Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

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psteinx
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Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by psteinx » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm

Background:
I've got 3 kids, and I suppose the military is at least an option for any of them, but it's my middle kid I'm thinking about now.

Military experience in our broader family is slim, so we lack some of the "stories around the dinner table" type experience that some have, as well as some of the hard data on current offerings.

Specific:
Middle kid (son) is a HS senior, about to apply to colleges. He is very smart (high GPA, test scores), moderately motivated. Plans engineering, with nuclear engineering being probably the frontrunner among specializations. Likely to attend one of the top public engineering schools (very highly rated) albeit out of state.

Son is I guess a weak to moderate fit for military path, and if not for the specific interest in nuclear engineering, I'm not sure I'd even be asking at this stage. He's average-ish height, normal weight, not very athletic. As mentioned, slim family military history, and at this point, he's said he's not really interested. But things sometimes change. He attended a military engineering camp (on a scholarship he applied for and got) a couple summers back, at a major military base, and generally liked it. Moreover, I suspect that if he does go nuclear engineering, he'll get a heavy pitch from many sides. We toured a college a while back and spoke to a nuclear engineering prof - the military was clearly recruiting (posters/ads around the building, and the prof himself seemed to have various connections to the military).

As a dad, I'd at least like to understand the parameters a bit better. I see some things that seem appealing about it. Service to country. Interesting challenges, early in career. Opportunity to "see the world" (maybe). Obvious demand for the skill he may have. Potentially interesting financial/career perks. From this father's perspective, a little bit of extra discipline/structure wouldn't be bad for him, either...

This is a financial forum, so the financial side of things is of particular (though not exclusive) interest.

The Questions:
One might think that there would be some good web pages summarizing the pitch from the military's side, but what I've found has been scattershot and tough to parse (hampered in part by my lack of familiarity with this world).

1) If my son was at least semi-interested in this path at some point in college, are there ways to "dip your toes" in without signing up for a full multi-year commitment. (i.e. maybe something a bit more extended/extensive than the short summer program he already did)

2) If he were interested, how strong are the benefits from signing up in college (say, sophomore year), versus at the end? What's the norm? (There does seem to be the possibility to get paid, relatively well, while in college, if signed up. Also maybe tuition, etc.). We/he don't need the money to pay for college, but on the other hand, if he thought he was going to go down that path anyways, and signing up mid-college meant substantial free(ish) money, tuition, etc, then...

3) For a nuke engineer, I assume there's a lot of navy interest, and some by the branch that runs our ICBMs, etc. Is the latter the Air Force? Army? Whereas, if he were a civil or mechanical engineer, just about any branch might be interested?

4) If he was a nuke engineer and went navy, it looks like there's a 5 year full-time commitment (plus reserve commitment, plus one could possibly extend). How much of that time is likely to be ship-board, and what are the conditions likely to be like?

5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?

6) For nuclear engineering in particular, how dominant is the military as a career starting option? Is it the case that a very large percentage of nuke engineers start that way, and that you find the ranks of civilian nuke engineers are filled mostly with folks who started on the military side?

7) Pensions & health benefits. What's the norm for an officer who does ~5 years and out? ~20+ and out? Starts out on the military path but isn't sure if it will be a full ~20+ year career or something shorter?

Thanks in advance.

[EDIT - made various mostly minor edits...]
Last edited by psteinx on Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.

HEDGEFUNDIE
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:29 pm

Nuclear engineering might sound like fun, but out here in the real world it is a dying industry. The last nuclear power plant built in the US was in the 1980s, and nowadays many plants across the country are being mothballed due to regulatory pressures and inability to compete with cheap natural gas. So unless your son wants to spend the bulk of his career in China or India, where the only new power plants are being built these days, I would strongly discourage this field.

I have a brother-in-law with a nuclear engineering degree in his early 30s actively trying to get out of the industry. Tough for him, 10 years of a career coming to a dead end through no fault of his own and now having to retrain completely.
Last edited by HEDGEFUNDIE on Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

kelvan80
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by kelvan80 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:38 pm

Out of the 1st 5 years he will be attached to a ship for approximately 4 years but the other one year in schools. Looking at possibly four movies during that time period plus training up in Newport for OCS. It is extremely rigorous but also the opportunity to travel the world but some seriously long hours. If he commissions through the NUPOC program then he has the potential to earn more money in college getting paid as an E5 and receiving BAH so obviously signing up earlier would be better.

btenny
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by btenny » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:46 pm

Send a PM to fishnskiguy. (?? spelling) I think that is the guy who used to post here a bunch who was a former Navy nuclear officer. I bet he has a good deal of information.

Is your son interested in electrical engineering? It is very similar as far as study plan and course plan. But it offers a lot more career options and work options.

Good Luck.

Luke Duke
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Luke Duke » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:52 pm

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:29 pm
Nuclear engineering might sound like fun, but out here in the real world it is a dying industry. The last nuclear power plant built in the US was in the 1980s, and nowadays many plants across the country are being mothballed due to regulatory pressures and inability to compete with cheap natural gas. So unless your son wants to spend the bulk of his career in China or India, where the only new power plants are being built these days, I would strongly discourage this field.

I have a brother-in-law with a nuclear engineering degree in his early 30s actively trying to get out of the industry. Tough for him, 10 years of a career coming to a dead end through no fault of his own and now having to retrain completely.
I share this opinion too. I've worked several years in/around nuclear power plants. The future doesn't seem bright. Nuclear plants aren't typically close to each other so if the plant you work at closes you have to uproot your family to move near another plant.

I've recently changed jobs to a more stable industry.

psteinx
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by psteinx » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:58 pm

Yeah, when my son started talking a lot about nuclear engineering a while back, and it didn't pass, over time, I was kind of worried about this too. Nuclear generation seems to be in stagnation/decline in the U.S. That said, some basic internet research suggested to me that as far as starting salaries go, nuclear is near the top (among engineering disciplines). What I read suggested that nuclear engineers were considered relatively elite among engineers (their course of study is hard and broad, maybe? Rather physics-y?) So that mitigated my doubts some, but still...

The fact that military career options seemed so prominent on our nuclear-engineering focused college tour, plus a conversation I had with a relative (an engineer, but not nuclear, telling me of the job situation decades ago...), both suggested to me that the military may be a major factor in employment of young nuclear engineers, spurring this thread...

KlangFool
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by KlangFool » Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:15 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:58 pm
Yeah, when my son started talking a lot about nuclear engineering a while back, and it didn't pass, over time, I was kind of worried about this too. Nuclear generation seems to be in stagnation/decline in the U.S. That said, some basic internet research suggested to me that as far as starting salaries go, nuclear is near the top (among engineering disciplines). What I read suggested that nuclear engineers were considered relatively elite among engineers (their course of study is hard and broad, maybe? Rather physics-y?) So that mitigated my doubts some, but still...

The fact that military career options seemed so prominent on our nuclear-engineering focused college tour, plus a conversation I had with a relative (an engineer, but not nuclear, telling me of the job situation decades ago...), both suggested to me that the military may be a major factor in employment of young nuclear engineers, spurring this thread...
psteinx,

I seriously doubt that. And, what do they give up in the process? What part of electrical engineering is excluded? An Electrical Engineer can take the job of the nuclear engineer. But, a nuclear engineer is less suited for the general EE job.

It is a bad idea to specialize at the Bachelor Degree level. Stick with the major engineering branches: ME, EE, CE, ChemE. If a person wants to specialize, do it at the master degree level.

KlangFool

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:19 pm

There are nuke engineers in the Navy, but likely way more at defense contractors doing the actual design work. My son interned over the summer for a sub manufacturer doing reactor enclosure stress analysis and modeling. His only Navy personnel sightings were when he was given a tour of a commissioned sub. On non-commissioned subs, nobody navy. Have him research job offerings and salaries. He has plenty of time and plenty of engineering stdents change specialty during college
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jsprag
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by jsprag » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:13 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
1) If my son was at least semi-interested in this path at some point in college, are there ways to "dip your toes" in without signing up for a full multi-year commitment. (i.e. maybe something a bit more extended/extensive than the short summer program he already did)
ROTC
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
2) If he were interested, how strong are the benefits from signing up in college (say, sophomore year), versus at the end? What's the norm? (There does seem to be the possibility to get paid, relatively well, while in college, if signed up. Also maybe tuition, etc.). We/he don't need the money to pay for college, but on the other hand, if he thought he was going to go down that path anyways, and signing up mid-college meant substantial free(ish) money, tuition, etc, then...
For Navy, take a look at the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC): https://www.navy.com/what-to-expect/edu ... d-programs
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
3) For a nuke engineer, I assume there's a lot of navy interest, and some by the branch that runs our ICBMs, etc. Is the latter the Air Force? Army? Whereas, if he were a civil or mechanical engineer, just about any branch might be interested?
Submarine launched ICBMs operated by Navy. Air and land based operated by Air Force. Military doesn't do much weapons research, development, or even maintenance. Most of that managed by Department of Energy.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
4) If he was a nuke engineer and went navy, it looks like there's a 5 year full-time commitment (plus one could possibly). How much of that time is likely to be ship-board, and what are the conditions likely to be like?
Part of that depends on whether he went to a carrier or a submarine. Expect training pipeline to be 12-16 months, then first shipboard tour to be about 36 months. Either way, it is extremely exhausting and demanding work until qualifications are complete (approximately first 24 months). After that it's slightly less demanding.

