear chemist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: