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Had a few questions regarding MS in Nuclear Engineering


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So, I have a Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Communications (outside of US) and I wanted to pursue work in nuclear fusion so I had applied for an MS in nuclear engineering in the US. I have gotten admission in the University of Florida.

 

Anyway, I was sharing this information elsewhere on the internet and one participant of the discussion said that with my background, I would be suited to instrumentation and control.

 

I want to know will I be able to pursue a career in nuclear fusion or would it be wiser to do as that person suggested and go into instrumentation and control?

 

Personally, I love being within STEM and I would love to just be able to innovate to produce something helpful to people. That is the most important to me. I believe a career within the nuclear fusion field would allow this greatly. But at the same time I do want some measure of job security. Not a great measure. I can be frugal, live with only the absolute bare necessities, but that is better than being unemployed which is why just a a little bit of advice on this matter would be nice.

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Not my field, but typically with a MSc job opportunities in research are more technical in nature. Typically to engage in research (which in the long term often means leading a research group) requires a PhD and job security is very uncertain up until rather late in the career.

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If you got the PhD-academic research route be aware that a) it is a long haul with a lob of uncertainty (far less than 20% of STEM PhDs obtain permanent jobs in academia), b) if one is successful it is going to be relatively late to other careers and c) much of the job is not actual research anymore, but split between teaching, administration and group management.

 

One could also aim to become staff scientist, but there are even fewer positions out there.

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1) Is this true of pretty much every STEM P.hD? Or maybe even every P.hD?

 

2) What can one do with a P.hD if they don't find success where you mentioned difficulties to be present? Regardless of the P.hD, what is one left with if they do not find success on this path?

 

3) How does one get into more research and less of what you mentioned? It seems like it's all part of the package and one needs to accept the non-research parts to get the research.

 

4) Is the path to becoming a staff scientist the same?

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1) Yes. Up until relatively recently some fields in engineering were doing pretty well. In part, because more go straight to industrial jobs rather than staying in academia, compared to other disciplines. However, some data suggests that it has slowed down quite a bit, too.

 

2) Referring to academia there are two issues. Permanent positions are limited so people hang around as post docs. However, while up to 4 years of postdoc is encouraged, pretty much anything beyond that may start to count against you (i.e. there is a perception that you just were not successful). Even worse, in industrial jobs academic experience is often seen as a negative (unless you happen to specialize in an area that is rare and which they are looking for).

 

3) Honestly, there are relatively few jobs in which you have a permanent status and exclusively engage in research. Sometimes, there are facility management jobs in which your job is split between helping others doing research and pursue your own. However, more often than not those can also be non-permanent (and often paid only at the postdoc level).

 

4) Pretty much. Most of the time you need PhD + postdoc and then you need to get lucky (if you network sufficiently).

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Okay say one gets the worst of it, how can they salvage that?

 

Second, if everything fails, what option does one have? Not from the POV of being in the field, but any job prospects. That is what I meant by job security. I mean I have heard several times that people from STEM are still quite welcome at higher positions in more regularly available jobs, maybe even IT due to programming experience and general problem solving skills.

 

I can't really backdown either way at this point, but it is still a scary prospect thinking that one works themselves for something they believe in only to not be able to reach their goal as well as having to break their back to regain some of their original semblance of wealth which may have been retained if they just consolidated it instead of going for further education.

Edited by random_soldier1337
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So I've been asking the same questions elsewhere and it seems that they suggest instrumentation might be better for a stable career and that fusion might not take off given it's been some 80 years since the conception of the idea but no strong outcomes.

 

What should I do? I want to do something big and helpful but don't want to live in a cardboard box if things don't turn out well.

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You need to make you own decision.

 

Personally - I would go with what floats your boat. Just because your Ph.D. is in XYZ, doesn't mean you can't work in other fields, it simply proves that you are capable of working on such a project with a commitment that takes years out of your life and that you can stand up and defend your work against a panel of your peers (in the way of publications and viva voce).

 

If you applied for any scientific job and you have that MSc or Ph.D. or BSc behind you, you will have more chance of getting to the interview stages. Employees like their employees to be qualified - it saves them spending money in sending them on training courses etc. A lot of the skills you will learn and pick up are going to be transferable to any other field anyway. Also - even if you get a job in your exact chosen field of study - it doesn't mean you will know everything there is to know about it and you will have to start humbly, learning what your job is about and working our how you can use your skills to better the company you end up working for.

 

Sorry, I am dragging on - I am just saying, it might not matter exactly what your field is, unless you want to continue further in that area of research after your doctorate, in which case, it is not guaranteed anyway, so you might as well study what interests you the most. Do you think that you will not be able to work in the field of instrumentation with a Ph.D. focused on Fusion? I would think it would give you good skills and learning that you could transfer to pretty much any field imo. I've always seen these degrees as proof you are capable of learning rather than proof that you know anything at all. Our understanding of the world changes so rapidly anyway, what you learn might change within a decade and be obsolete... so why not do the course you really want to. (Warning though - before you get your hopes up - when I tried to get into that field they wouldn't even talk to you unless you were a straight A student with a good first class degree.... which is why my Ph.D. is in Chemistry and not Nuclear Fusion ;-) ).