Nuclear officers are, first and foremost, Naval officers. He needs to decide on the military part first, then the career field second.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?
I wouldn't worry about it, at least for Navy. Nuclear-trained officers are heavily recruited, and the value of their experience is easily recognized by the industry.

Note that the Navy nuclear power pipeline doesn't require a nuclear engineering degree. ME, EE, physics, math, and chemistry are all common educational backgrounds.

Grogs
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Grogs » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:26 pm

I can probably provide some info as I have both a military (Army) background and nuclear engineering PhD. I got my BS in physics and then 10 years later went back for an MS/PhD in NE. I thought it was a fairly easy transition to make because in some ways NE is like physics lite. They study a lot about radiation and particle transport without as much theory as the physicists. If he wants to go into the military and work in a job applying the knowledge, the best branches would be the navy (nuclear subs) or the air force (lots of guys studying nuclear weapons effects and nuclear forensics). With the navy, he'll probably spend a lot of his career on ships/subs, whereas the air force jobs would mostly be sitting behind a desk somewhere.

I did talk to the navy recruiter guy while I was in grad school and for most undergrads in NE, the most likely career path was out on a ship/sub running a reactor. For those who had an MS, there were a couple of other options. One was an instructor at the nuclear power school, and another was working as a reactor engineer up in DC. The latter one was pretty competitive from what I understood.

One possible way to dip his toes into the military would be to join the ROTC program (if there is one) at the college on a non-scholarship basis. That would give him an idea of some of the typical military BS and the discipline required. Some people enjoy it, and some hate it.

For civilian job prospects with a BS NE, they would probably be at commercial utilities or maybe the NRC. There are probably some decent health physics (radiation protection) jobs as well. With an MS or a PhD, it would open a lot of other possibilities like universities, national labs, the Department of Energy, etc. If he went into the military with a BS and stayed past 5 years, it's likely they would send him back to school for at least a masters.

psteinx
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by psteinx » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:29 pm

Thanks jsprag.

BTW, I think the basic commitment for the navy (officer program I guess) is 5/3 (years regular, reserve). I'd had that kind of botched in my post earlier.

So, if a nuclear engineer joins the Navy and trains for and is assigned to a sub, say, then what's their role? Is there one (nuclear) engineer per sub or more? Does the engineer typically command many other folks or have a more limited, technical role? Is the upward path broader technical responsibility or moving up through command ranks (i.e. to overall sub commander). And don't subs, and most other Navy ships, generally run on about 6 month cycles, with crews rotating to land for about half the time?

psteinx
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by psteinx » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:31 pm

Thanks too to Grogs and others who responded.

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corn18
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by corn18 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:47 pm

KlangFool wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:15 pm
An Electrical Engineer can take the job of the nuclear engineer.

KlangFool
Yeah, no.

Valuethinker
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Valuethinker » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:19 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm


3) For a nuke engineer, I assume there's a lot of navy interest, and some by the branch that runs our ICBMs, etc. Is the latter the Air Force? Army? Whereas, if he were a civil or mechanical engineer, just about any branch might be interested?
(I don't have a US or Royal Navy background -- what I do know I picked up from my father (who built civilian nuclear reactors, latterly - civil engineer), from reading Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (below) and from meeting a couple of former USN sub officers).

Navy is nuclear engineering for propulsion -- subs (SSN, SSBN) and aircraft carriers (CVN). Nuclear subs are the elite of the service (rivals naval air)-- Hyman Rickover's legacy was of a fail-safe organization. I don't know what percentage of the sub officers are Annapolis grads, though -- it might be pretty high.

That maps easily into civilian nuclear power. The Pressurized Water Reactors used in all the world's submarine fleets are also the Westinghouse (Hitachi) technology (they shared DNA) -- but in truth the general principles are similar for all civilian reactors.

On the nuclear weapons complex it is a Department of Energy mission that is driven (I think) through the US national labs - it's very esoteric, it's very high security, and I don't imagine you can really take it out of the world of the military contractors. The US has not developed a new generation of nuclear weapons in a while, but is on the point of doing so. I imagine it's pretty high tech stuff - Masters and Phd especially in physics (we don't test new nuclear weapons now, in terms of full tests, we model based on scale experiments).

(your go to on this world is the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the keepers of the famous Doomsday clock, now available as an online journal). By all means read the (old, but still classic) John McPhee "The Curve of Binding Energy". It's quite short.

The job of an ICBM officer is simply to stand watch and fire the missiles if ordered so to do. You won't know much about the contents of same. As for the nuclear bombs that the Air Force still carries, I don't know who looks after the weapons maintenance. My friend who was in charge of tactical atomic weapons was with the Royal Artillery-- he was not an engineer.
4) If he was a nuke engineer and went navy, it looks like there's a 5 year full-time commitment (plus reserve commitment, plus one could possibly extend). How much of that time is likely to be ship-board, and what are the conditions likely to be like?

5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?

6) For nuclear engineering in particular, how dominant is the military as a career starting option? Is it the case that a very large percentage of nuke engineers start that way, and that you find the ranks of civilian nuke engineers are filled mostly with folks who started on the military side?
Others know more. But the issue with the decline of the nuclear industry in the developed world is very clear. The US "nuclear renaissance" has stalled w soaring costs. Most developed nations are ending their existing fleets - Japan, Germany etc. France is sort of an exception (the French reactors are years behind schedule and far over budget) as is South Korea. The US in particular natural gas plants are far cheaper and lower risk for the utility - the Public Utility Commissions will just not buy loading the risk onto their consumers. The US is just not going to run out of cheap gas anytime soon (next 20 years) and by that time solar and wind will be even cheaper -- Professor Dieter Helm's books "The Carbon Crunch" and "Burn Out" are worth a read to see how this is playing out in the civilian energy industry.

High starting salaries for nuclear engineers are likely a function that no one wants to go into the field and the existing people are aging out. But if current reactors are not replaced, there will be essentially no operating nuclear reactors in the USA in 30 years - although 40 year licenses are being extended to 50 years and in some cases 60 years, it's unlikely the plants will last after that. Of course there will be decades of work beyond that in decontamination and decommissioning etc - but actually the area that is perhaps most exciting there is robotics.

Developing nations will use their own people. If you are with a reactor vendor then you will be in there on the first or second units, teaching locals how to do it. Then your role will shrink pretty rapidly. Note the Russians are currently the world's most successful reactor exporters, and the Chinese are likely to follow - they are bidding on new British reactors. They will use their own people.

The former USN officer I know with a nuclear background works in engineering consulting - power generally, but not nuclear. There is a natural transition for Annapolis grads at least (and perhaps most naval officers) into consulting organizations - the discipline and 100% high quality they learned in the USN transfers well into the private sector. Actually there was a second one - he works in the financial services field (was on a nuclear missile submarine).

I cannot stress enough how exacting the USN is about safety - both on carriers and on subs. There has never been a fatal accident on a US nuclear sub (yes the Thresher went down, so maybe it's never an accident traced to nuclear operation?). And the USS Forrestal off Vietnam had a disastrous fire which crippled the carrier and killed 134 sailors -- Flt Lieut. John McCain was there. These ships and boats are loaded with totally lethal munitions and fuel (see the Kursk sub disaster) and one mistake can be the end of everyone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_USS_Forrestal_fire

A key thing they both told me about nuclear subs. It is *very* important that you can get along with a wide range of people. Submariners are often quite quirky, and they tend to be introverts. You spend 6 months under the surface with 132 other people, you get good at getting along. If you want to yell at people, join the surface navy. Same if you want visits to exotic ports - countries are sensitive about nuclear armed USN subs entering their harbours and the job of a sub is to get lost, and stay lost.

psteinx
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by psteinx » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:32 pm

So the actual ships that use nuclear propulsion are pretty much just the subs and (I think) carriers, right? Not the mid-sized stuff (destroyers, support ships, etc.)?

five2one
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by five2one » Mon Aug 20, 2018 5:50 pm

Agree with other posters, steer him away from nukes. Sounds interesting but post-mil options are what they used to be.
If he/you prefers Navy, Air Force then ok but Army has a whole bunch of engineers of all flavors.

If he is interested in officer then ROTC is his option.
Don't force him, this needs to be his decision.

If recruiters intimidate you then call a local ROTC branch and ask for an overview.

