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Graduate School vs. Naval Reactors Engineer

opticsiscoolopticsiscool Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
I am a rising junior physics major at Iowa State University. In addition to physics, I have a strong interest in chemistry. When I graduate from Iowa State, I am planning to either go to graduate school in material science or join the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program as a Naval Reactors Engineer. As a Naval Reactors Engineer, I would have to go to school through the Navy and get the equivalent of a masters degree before I could start working as an engineer. To be clear, I would be an officer in the US Navy, but my job would focus more on the engineering side rather than purely being an officer on a submarine. My commitment to the Navy would be 5 years after I complete schooling.

My other option is pursuing a PhD in materials science--I can see myself enjoying this because materials science is a combination of chemistry and physics. My only hesitation is that I'm not sure I want to commit to serving 5+ years in the Navy and then deciding I want to go get a PhD in materials science, a completely different field from nuclear engineering. The plus for the Navy is that being a Naval Reactors Engineer is not a boring desk job, you actually get to work with submarines and do nuclear engineering. In other words, I would not have to do the research that a PhD requires. My question: how much chemistry/ physics is involved in the work of Naval Reactors Engineer?
What would my job prospects be if I did Naval Reactors Engineer vs. PhD in materials science? I do not want to do both.

Replies to: Graduate School vs. Naval Reactors Engineer

  • 2018RiceParent2018RiceParent Registered User Posts: 426 Member
    edited August 2014
    These are great choices. Payscale salary data implies that after discharge Naval Engineers have great salaries (probably from the combination of leadership and technical skills) - and also the no debt is very appealing.

    Materials Science is fascinating to me, but narrow job market. Presumably you have the Physics skills that would help to excel in the Materials PhD program and some could be nearly free due to research and teaching assistantships.

    I think job prospects for both are excellent but very different type of jobs long term.
  • fauvefauve Registered User Posts: 3,515 Senior Member
    Are you comfortable with the officer training which will be required of the Navy? Do spend some time researching how long OCS is, and what physical and leadership challenges the training will entail. Although you will eventually be an engineer, there are mandatory fitness and military operations activities required of all candidates and officers.

    Are you an adventurous person who would enjoy the attention to detail (uniforms, haircuts, decorum), camaraderie, and the challenges of the Navy? You would earn a lot of responsibility in a short time in the Navy, as well as learn to train and lead others in your area of expertise. Those experiences will make you highly valued once you move to the private sector.

    Material science jobs will emphasize research, whether in the private industry sector or government labs. The research you would do for a Ph.D. program would steer you toward employment in that specialty.

    As 2018RiceParent says above, both paths offer great options.
  • ltfezhaltfezha Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    The Navy Nuke program is awesome. And retention bonus is close to $100K (if youre overseas, no taxes). It's amazing program. Combine that with degree in engineering and a master's in energy policy....by the time you're in your 30's you'll be set. Or you can retire after 20. Regardless, they are always looking for nukes. It's an amazing program. I turned it down to join the army as a medic. However, my roomate joined (enlisted, not officer). It's very good program, amazing training. If you talk to a recruiter and you feeel he is making it sound too good to be true, it isn't. It really is a great program. The downside is, I suppose is the time stuck in a submarine, but they pay you bonuses for that.

    Regardless, it is worth looking into it.
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