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In the end it depends a lot on what type of career you want to pursue. Outside research, the precise topic may not matter much in some areas, a bit more in others. Being a product or process manager is easier if you have at least familiarity with the overall process. But if mid-term stability is high on your list I would look for industrial jobs that interest you, and go from there.

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I'm not even sure I want to do research per se anymore. I just want to give significant aid to people, especially, looking at the conditions of the third world country that I am from. I have always been better in STEM as opposed to more socioeconomic fields (that may better and more directly aid them). I thought I would go for nuclear fusion. I want to see economical fusion reactors become a reality. I just don't want to risk becoming absolutely incapable of doing anything in the false pursuit of such. I can't muster a degree from an ivy league right now.

 

You've all been very reassuring but I can't for the life of me erase my doubts. :unsure:

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Ultimately no one really knows what they are doing, if some do, it is often with the wisdom of hindsight. Even adornments like having an ivy league degree does not change that a bit. If you always try out to figure out the perfect path, you may risk not taking any at all.

Besides, interest is an important motivator but you will also have to be honest with yourself in knowing how sustainable it actually is.

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I absolutely agree.

 

Hmm... let's not speak with reference to myself for a moment.

 

If one wished to receive the broadest knowledge of STEM possible, (without being reduced to a jack of all and master of none) then earn a modest income applying this knowledge to aid those who need it most in the world, what would generally be the best path? How would one become well educated enough to be an expert in many areas? Then, what should he do to achieve the aforementioned goal of aiding others? Applying his knowledge to develop highly experimental technology (cold fusion or quantum computing, etc.)? Or should he apply what he knows to what exists i.e. to refine existing technology?

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So, another question came about. Assuming I don't go into academia but want to either work in the industry or, more desirably, go into industrial research, what path would be better in that case and would I benefit from a P.hD?

Earlier, it was said that academic experience reflects more negatively if one moves towards industry. Unsure if that is for both work as well as research or just work. Either way, it made it sound like going for a P.hD may not necessarily be the best idea.

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What is your current level of education? I take it you already have a degree or you wouldn't be talking about post grad courses like Ph.D.s and Masters programs. You might find that you are already qualified enough to get a research job. You will probably learn on the job anyway and will have to follow the lines of investigation the team or project leaders and group managers want you to go in anyway.

 

Why not look at some job vacancies that interest you and see what they are asking for in the way of education and degree choices?

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I have B.Tech (Indian degree) in Electronics and Communications engineering. I have already been admitted to the MS in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Florida.

 

I hadn't looked much at the job route because I had a rough time in my B.Tech and limited to IT and management jobs.

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Well congratulations... I hope you enjoy the course! :)

 

 

Is it a taught Masters or a research based one? Either way it sounds like a super title for a course or research and I hope you enjoy it immensely and learn a lot. Also... FLORIDA!!! I am envious! lol. (looking back it does say in your OP that you have been admitted, but I thought you were still looking about or was unsure - definitely go to Florida! lol).

 

Best Wishes!

 

P.

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So, I have a Bachelor's degree in Electronics and Communications (outside of US) and I wanted to pursue work in nuclear fusion so I had applied for an MS in nuclear engineering in the US. I have gotten admission in the University of Florida.

 

Anyway, I was sharing this information elsewhere on the internet and one participant of the discussion said that with my background, I would be suited to instrumentation and control.

 

I want to know will I be able to pursue a career in nuclear fusion or would it be wiser to do as that person suggested and go into instrumentation and control?

 

 

 

Perhaps I am unfamiliar with some terminology here, but I don't see that these are mutually exclusive. It's not like work in fusion is so simplified that everyone is interchangeable. Instrumentation and control will be part of a fusion experiment. Nuclear engineering is going to cover a variety of topics.

 

As has been pointed out, technical backgrounds are often applicable to a wider spectrum of jobs. One should recognize that universities are not vocational schools.

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I did my BS in Chemical Engineering, and then a MS In Nuclear Science. By choice, I never got into research type work. However, my experience was that the multi-discipline background you acquire by doing a MS in a different subject from the BS led to many more opportunities for interesting work. There seems to be a great demand in STEM for people with the synergistic ability-- the ability to pull together the pieces using knowledge from diverse fields of study. The funny part is that I enjoyed my career immensely, but never did actually carry a job title of Chemical Engineer or Nuclear Engineer. It depends on what really interests you, but I don't think you can go wrong by staying on the path you are taking.

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Honestly, I just want the point I've reached, I just want to work within STEM (non-IT). But what is more important is leaving a legacy. Something actually helpful to future generations. Just don't want to end up another cog in the system that will get rusty sooner or later and get easily replaced once I'm done.

 

That's what my worries are about really. Just don't want to end up on dead end path.

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