DarthSage
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by DarthSage » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:05 pm

DH and I are both engineers, both with nuke experience. I'm electrical, he's mechanical.

I wouldn't recommend that anyone go into the field these days. The big money is in commercial nukes, but plants are closing, so there aren't a lot of jobs. Dh is 55, and we're confident that he can retire at 65 from the industry. I would be much more worried if he were 35.

I left to be a SAHM--Dh's hours have always been long and erratic. It's not a field where it's easy to have two working parents without massive support (live in grandparent or other helper).

Prior to his jump to commercial nukes, DH and I both worked for Navy contractors. Believe me, this is NOT where there's a lot of money or prestige. Most engineers are former Navy. The jump to commercial netted DH a 30% salary bump, plus a bonus structure, and he's continued to increase from there. You're not going to find that at a contractor. He switched in 2008. Then in 2015, his commercial plant closed. On the good side, he was in demand, but we did have to make a major move for his career. At the time, we had 1 kid in college, 1 finishing HS, 1 in middle school, 1 in elementary. Moving was stressful on all of us. Since then, several other nuclear plants have announced closings, so there's more competition for the few job openings available. Dh's current plant is talking about downsizing the workforce--luckily, it's not right away, and they hope to use attrition.

My point is, your son should consider other specialties. I'm not a fan of specializing too much as an undergrad anyway--I happened to fall into nukes because I (a) grew up in Groton, CT (Submarine Capital of the World!) and worked at Electric Boat summers, and (b) did a HS internship at a commercial nuclear plant. So, at 21, I had more nuke experience than most civilians.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by suewolf » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:30 pm

My son graduated Nuclear Engineering several years ago (he's 27 now). Fukushima happened in his sophomore year and that event changed everything from a jobs perspective. Despite other postings on this site, there's plenty of commercial activity in nuclear engineering. There's a couple of new US nuclear plants currently under construction but massively over budget - it's possible they get mothballed though (http://www.jacksonville.com/news/201808 ... ar-project)

But there's still over 90 working nuclear plants in the US. Each needs a huge amount of engineering and upkeep. They will either be decommissioned or life extended - both require lots of nuclear engineering work to be completed. And there's lots of new work on small modular reactors (SMR) which show great promise. Of course there's lots of new nuclear plants being built in China and at least one in the UK.

Knowing my son and his passion for nuclear power in high school, I couldn't have persuaded him from changing. My suggestion is to get a dual degree. Penn State for example offers a dual mechanical and nuclear engineering degree program. That gives flexibility. He still loves visiting the plants and working on nuclear related stuff. The nuclear engineering education curriculum is excellent and teaches great life skills (in my opinion).

As a retired engineering professional, my own view is that the nuclear energy profession is very broken. Personal opinion is that years of supporting heavily regulated public utilities led to inefficient, noncompetitive business models incapable of working projects effectively.

The military has lots of nuclear related jobs based on my sons job searches. But the amount of regulations are stifling (perhaps appropriately given safety issues) and make everything frustratingly expensive and slow (relative to other industries).

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Golf maniac » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:32 pm

My son is also senior in high school. He is enlisting and thinking about nuke engineering in the navy. His recruiter told him 6 year commitment for active if go nuke. About 2 years of school with credits that will count toward college. $20k enlistment bonus for nuke in navy right now and post 9/11 GI bill for school is really good. He would have to be on either a sub or carrier and the work is supposed to be a lot of hours when at sea.

If he wants to go officer route agree ROTC is way to go. You can apply beginning in July before senior year. So really needs to be applying now if he wants to go this way and find a school that has a ROTC program for his choice of service.

Good luck!

Yellowjacket1
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Yellowjacket1 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:16 pm

I am a degree nuclear engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the nuclear field. I have worked for the DOD on nuclear submarines, worked in commercial nuclear plants, and worked on environmental technologies trying to clean up the area around Chernobyl. I didn’t work in the military, but worked for and alongside many who did go the military route.

My advice is not to pressure your son Rethe military. If he goes the military route it should be for one of two reasons:

1. He wants to be in the military, see the world, etc.
2. He needs the ROTC scholarship. Even here he needs to understand the commitment that goes along with it. The government will spend a lot of time training him. His commitment to them is how the government justifies that training expense.

Having said all that, coming from the military into the commercial power industry will separate him over another candidate w/o that military experience. However once he gets a job , the military experience won’t matter that much.

As others have said, the nuclear industry is shrinking. So, if he is looking to stay in the industry until he retires, that may be overly optimistic. The reason starting salaries are so much higher for nuclear engineers isn’t really related to a demand for nuclear engineers. The higher starting salary is due to the numerous regulations he will be responsible for knowing. Starting salaries for nukes have been higher than other majors for the last 40 years, regardless of market demand.

What he can look forward to as a nuke:

- shift work. Those reactors run 24/7 and engineers need to be onsite 24/7.

- living in remote areas. Most nuclear plants aren’t near major cities. So, if he is not okay with Scottsboro, AL or Hartsville, SC he should rethink his career path.

- He should be ready to move around, a lot. As plants close, he will need to move elsewhere if he can. Think about owning a home in an area whose major employer shuts down the plant, putting thousands in the area out of work,,home prices will drop way below their prior worth putting him underwater on his mortgage.

- he puts his health at risk. Utilities do a good job of complying with regulations to try and keep workers safe. I always thought I was safe. I was wrong.

In summary, I would recommend your son not go into nuclear engineering. I would be happy to talk to you or your son Re any questions he may have. Just PM me.

Bastiat
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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Bastiat » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:51 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:19 pm
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm


3) For a nuke engineer, I assume there's a lot of navy interest, and some by the branch that runs our ICBMs, etc. Is the latter the Air Force? Army? Whereas, if he were a civil or mechanical engineer, just about any branch might be interested?
(I don't have a US or Royal Navy background -- what I do know I picked up from my father (who built civilian nuclear reactors, latterly - civil engineer), from reading Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (below) and from meeting a couple of former USN sub officers).

Navy is nuclear engineering for propulsion -- subs (SSN, SSBN) and aircraft carriers (CVN). Nuclear subs are the elite of the service (rivals naval air)-- Hyman Rickover's legacy was of a fail-safe organization. I don't know what percentage of the sub officers are Annapolis grads, though -- it might be pretty high.

That maps easily into civilian nuclear power. The Pressurized Water Reactors used in all the world's submarine fleets are also the Westinghouse (Hitachi) technology (they shared DNA) -- but in truth the general principles are similar for all civilian reactors.

On the nuclear weapons complex it is a Department of Energy mission that is driven (I think) through the US national labs - it's very esoteric, it's very high security, and I don't imagine you can really take it out of the world of the military contractors. The US has not developed a new generation of nuclear weapons in a while, but is on the point of doing so. I imagine it's pretty high tech stuff - Masters and Phd especially in physics (we don't test new nuclear weapons now, in terms of full tests, we model based on scale experiments).

(your go to on this world is the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the keepers of the famous Doomsday clock, now available as an online journal). By all means read the (old, but still classic) John McPhee "The Curve of Binding Energy". It's quite short.

The job of an ICBM officer is simply to stand watch and fire the missiles if ordered so to do. You won't know much about the contents of same. As for the nuclear bombs that the Air Force still carries, I don't know who looks after the weapons maintenance. My friend who was in charge of tactical atomic weapons was with the Royal Artillery-- he was not an engineer.
4) If he was a nuke engineer and went navy, it looks like there's a 5 year full-time commitment (plus reserve commitment, plus one could possibly extend). How much of that time is likely to be ship-board, and what are the conditions likely to be like?

5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?

6) For nuclear engineering in particular, how dominant is the military as a career starting option? Is it the case that a very large percentage of nuke engineers start that way, and that you find the ranks of civilian nuke engineers are filled mostly with folks who started on the military side?
Others know more. But the issue with the decline of the nuclear industry in the developed world is very clear. The US "nuclear renaissance" has stalled w soaring costs. Most developed nations are ending their existing fleets - Japan, Germany etc. France is sort of an exception (the French reactors are years behind schedule and far over budget) as is South Korea. The US in particular natural gas plants are far cheaper and lower risk for the utility - the Public Utility Commissions will just not buy loading the risk onto their consumers. The US is just not going to run out of cheap gas anytime soon (next 20 years) and by that time solar and wind will be even cheaper -- Professor Dieter Helm's books "The Carbon Crunch" and "Burn Out" are worth a read to see how this is playing out in the civilian energy industry.

High starting salaries for nuclear engineers are likely a function that no one wants to go into the field and the existing people are aging out. But if current reactors are not replaced, there will be essentially no operating nuclear reactors in the USA in 30 years - although 40 year licenses are being extended to 50 years and in some cases 60 years, it's unlikely the plants will last after that. Of course there will be decades of work beyond that in decontamination and decommissioning etc - but actually the area that is perhaps most exciting there is robotics.

