Nuclear Engineering Salaries on the Rise

Published: 07 May 2013

Engineering has long been one of the best paid industries, due to the on-going demand for qualified candidates. However, during the last year, this demand has increased dramatically within the discipline of nuclear engineering, resulting in a significant rise in basic salaries for those qualified to work within this particular sector.

During the last year, basic salaries for qualified nuclear engineers rose by as much as 10%, compared to the average UK salary rise of just 1.4%. This is at least partly due to a major 12-site nuclear clean-up programme which is expected to be worth £4bn-£5bn over its first seven years, with the following seven years generating almost £2bn within the nuclear engineering industry.

However, a lack of candidates who are able to demonstrate the necessary skill-set for such decommissioning projects has meant that employers are willing to offer particularly generous salary packages to applicants that fit the bill. As a result, basic salaries for qualified nuclear engineers rose to approximately £45,000 in the UK last year, with senior planners enjoying salaries of around £50,000.

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With the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency preparing to select contract winners in 2014, the creation of future nuclear engineering roles is certainly to be expected over the coming years. Salaries are also predicted to experience a further increase once contracts have been awarded, with four engineering organisations currently in competition across the 12 available sites. Should the construction of EDF’s proposed nuclear new-build project at Somerset’s Hinkley Point get the go-ahead, nuclear engineers could enjoy an additional boost to their salary packages over the coming years.

One of the main reasons why qualified candidates are often in short supply is that a significant number of nuclear engineering roles are located within some of the most remote regions in the UK. Persuading staff to relocate can prove challenging and the dramatic salary increases are an indication that employers are prepared to dedicate recruitment budgets to attract top applicants.

However, another challenge faced by nuclear decommissioning contractors is that staff cannot be easily sourced from abroad. Security requirements necessitate that foreign nationals undergo numerous security checks and live as a UK resident for at least five years before they are deemed eligible for the majority of nuclear sector jobs. As a result, some engineering employers are now turning to other sectors, such as defence engineering, to search for suitable candidates.

With nuclear engineering already billed as one of the highest-paid jobs in the field, this is already a popular focus for those looking to build a career as an engineer. Meanwhile, the lengthy duration of the UK’s upcoming nuclear engineering projects is expected to ensure that candidates with suitable skills remain highly sought-after over the coming years, with salaries reflecting this continuing demand.


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