Nuclear Science is a prominent and expanding field, especially in the state and region. The proximity of the Savannah River Site, the development of the MOX facility, the expansion of the Plant Vogtle facility, and the importance of radionuclides in medicine and pharmacy each represent some of the rewarding and varied career opportunities for graduates with nuclear science experience. Nuclear science 4-year degree programs are not common, and graduates will have knowledge and skills to set them apart from others. Students should be aware that nuclear facility workers must adhere to strict regulations including zero-tolerance for any sort of substance abuse, monitored by regular drug testing.
Chemistry is the study of matter, and an understanding of matter and materials is necessary in healthcare, manufacturing, and scientific research. It is a fundamental area of knowledge that provides a foundation for most other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas. Chemistry graduates also have skills in data gathering, data interpretation, and problem solving that translate well into desirable careers outside of science. The Nuclear Science Concentration of the BS Chemistry degree provides a broad education in chemistry that includes 3 specialized nuclear science courses including an intro course in fall plus an applications course and measurements lab in the spring.
STEM graduates have a wide variety of career options, both in STEM areas and in non-STEM areas. The 2012 STEM Report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce provides interesting data on the value of a STEM degree. STEM graduates will have lifetime earning substantially greater than non-STEM graduates ($2.2 million vs. $1.7 million). Nationally, 43% of STEM graduates work outside of a STEM area, often choosing a highly-paid non-STEM occupation, demonstrating the versatility of a STEM degree. Meanwhile, STEM occupations such as chemistry are growing more quickly than the economy as a whole (17% vs. 10%).
The American Chemical Society 2013 Salary Survey shows that chemists have low unemployment (3.5%) compared to the overall unemployment rate (7.4% according to Bureau of Labor Statistics). The median salary for a BS Chemist is $73,300. Using your chemistry degree for a graduate or professional degree results in higher salaries (e.g. median for PhD chemist is $102,000). A BS Chemistry graduate earns a 23% higher salary than the average BS degree graduate (www.salaryexplorer.com).
Skills and interests suited to a career in chemistry
Successful chemistry majors develop strong problem-solving skills, including comfort with math and working with abstract ideas. While facts and knowledge are present, chemistry courses focus on understanding how and why nature behaves as it does, and relies little on rote memorization. Many chemistry majors enjoy tinkering with things and find great satisfaction with the laboratory work including manipulation of materials and operating analytical instruments. In the nuclear science laboratory, students will gain hands-on experience with a variety of radiation detectors and electronics supporting them.
About the program
The Nuclear Science Concentration provides a flexible curriculum to allow students to customize their education to suit their career aspirations. This flexibility is well-suited for students completing pre-medical, pre-dental, or pre-pharmacy requirements. Background in nuclear science is applicable to radiology, radiopharmaceuticals, and medical diagnostics with radioactive tracers that can give students interested in these fields a competitive edge in their careers. Major electives allow students to include undergraduate research or explore other course areas such as medicinal or forensic chemistry. A minor is not required for this degree.