Developing nations will use their own people. If you are with a reactor vendor then you will be in there on the first or second units, teaching locals how to do it. Then your role will shrink pretty rapidly. Note the Russians are currently the world's most successful reactor exporters, and the Chinese are likely to follow - they are bidding on new British reactors. They will use their own people.

The former USN officer I know with a nuclear background works in engineering consulting - power generally, but not nuclear. There is a natural transition for Annapolis grads at least (and perhaps most naval officers) into consulting organizations - the discipline and 100% high quality they learned in the USN transfers well into the private sector. Actually there was a second one - he works in the financial services field (was on a nuclear missile submarine).

I cannot stress enough how exacting the USN is about safety - both on carriers and on subs. There has never been a fatal accident on a US nuclear sub (yes the Thresher went down, so maybe it's never an accident traced to nuclear operation?). And the USS Forrestal off Vietnam had a disastrous fire which crippled the carrier and killed 134 sailors -- Flt Lieut. John McCain was there. These ships and boats are loaded with totally lethal munitions and fuel (see the Kursk sub disaster) and one mistake can be the end of everyone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_USS_Forrestal_fire

A key thing they both told me about nuclear subs. It is *very* important that you can get along with a wide range of people. Submariners are often quite quirky, and they tend to be introverts. You spend 6 months under the surface with 132 other people, you get good at getting along. If you want to yell at people, join the surface navy. Same if you want visits to exotic ports - countries are sensitive about nuclear armed USN subs entering their harbours and the job of a sub is to get lost, and stay lost.
I don’t really have time to post more, but just FYI take everything in this post with a grain of salt - some bad information here.

But to answer a few of your questions: Every officer on a submarine, with the exception of the supply officer, is a nuke. He will spend a lot of time at sea and/or on shift work and the job overall is very demanding. He could also go surface nuke but that requires an initial sea tour as a regular SWO.

The easiest way to find out all of the good things about the job is to talk to an officer recruiter. About the only way to find out all of the actual things about the job is to talk to a nuke officer.

You’ll find better info over at nukeworker.com

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Valuethinker » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:26 am

Bastiat wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:51 pm
Valuethinker wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:19 pm
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm


3) For a nuke engineer, I assume there's a lot of navy interest, and some by the branch that runs our ICBMs, etc. Is the latter the Air Force? Army? Whereas, if he were a civil or mechanical engineer, just about any branch might be interested?
(I don't have a US or Royal Navy background -- what I do know I picked up from my father (who built civilian nuclear reactors, latterly - civil engineer), from reading Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (below) and from meeting a couple of former USN sub officers).

Navy is nuclear engineering for propulsion -- subs (SSN, SSBN) and aircraft carriers (CVN). Nuclear subs are the elite of the service (rivals naval air)-- Hyman Rickover's legacy was of a fail-safe organization. I don't know what percentage of the sub officers are Annapolis grads, though -- it might be pretty high.

That maps easily into civilian nuclear power. The Pressurized Water Reactors used in all the world's submarine fleets are also the Westinghouse (Hitachi) technology (they shared DNA) -- but in truth the general principles are similar for all civilian reactors.

On the nuclear weapons complex it is a Department of Energy mission that is driven (I think) through the US national labs - it's very esoteric, it's very high security, and I don't imagine you can really take it out of the world of the military contractors. The US has not developed a new generation of nuclear weapons in a while, but is on the point of doing so. I imagine it's pretty high tech stuff - Masters and Phd especially in physics (we don't test new nuclear weapons now, in terms of full tests, we model based on scale experiments).

(your go to on this world is the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the keepers of the famous Doomsday clock, now available as an online journal). By all means read the (old, but still classic) John McPhee "The Curve of Binding Energy". It's quite short.

The job of an ICBM officer is simply to stand watch and fire the missiles if ordered so to do. You won't know much about the contents of same. As for the nuclear bombs that the Air Force still carries, I don't know who looks after the weapons maintenance. My friend who was in charge of tactical atomic weapons was with the Royal Artillery-- he was not an engineer.
4) If he was a nuke engineer and went navy, it looks like there's a 5 year full-time commitment (plus reserve commitment, plus one could possibly extend). How much of that time is likely to be ship-board, and what are the conditions likely to be like?

5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?

6) For nuclear engineering in particular, how dominant is the military as a career starting option? Is it the case that a very large percentage of nuke engineers start that way, and that you find the ranks of civilian nuke engineers are filled mostly with folks who started on the military side?
Others know more. But the issue with the decline of the nuclear industry in the developed world is very clear. The US "nuclear renaissance" has stalled w soaring costs. Most developed nations are ending their existing fleets - Japan, Germany etc. France is sort of an exception (the French reactors are years behind schedule and far over budget) as is South Korea. The US in particular natural gas plants are far cheaper and lower risk for the utility - the Public Utility Commissions will just not buy loading the risk onto their consumers. The US is just not going to run out of cheap gas anytime soon (next 20 years) and by that time solar and wind will be even cheaper -- Professor Dieter Helm's books "The Carbon Crunch" and "Burn Out" are worth a read to see how this is playing out in the civilian energy industry.

High starting salaries for nuclear engineers are likely a function that no one wants to go into the field and the existing people are aging out. But if current reactors are not replaced, there will be essentially no operating nuclear reactors in the USA in 30 years - although 40 year licenses are being extended to 50 years and in some cases 60 years, it's unlikely the plants will last after that. Of course there will be decades of work beyond that in decontamination and decommissioning etc - but actually the area that is perhaps most exciting there is robotics.

Developing nations will use their own people. If you are with a reactor vendor then you will be in there on the first or second units, teaching locals how to do it. Then your role will shrink pretty rapidly. Note the Russians are currently the world's most successful reactor exporters, and the Chinese are likely to follow - they are bidding on new British reactors. They will use their own people.

The former USN officer I know with a nuclear background works in engineering consulting - power generally, but not nuclear. There is a natural transition for Annapolis grads at least (and perhaps most naval officers) into consulting organizations - the discipline and 100% high quality they learned in the USN transfers well into the private sector. Actually there was a second one - he works in the financial services field (was on a nuclear missile submarine).

I cannot stress enough how exacting the USN is about safety - both on carriers and on subs. There has never been a fatal accident on a US nuclear sub (yes the Thresher went down, so maybe it's never an accident traced to nuclear operation?). And the USS Forrestal off Vietnam had a disastrous fire which crippled the carrier and killed 134 sailors -- Flt Lieut. John McCain was there. These ships and boats are loaded with totally lethal munitions and fuel (see the Kursk sub disaster) and one mistake can be the end of everyone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_USS_Forrestal_fire

A key thing they both told me about nuclear subs. It is *very* important that you can get along with a wide range of people. Submariners are often quite quirky, and they tend to be introverts. You spend 6 months under the surface with 132 other people, you get good at getting along. If you want to yell at people, join the surface navy. Same if you want visits to exotic ports - countries are sensitive about nuclear armed USN subs entering their harbours and the job of a sub is to get lost, and stay lost.
I don’t really have time to post more, but just FYI take everything in this post with a grain of salt - some bad information here.
Bastiat: I was clear to stress the sources and limitations.

What I know about the civilian nuclear power industry I am pretty sure on - I do follow that industry fairly closely and my father worked in it on the construction side - the reactors he worked on are still sitting on the Great Lakes, generating power. I haven't gone down the rabbit hole of the specific problems of CANDU or AGR - not relevant to someone considering a US career. On the prospects for nuclear (in US) in particular it was an interview with the CEO (now retired) of Exelon, one of the largest reactor operators.

On the military side: I had enough time to have fairly full conversations with 2 former nuclear submarine officers (one had had the famous interview with Rickover at the beginning of his career). The USN is in all the standard works (see Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents; also Beyond Engineering) re its safety culture (and relatives who are RN officers praise it, and the RN does not praise many other navies!).

However happy to correct any mistakes I made - I am a prisoner of my sources.
But to answer a few of your questions: Every officer on a submarine, with the exception of the supply officer, is a nuke. He will spend a lot of time at sea and/or on shift work and the job overall is very demanding. He could also go surface nuke but that requires an initial sea tour as a regular SWO.

The easiest way to find out all of the good things about the job is to talk to an officer recruiter. About the only way to find out all of the actual things about the job is to talk to a nuke officer.

You’ll find better info over at nukeworker.com
All good stuff and thank you.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by djpeteski » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:25 am

Here are some things from a veteran:

1) The desire to try things out might lead himself and you to want to try the reserves as a enlisted man. Don't do it despite the recruiter's sales job. If your son does go military go as an officer. To try things out see if he can do some training with the ROTC group on campus without a commitment.

2) Not all branches of the military; or even jobs in the military have the same physical requirements. At the risk of sounding like an "us better than them" type, just look at the different physical fitness tests. USMC 3 mile run, sit ups, push ups; no consideration for age. Both the air force and navy offer have a 1.5 mile run, that is scaled for age. In the navy you can do a bike ride in lieu of the run.

