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Graduation, Enrollment Rates Rise in Nuclear Engineering, Survey Says

June 20, 2007

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The number of college students graduating with majors in nuclear engineering continues to increase, according to a survey of the 31 U.S. universities with nuclear engineering programs conducted by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).

A total of 346 bachelor’s degrees with majors in nuclear engineering was awarded in 2006, the highest number reported in ten years and an almost 30 percent increase over 2005, the survey found. However, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded is still below the numbers granted during the early to mid-1990s – about 400 per year.

The number of master’s degrees awarded was the highest since 1996 and reflected an increase for the fourth-consecutive year, while the number of doctorate degrees decreased slightly.

The increase in degrees granted reflects the increase of students enrolled in nuclear engineering programs, which has been reported in recent years in the ORISE annual survey. Undergraduate enrollment in 2006 more than doubled the levels reported in 1999 and 2000, yet enrollment is still less than reported enrollments in the early 1990s. Graduate enrollment also continued to increase, according to the survey.

Data on post-graduation employment and other activity was also collected and found that continued study was, by far, the largest post-degree activity for both bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Among the 31 academic institutions offering nuclear engineering programs, Pennsylvania State University and Texas A&M University tied for awarding the most bachelor degrees – 31 – for the 2005-2006 academic year.

ORISE has collected and/or monitored data on enrollments and degrees in science and energy-related fields of study for the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies since the mid-1970s.

“It’s a capability we have that is useful in assessing current trends across a wide variety of career fields, and because we have a 30-year history of gathering this type of data, we can provide depth and breadth to the findings,” said Wayne Stevenson, ORISE director of science education programs, the group that compiles statistical information to assess workforce trends.

The survey of nuclear engineering enrollments and degrees includes degrees granted between Sept. 1, 2005, and August 31, 2006, and fall 2006 enrollments. The survey, located on the ORISE Web site, includes tables showing:

  • the number of graduates with majors (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorates) granted each year since 1998
  • 2006 nuclear engineering degrees by curriculum (major or option programs)
  • 2006 post-graduate plans in 13 categories for each degree level
  • 2006 nuclear engineering degrees by academic institution.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy institute focusing on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, support national security and emergency preparedness, and educate the next generation of scientists. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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