The US Army has drastically changed their PT test. It used to be scored for age, but is now scored on your job. If you're infantry, the test is tough to do well. If you have a desk job, the requirements are much easier.
Last edited by djpeteski on Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Yellowjacket1 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:31 am

I was falling asleep when I posted my first reply to this subject. Overnight, I thought of an area that might be more lucrative for him - nuclear medicine. Mixing/managing radionuclides for cancer and other treatments is a VERY sought after skill. He would need to be good in chemistry.

One of my colleagues had a wife who did the nuclear medicine route. She had her choice of Lots of Jobs from oncologists, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. She worked for a pharmaceutical company for a while before starting her own company. My colleague was a very good engineer(electrical) within the nuclear industry. However, his wife earned 2 to 3 times what he made.

Advantages of nuclear medicine route:

- Not limited to nuke plants in rural areas

- don’t have to move when the plant closes

- You are typically handling radionuclides with a much lower dose than you might be exposed to in a nuclear plant. Thus, better for your health.

If your son is still determined to pursue a nuclear engineering degree, tell him to keep his nose clean in college - no DUIs, no fighting, no drugs, etc. when he goes looking for a job, they will need to run a background check on him. Whereas weed may be okay in Colorado, California, etc. by federal law it is not okay within the nuke industry. A positive drug test can get him blackballed for five or more years from the industry. A second positive drug test can get him blackballed for life from ever getting a security clearance. With no security clearance, you can’t get into the facility.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by psteinx » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:55 am

Thanks again all. The depth and breadth of knowledge here is great.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Submariner1980 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:00 am

I was a nuclear submarine officer in the US Navy directly out of college, so all the responses below are from my own experience. I was a STEM major, but not nuclear engineering.
jsprag wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:13 pm

For Navy, take a look at the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC): https://www.navy.com/what-to-expect/edu ... d-programs
I went this route, albeit late in my college career. If your son knows early in his college career that he wants to be a naval officer, then NUPOC is a smart financial choice.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?
The value of a nuclear-trained submarine officer's experience extends well beyond the nuclear power industry. Many enlisted nukes went the route of commercial nuclear power, but most officers went into other industries - doctors, consultants, finance, oil & gas, etc. Upon leaving the Navy after 7 years, I had many commercial nuclear power offers, but declined. I had job offers in other industries that were more appealing to me, even during the 2008 - 2009 slump.

No, your son will not be behind. In my early 30s, I was managing a large team in a Fortune 50 company. My direct reports had experience ranging from 2 years to 30+ years. My fellow junior officers from my submarine (the ones that got out after their first tour) are now doctors, partners in consulting firms, directors at pharmaceutical companies, and finance managers.

Career nukes (20+ years) I know that have gotten out are wildly successful as well - generally executive level, or starting their own consulting practice.

The ones that stay in for a second tour, then get out in the 10-15 year timeframe, seem to be a mixed bag. They come out with 5-10 years of additional Navy experience that doesn't translate equally to civilian world. Best plan seems to be to get out after first tour (5-7 years total), or stick it out to become a captain and retire, at which point you have proven executive ability.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:32 pm
So the actual ships that use nuclear propulsion are pretty much just the subs and (I think) carriers, right? Not the mid-sized stuff (destroyers, support ships, etc.)?
That is correct. If he selects subs, he will go through the nuclear training and be assigned to submarines. If he selects carriers, he will spend time on non-nuclear surface ships to qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer, then will go through nuclear training and be assigned to the Reactor department on a carrier.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:29 pm

So, if a nuclear engineer joins the Navy and trains for and is assigned to a sub, say, then what's their role? Is there one (nuclear) engineer per sub or more? Does the engineer typically command many other folks or have a more limited, technical role? Is the upward path broader technical responsibility or moving up through command ranks (i.e. to overall sub commander).
All officers on a submarine are nuclear-trained, with the exception of the Supply Officer. There is one Engineer, but they are a second tour (7-10 years in the Navy) officer. The Engineer is in charge of the largest department on the boat, with (I'm trying to recall) about 60 officers and sailors under his command.

All the first tour junior officers will usually be placed in charge of one of the nuclear divisions of the boat - leading the electricians, mechanics, chemists, or electronics technicians that operate and maintain the reactor. They will be expected to qualify as the engineering officer of the watch, supervising the team operating the reactor during a 4-6 hour shift.

As they progress to the latter half of their first tour, they will be more involved in the "front half" of the boat, and be put in charge of a division of radiomen, torpedomen, or sonarmen, among others. They will qualify as officer of the deck, leading the team that is operating and driving the submarine. So they are not stuck in the engine room doing only nuclear ops their entire 3 year tour. This was the fun part of the first tour.

The submarine officer career path is always leading to be a submarine captain. If an officer wants to be technical his whole career, he needs to laterally transfer out of the submarine line officer community - perhaps to be an engineer with Naval Reactors. However, all submarines are nuclear - there is no getting away from having a deep understanding of reactor operations, especially as a captain. So the technical never goes away.
five2one wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 5:50 pm
Agree with other posters, steer him away from nukes.
I couldn't disagree more. My own experience bears this out. You are not locked in to commercial nuclear power. Being a nuclear trained submarine officer has opened up doors for me in other energy sectors, consulting, manufacturing, retail, finance, data analytics, and sports/entertainment. It's not the "nuclear" that makes you valuable. It's the strong analytical capabilities, leadership, making critical decisions with limited information, managing large technical teams in your early 20s, etc. that makes you a valuable commodity.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Maverick3320 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:17 am

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:32 pm
So the actual ships that use nuclear propulsion are pretty much just the subs and (I think) carriers, right? Not the mid-sized stuff (destroyers, support ships, etc.)?
Correct.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Maverick3320 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:26 am

djpeteski wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:25 am
Here are some things from a veteran:

1) The desire to try things out might lead himself and you to want to try the reserves as a enlisted man. Don't do it despite the recruiter's sales job. If your son does go military go as an officer. To try things out see if he can do some training with the ROTC group on campus without a commitment.

2) Not all branches of the military; or even jobs in the military have the same physical requirements. At the risk of sounding like an "us better than them" type, just look at the different physical fitness tests. USMC 3 mile run, sit ups, push ups; no consideration for age. Both the air force and navy offer have a 1.5 mile run, that is scaled for age. In the navy you can do a bike ride in lieu of the run.

The US Army has drastically changed their PT test. It used to be scored for age, but is now scored on your job. If you're infantry, the test is tough to do well. If you have a desk job, the requirements are much easier.
This isn't true...yet. The Army still uses the 2 minutes of push ups, 2 minutes of sit ups, and 2 mile run standard test. The test is scaled to age and gender (still Male/Female as of now). What has changed is that a separate test called the OPAT, taken prior to enlistment/commission, is now required to see what branch (position/field) an officer/soldier qualifies for. There is also a new six-event physical fitness test that supposedly will be introduced in 2020 that is going through field testing now. The test is designed to be gender and age neutral. Then again, this is either the third or fourth time since I've been in that we've been promised a new test. Every time a three-star general needs another star, they try to redesign the test. I'll believe it when I see it.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Maverick3320 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:39 am

I'll echo some others here and re-emphasize a few things. For what it's worth, I'm a current Army officer.

1) First and foremost, decide whether military life is an option or not, and then figure out a branch/specialty. Military life is not for everyone.

2) Don't let an enlisted recruiter talk your son into going enlisted with the promise of becoming an officer later. It can work out that way, but it's a long path and benefits the recruiter more than your son. Call an ROTC campus - they have dedicated ROTC officer recruiters. There are different types of ROTC options that offer flexibility for those who just want to try it out. Recruiters generally won't lie, they just may not have all the info or be willing to lay out ALL the options.

3) Nukes likely mean Navy. Some Air Force, very little if any Army/Marines. Navy means fairly easy physical training standards (no offense to any Navy folks out there - I agree with the previous poster that mentioned the Marines > Army > Navy/Air Force physical demand scale). It's generally true.

4) Going the Navy officer route is an almost guaranteed path to, at worst, an upper-middle class life. After 4-5 years he will likely be close to or exceeding a six-figure salary, with free health care and the TSP. Navy officer bonuses are generally pretty good. Staying in 20+ years means a 50% pension for life and usually also means O5/O6+ rank, with responsibilities and connections that will help in job placement. Officers really don't even have to play their cards right to potentially have the option of doing 20 years and never working again, if one so desires.

5) Navy life can also mean 3-6+ months of life at sea. To me, a landlubber, that would be the biggest downside.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by beyou » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:40 am

Long ago, but as a freshman eng student, the Navy ROTC contacted me after a very good 1st year grade-wise.
Wanted to give me a full tuition scholarship for the remaining years (private college) of undergrad.
Were also willing to pay for graduate masters in nuclear engineering.
Of course with the commitment to work on a sub, I think it was 4 years at the time.

I just couldn't see myself under the sea for months at a time, and already there had been nuclear plant accidents that
made me think that commercial power plans were not the future, post Navy. So for me it was a free education and a chance
to chase Soviet subs, but it's not for everybody.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Hockey10 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:02 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm

1) If my son was at least semi-interested in this path at some point in college, are there ways to "dip your toes" in without signing up for a full multi-year commitment.
As others have said here, try ROTC. I did, and I think it was the best decision I have ever made.

He can take a 1 credit class in the 1st semester of Freshman year with no commitment. If he likes it, sign up for the 1 credit class in the 2nd semester. Keep doing this through the end of Sophomore year. If he does not like it, drop ROTC at any time in the first 2 years. If he decides to continue, he will have to sign a contract by the start of Junior year. Also, he can apply for a scholarship at various times in his college career.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by GoldStar » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:11 pm

If he's not interested in a military career why ask the questions? Are you pushing him in this direction as the family military representation?
I don't get it.
As a prior poster pointed out - a LOT of engineers work for the large defense contractors as civilians in nuclear, and many other, engineering fields. I wouldn't draw the two together (needing to join the military to work on military projects).
As KlangFool pointed out - a BSEE degree will give him far more options (and is in no way "Less" prestigious to the more specific nuclear engineering course work. Not sure where you go this from). He can then go on to an MSEE degree with some additional specialization if he desires.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by fishnskiguy » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:37 pm

Lot's of good advice here so far, and no bum dope, except Valuethinker's quip about nukes being quirky and introverted. :happy

I'm a Naval Academy graduate and spent 28 years in nuclear powered submarines and wound up being captain of two of them. The first half of my career was on attack submarines (SSN's) and the second half on ballistic missile submarines (SSBN's). I'm old enough to have had the dubious distiction of being thrown out of Admiral Rickover's office three times in one day before being accepted into the Nuclear Power Program.

As other folks have suggested, any good STEM degree will work just fine. One of my classmates had an economics degree from Princeton and he did very well. I don't recall a single officer who had a nuclear engineering degree. I also agree that a nuclear engineering degree might be a bit limiting. I like to think I was instrumental in talking my younger brother out of pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering and going with mechanical engineering instead. He went on to a very successful career as an HVAC design/sales/installation engineer.

One thing that I strongly recommend is to get your son on an SSN for a week or two of at sea operations. This is not at all hard to do. Your local recruiter can get you started, but the person you want to talk to is an SSN Squadron Commander or his Deputy. They will be more than happy to get your son on a short cruise.

That's exactly what I did. At the end of my first year at the Academy I was assigned to a tired, worn out, WWII destroyer for a two month cruise. Nothing worked correctly and while the officers seemed competent the crew was not. I left with the notion of leaving the Naval Academy.

My father, a Rear Admiral submariner, gave me the phone numbers of his two SSN Squadron Commanders and suggested I get a short cruise on one. I wound up riding USS Scorpion for two weeks (yes, the same Scorpion that sank with the loss of all hands four years later).

It was wonderful. The ship was beautifully maintained, everything worked like it was suposed to, the crew was very motivated, and everyone seemed very bright. With the Assistant Secretary of the Navy onboard, we went on an exercise to attack an anti-submarine aircraft carrier and its escorts. We successfully simulated an attack on the carrier and simulated sinking all five of the carrier's escorts. It was obvious to me that nuclear powered submarines were utterly invincible. It didn't take long for me to know that this is where I wanted be. The rest is history.

BTW, the surface Navy has improved dramatically since then, but the nuclear powered submarine is still their worst nightmare.

Chris
Trident D-5 SLBM- "When you care enough to send the very best."

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by jsprag » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:51 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:29 pm
Thanks jsprag.

BTW, I think the basic commitment for the navy (officer program I guess) is 5/3 (years regular, reserve). I'd had that kind of botched in my post earlier.

So, if a nuclear engineer joins the Navy and trains for and is assigned to a sub, say, then what's their role? Is there one (nuclear) engineer per sub or more? Does the engineer typically command many other folks or have a more limited, technical role? Is the upward path broader technical responsibility or moving up through command ranks (i.e. to overall sub commander). And don't subs, and most other Navy ships, generally run on about 6 month cycles, with crews rotating to land for about half the time?
Submariner1980 and fishnskiguy covered most of your questions well. Only thing I didn't see addressed was your question about the operational cycles.

SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines) have two crews that swap out on alternate patrols. Go out for about 10 weeks, come back for a 30-45 refit and turnover, and then the other crew takes the boat out.

SSNs (attack submarines) and carriers generally deploy 6 months out of every 24. The six that they're out include port visits (they're not at sea every day) and the 18 not on deployment still include plenty of time at sea doing training, exercises, etc...

Every nuclear powered vessel enters the shipyard periodically for maintenance. Sometimes for a few weeks or months, other times for years.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Helo80 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:39 pm

There is obviously a wealth of knowledge on this board, and I would advise your kid to understand the path and ask as many questions as he can prior to going down the route.

I have nothing to contribute to this thread other than what has already been mentioned, and that I think Navy Nukes is the only Navy designator with a continuous board in that they are always evaluating new officers for selection whereas other designators can be an annual or semi-annual thing. From my college days, I know Navy offered generous incentives for those interested in their nuclear propulsion. From what I have heard, it's not a bad commission --- rather, it's just not nearly as sexy as aviation and other designators.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Yellowjacket1 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:00 pm

Absurd story from my college recruitment. My junior year, I sign up for an interview for the US government. Get to interview and interviewer tells me:

- He can’t tell me which department of the US government I would be working for. It was classified.

- He can’t tell me where I’d be working. It was classified.

- He can’t tell me what specifically I would be doing (fuel design, reactor design, etc.). Yeah, you guessed it, it was classified.

- I ask him what he can tell me? He tells me I would start as a GS-7 and he gave me the salary band for a GS-7. He tells me the work would be interesting and directly applicable to my major. Told me I could expect to move around a lot, probably 4 times in the first 2 years.

I thanked him for his time and said that I needed more info than he could give me. Told him I would have to decline the opportunity and walked out. Who accepts a job like that? Never did find out where he was from.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Bastiat » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:43 pm

Maverick3320 wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:39 am
I'll echo some others here and re-emphasize a few things. For what it's worth, I'm a current Army officer.

3) Nukes likely mean Navy. Some Air Force, very little if any Army/Marines. Navy means fairly easy physical training standards (no offense to any Navy folks out there - I agree with the previous poster that mentioned the Marines > Army > Navy/Air Force physical demand scale). It's generally true.

4) Going the Navy officer route is an almost guaranteed path to, at worst, an upper-middle class life. After 4-5 years he will likely be close to or exceeding a six-figure salary, with free health care and the TSP. Navy officer bonuses are generally pretty good. Staying in 20+ years means a 50% pension for life and usually also means O5/O6+ rank, with responsibilities and connections that will help in job placement. Officers really don't even have to play their cards right to potentially have the option of doing 20 years and never working again, if one so desires.

5) Navy life can also mean 3-6+ months of life at sea. To me, a landlubber, that would be the biggest downside.
Here you go: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your ... ervice-is/

:) USMC > Navy > Chair Force > Army

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Nords » Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:19 am

Hey, PSteinX, you’re getting good advice— particularly from the submariners.

I’m also a (retired recovering) submariner, although Rickover just yelled at me and threw me out once before drafting me into the service.

Ironically, very few Navy nuclear-trained officers (from carriers or submarines) want to have anything to do with the civilian nuclear industry. We have way too much value to the rest of the corporate world, and quite a few of us are entrepreneurs. Even Navy nuclear-trained enlisted tend to avoid the civilian nuclear industry because they can do better at other careers. A surprising number of submariners tend to pursue financial independence.

To answer your questions:
1. I’d suggest that if a teen is at all curious about the military then they should sign up for ROTC. The first year is totally free of obligation and includes a paid summer of “meet your service” travel after freshman year. At the start of sophomore year they’re free to continue or to drop out. The obligation is five years of active duty and three more years in the Reserves, which can be accomplished in the inactive Reserves.

Navy ROTC favors STEM degrees along with some language majors. Nuclear engineering will do fine, although the more popular majors are mechanical & electrical engineering. Chemistry & physics are probably the most popular science degrees.

Some ROTC programs start in sophomore or junior years. I’m not very familiar with those.

2. Our daughter gained several advantages from ROTC (a four-year scholarship) beyond the military training.

First, she applied “early decision” to her stretch university because she was also applying for a ROTC scholarship. ED means that the candidate loses their negotiating leverage for financial aid, but the military is already paying the university full retail for tuition & fees. ED can boost the success of a strong application by a few more percentage points.

Second, some universities offer priority class registration to their ROTC units. It can be hard to complete ROTC classes along with all of the other electives.

Third, our daughter had plenty of peer tutoring. The unit might have mandatory study hours (in the unit building) for freshmen. The unit’s more senior cadets/midshipmen have extensive experience in your young adult’s major... and in choosing their professors. The unit’s officers can make sure that the freshmen are also organized, keeping up, and meeting their academic goals. It’s unlikely that a freshman will wander too far off the trail before they get help.

Fourth, ROTC actually helped our daughter avoid some peer pressure. There’s the usual benefits of having Marine gunnery sergeants as inspirational personal trainers on weekday mornings (and some weekends). In addition the university’s drinkers and stoners knew to leave her alone because she was in ROTC. Her roommates even kept it quiet after 10 PM in exchange for her not waking them up at 5:30 AM.

3. As others have mentioned, ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) launch ICBMs. That’s the OHIO class carrying Trident missiles. The first four OHIO submarines (OHIO, MICHIGAN, FLORIDA, and GEORGIA, the “OMFG” group) are SSGNs carrying 140+ TOMAHAWK land-attack missiles and the occasional Special Forces teams. The attack submarines (LOS ANGELES, SEAWOLF, and VIRGINIA class) carry a smaller number of TLAMs and... special teams. They mainly carry out surveillance missions of various (classified) types. You can read the library book “Blind Man’s Bluff” for more speculation on that.

SSBNs have Blue and Gold crews who switch every ~120 days. They tend to deploy for 30-90 days between ports. (These days, perhaps usually closer to 30.) SSNs have one crew who will operate around their homeports for 12-18 months (a combination of 1-2 weeks underway per month interspersed with longer inport maintenance periods) followed by a 6-9 month deployment (typically 30-45 days at sea between liberty ports). I’m not sure what SSGNs are doing these days... I think they still have two crews and spend much of their time deployed while the crews switch off.

4. The submarine training pipeline is six months of Nuclear Power School plus six months of operating the nuclear reactors on the Moored Training Ships. (Those are all in the Charleston SC area, at the Weapons Station up by Summerville, although there may still be another land-based prototype nuclear plant up in Ballston Spa NY. If you have more detailed questions about the school, one of my shipmates was the NPS Command Master Chief before retiring in the area.) That year is followed by three months of Submarine School in New London CT and results in orders to the sub. The submarine tour is three years of engineering divisions as well as qualifying to stand watch in engineering, as Officer Of the Deck, and at other tasks.

Surface nukes start with a few months of school and then learn how to drive & shoot during a two-year tour on a smaller ship (like a BURKE-class guided-missile destroyer). Once they earn their Surface Warfare Officer pin they start the year of nuke training. That’s followed by two years on an aircraft carrier, all of it in the engineering spaces.

Most junior officers finish their 3-4 years of sea duty at the end of their five-year active-duty obligation. That pipeline can be delayed as much as 6-12 months by school schedules, start dates, backlogs, or any problems with the training nuke plants.

Conditions? Well, on the Navy’s ships or the boats the officers live in small staterooms of 2-3 people with bunk beds. They have a housing allowance to live off-base, or they can give up the housing allowance to live on base (where available). Compensation is roughly $65K/year in salary, allowances, and benefits. By the end of the five years (and promotions to O-3) they’re pushing $100K/year.

All of the military services have engineering branches, some more technical & specialized than others. They all want critical thinkers, planners, and leaders.

5. The transition has plenty of support from veterans organizations, the corporate world, and partnerships among the Dept of Defense, the Dept of Labor, and the Chamber of Commerce. Leaving at year five or year 20 is roughly the same length of transition with different positions. You stay on active duty as long as it’s challenging & fulfilling, whether it’s five years or 40. When the fun stops then you move to the Reserves or National Guard... perhaps along with a civilian bridge career.

There’s no “ahead” or “behind”, anymore than PhDs or MDs are “ahead” or “behind”. There’s just switching from a full-time military career to part-time military and possibly full-time civilian careers. Ideally the servicemember gets a good jumpstart on saving for financial independence while they’re in uniform. I reached FI within my 20 years of active duty (just on a high savings rate) and the active-duty pension is a bonus.

6. I think that by the time most nuclear-trained servicemembers leave the military, the last thing they want to do is wrangle more neutrons. They tend to move into mainstream corporate careers or entrepreneurial ones.

7. Only 15% of servicemembers reach any kind of a military pension. That’s 1 out of 6, although we know it’s higher in the Air Force than in Marine infantry.

Anyone (officer or enlisted) who leaves active duty after one obligation has the opportunity to continue their military career in the Reserves or National Guard. Instead of a 20-year pension in their late 30s or early 40s, Reserve/Guard servicemembers vest at 20 years and start the pension at age 60. It’s a horribly complicated pension system, and you can read more at:
http://the-military-guide.com/reserve-retirement-calculator/
That’s way beyond the scope (let alone interest) of the average teen.

After each obligation (up to 20 years) there are transition benefits as well as the GI Bill. (Officers from ROTC and service academies have to complete their five-year active-duty obligations before serving even longer to earn GI Bill benefits.) VA medical benefits are available for those with service-connected injuries or conditions. After 20 years of active duty you vest in an inflation-fighting pension with cheap healthcare. However the pension benefits should be the last reason a teen joins the military.
https://the-military-guide.com/join-the-military-to-retire-early-the-rest-of-the-story/


Hopefully that answers all of your questions, but I’m happy to answer more here or at NordsNords@Gmail.com. Better still, your teen is welcome to e-mail me to be put in touch with my daughter (Rice ‘14, now a Surface Warfare Officer aboard the USS GERALD R. FORD) and my son-in-law (USNA ‘14, a SWO and now an “Information Professional” for network engineering and cyber warfare). They can tell you all about life after four years of active duty. My daughter is planning her transition to the Navy Reserve, and my son-in-law is eagerly anticipating starting his graduate degree at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
* | * | Please see my profile. I don't read every post, so please PM or e-mail me to get my attention.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Barefoot » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:54 am

My Dad was ROTC, had the Rickover interview and was an officer in the nuke Navy.

After his active duty commitment, he became a reservist and got a PhD in Nuclear Engineering.

He worked in the industry for about 5 years, got transferred by his company to a non-nuclear job and never looked back.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by djpeteski » Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:10 am

Maverick3320 wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:26 am
This isn't true...yet. The Army still uses the 2 minutes of push ups, 2 minutes of sit ups, and 2 mile run standard test. The test is scaled to age and gender (still Male/Female as of now). What has changed is that a separate test called the OPAT, taken prior to enlistment/commission, is now required to see what branch (position/field) an officer/soldier qualifies for. There is also a new six-event physical fitness test that supposedly will be introduced in 2020 that is going through field testing now. The test is designed to be gender and age neutral. Then again, this is either the third or fourth time since I've been in that we've been promised a new test. Every time a three-star general needs another star, they try to redesign the test. I'll believe it when I see it.
Sorry I must have read something incorrectly, I believe the field tests start very soon (if they have not already), however the point is valid. The Army recognizes that some jobs do not need to be as fit as others. So with someone who aspires to be a Nuclear Engineer, who is not all that athletically inclined, certain jobs and branches are suitable.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Maverick3320 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:54 am

fishnskiguy wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:37 pm
Lot's of good advice here so far, and no bum dope, except Valuethinker's quip about nukes being quirky and introverted. :happy

I'm a Naval Academy graduate and spent 28 years in nuclear powered submarines and wound up being captain of two of them. The first half of my career was on attack submarines (SSN's) and the second half on ballistic missile submarines (SSBN's). I'm old enough to have had the dubious distiction of being thrown out of Admiral Rickover's office three times in one day before being accepted into the Nuclear Power Program.

As other folks have suggested, any good STEM degree will work just fine. One of my classmates had an economics degree from Princeton and he did very well. I don't recall a single officer who had a nuclear engineering degree. I also agree that a nuclear engineering degree might be a bit limiting. I like to think I was instrumental in talking my younger brother out of pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering and going with mechanical engineering instead. He went on to a very successful career as an HVAC design/sales/installation engineer.

One thing that I strongly recommend is to get your son on an SSN for a week or two of at sea operations. This is not at all hard to do. Your local recruiter can get you started, but the person you want to talk to is an SSN Squadron Commander or his Deputy. They will be more than happy to get your son on a short cruise.

That's exactly what I did. At the end of my first year at the Academy I was assigned to a tired, worn out, WWII destroyer for a two month cruise. Nothing worked correctly and while the officers seemed competent the crew was not. I left with the notion of leaving the Naval Academy.

My father, a Rear Admiral submariner, gave me the phone numbers of his two SSN Squadron Commanders and suggested I get a short cruise on one. I wound up riding USS Scorpion for two weeks (yes, the same Scorpion that sank with the loss of all hands four years later).

It was wonderful. The ship was beautifully maintained, everything worked like it was suposed to, the crew was very motivated, and everyone seemed very bright. With the Assistant Secretary of the Navy onboard, we went on an exercise to attack an anti-submarine aircraft carrier and its escorts. We successfully simulated an attack on the carrier and simulated sinking all five of the carrier's escorts. It was obvious to me that nuclear powered submarines were utterly invincible. It didn't take long for me to know that this is where I wanted be. The rest is history.

BTW, the surface Navy has improved dramatically since then, but the nuclear powered submarine is still their worst nightmare.

Chris
What an awesome story/career. I've read about Rickover and the Scorpion in books - they are almost larger than life.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Maverick3320 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:58 am

Bastiat wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:43 pm
Maverick3320 wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:39 am
I'll echo some others here and re-emphasize a few things. For what it's worth, I'm a current Army officer.

3) Nukes likely mean Navy. Some Air Force, very little if any Army/Marines. Navy means fairly easy physical training standards (no offense to any Navy folks out there - I agree with the previous poster that mentioned the Marines > Army > Navy/Air Force physical demand scale). It's generally true.

4) Going the Navy officer route is an almost guaranteed path to, at worst, an upper-middle class life. After 4-5 years he will likely be close to or exceeding a six-figure salary, with free health care and the TSP. Navy officer bonuses are generally pretty good. Staying in 20+ years means a 50% pension for life and usually also means O5/O6+ rank, with responsibilities and connections that will help in job placement. Officers really don't even have to play their cards right to potentially have the option of doing 20 years and never working again, if one so desires.

5) Navy life can also mean 3-6+ months of life at sea. To me, a landlubber, that would be the biggest downside.
Here you go: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your ... ervice-is/

:) USMC > Navy > Chair Force > Army
Ugh, depressing. The Army still has higher physical standards, but I've seen first hand how difficult it is to find quality Soldiers. The Army has a lot more slots to fill than other services which leads to lower recruiting standards and delays in processing out those that don't meet the standard.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Maverick3320 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:03 am

djpeteski wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:10 am
Maverick3320 wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:26 am
This isn't true...yet. The Army still uses the 2 minutes of push ups, 2 minutes of sit ups, and 2 mile run standard test. The test is scaled to age and gender (still Male/Female as of now). What has changed is that a separate test called the OPAT, taken prior to enlistment/commission, is now required to see what branch (position/field) an officer/soldier qualifies for. There is also a new six-event physical fitness test that supposedly will be introduced in 2020 that is going through field testing now. The test is designed to be gender and age neutral. Then again, this is either the third or fourth time since I've been in that we've been promised a new test. Every time a three-star general needs another star, they try to redesign the test. I'll believe it when I see it.
Sorry I must have read something incorrectly, I believe the field tests start very soon (if they have not already), however the point is valid. The Army recognizes that some jobs do not need to be as fit as others. So with someone who aspires to be a Nuclear Engineer, who is not all that athletically inclined, certain jobs and branches are suitable.
The field tests have started already - the info we are getting is that all units will start the "new" test in FY 2020 (likely October). You're absolutely correct about the rest though. Anyone in decent shape should be able to pass the current and future standards.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by Elbowman » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:14 am

I don't have time to read the entire thread (so other people may have mentioned this) but if he is interested in engineering, and your are concerned about job prospects... EE/CS is one obvious choice for a high demand, high pay, reasonably interesting career.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by SueG5123 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:17 pm

psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:32 pm
So the actual ships that use nuclear propulsion are pretty much just the subs and (I think) carriers, right? Not the mid-sized stuff (destroyers, support ships, etc.)?
Nuclear cruisers have been phased out, leaving only carriers and subs (two flavors, SSBNs and fast attacks). Support ships were never nuclear.

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Re: Military career/college options (engineering - nukes?)

Post by vinho » Mon Sep 03, 2018 10:26 am

Although I wasn't a nuclear trained officer, I strongly considered that path at the academy and a lot of my friends were or are still serving as nuclear trained officers. I've also interviewed and hired former Navy nuclear trained officers in the civilian world. Hope this helps.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
1) If my son was at least semi-interested in this path at some point in college, are there ways to "dip your toes" in without signing up for a full multi-year commitment. (i.e. maybe something a bit more extended/extensive than the short summer program he already did)
Probably the best way is to take the NROTC class at their university as a non-scholarship student. If they like it they can apply for a scholarship, although the numbers of scholarships available for upperclassmen may be more limited. I think you can also take the scholarship and drop after up to a year without any payback or obligation, but check current rules.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
2) If he were interested, how strong are the benefits from signing up in college (say, sophomore year), versus at the end? What's the norm? (There does seem to be the possibility to get paid, relatively well, while in college, if signed up. Also maybe tuition, etc.). We/he don't need the money to pay for college, but on the other hand, if he thought he was going to go down that path anyways, and signing up mid-college meant substantial free(ish) money, tuition, etc, then...
If they decide they really want to go down this path, the main pathways are NROTC, the U.S. Naval Academy, the NUPOC program, or OCS. The Naval Academy is the most comprehensive financially, but also is 24/7 immersion. It also requires you stay there four years so probably not the best option for a transfer student. NROTC and NUPOC offer some financial assistance and you still attend a civilian college. OCS is something you apply for at the end of college or after graduating and if does not provide any financial assistance while you're in school.

I'd also add it's very important to keep a clean record. Smoking pot, getting arrested for underage drinking, or any number of other common college ago mistakes can easily keep you out. As can a number of relatively common medical issues.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
3) For a nuke engineer, I assume there's a lot of navy interest, and some by the branch that runs our ICBMs, etc. Is the latter the Air Force? Army? Whereas, if he were a civil or mechanical engineer, just about any branch might be interested?
All of the services are interested in STEM graduates with good grades from good schools. The Navy is the only branch where one would be operating a nuclear reactor, but they don't require a nuclear engineering degree for that. I know history majors who were successful in the Navy's nuclear program. They'll teach you what you need to know but you need to have the aptitude, work ethic, and math/science foundation to be successful.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
4) If he was a nuke engineer and went navy, it looks like there's a 5 year full-time commitment (plus reserve commitment, plus one could possibly extend). How much of that time is likely to be ship-board, and what are the conditions likely to be like?
3 to 3.5 years of the initial commitment will likely be shipboard. There will also be at least a year of nuclear power training which is very intense with lots of mandatory study hours, shift work, etc. Aboard a submarine or ship at sea, they can expect 4-5 hours of sleep per day, often broken up by drills or actual events and to be working most of the rest of the time, especially until they finish their quals. When they are not at sea, 1/4 or 1/3 of the crew will usually have to stay onboard (you don't just lock up a sub or carrier for the night and go home). There is a lot of maintenance and training that goes on inport so those hours can be pretty bad too. As an officer, one has a little more control over their time but also a lot more things they are responsible for getting done. On the ship or boat they'll likely be sharing a small room with several other junior officers.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
5) How smooth are military->civilian career transitions, typically, for engineers, if he leaves ca. year 5? year 20? In the former case, is starting a civilian career circa age 27 likely to put him significantly behind, perhaps lowering peak career opportunities a decade or two later?
Very smooth.These are well established off ramps from the military. Leaving at the 5-year point, I have seen a lot of people go to top MBA programs (they love the combination of leadership experience and quant skills), go into project management jobs or leadership development programs at just about any company imaginable, pursue an engineering career, go to the NRC or DOE, or even go into the FBI. At the 20 year point, it is more common to see people go to work at one of the big defense contractors, but other options are out there but take a little more work to find.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
6) For nuclear engineering in particular, how dominant is the military as a career starting option? Is it the case that a very large percentage of nuke engineers start that way, and that you find the ranks of civilian nuke engineers are filled mostly with folks who started on the military side?
Not sure but I suspect there are a lot of non-military since very few of the officers I know chose to stay in the industry when they got out.
psteinx wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:20 pm
7) Pensions & health benefits. What's the norm for an officer who does ~5 years and out? ~20+ and out? Starts out on the military path but isn't sure if it will be a full ~20+ year career or something shorter?
In the military, they'll be getting close to six figures at the 5 year mark, and well over if they take a nuc retention bonus. Not to mention the many tax benefits, very cheap health care etc. If they transition to the civilian side, I'd expect $90 - $100k minimum, and good potential to grow from there. If they go the top MBA route, they'll be in school for two years but should be able to get into something making close to $200k within a year of graduating (once they get their first bonus), and potentially a lot more long term. The folks I know who have retired at 20 years, are getting close to a 50k/year inflation protected pension and health benefits, and seem to be able to walk into jobs making $130k pretty easily. There's no pension before 20 years but recent changes to military retirement make it more like a 401K for people who leave before 20 with employer contributions they can take with them. So it's possible to leave at the 5 or 10 year mark with a pretty substantial nest egg saved up, especially for a single person.

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