ORISE report shows an unexpected decline in 2009 in nuclear engineering degrees but the largest enrollment since the mid-1980s.

Slide-RuleOAK RIDGE — Reversing a more than five-year growth trend, the number of nuclear engineering undergraduate and graduate degrees earned in the United States declined in 2009, says a recent report from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

Future growth in the number of nuclear engineering graduates is likely, however, because of 2009’s growth in enrollment, the ORISE report said.

The ORISE report, Nuclear Engineering Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2009 Data, surveyed 32 U.S. academic programs and included students majoring in nuclear engineering or a program equivalent to a major.

B.S. degrees decreased in 2009 after five consecutive years of increases and were 13 percent fewer than in 2008. The number of graduate degrees earned was down 10 percent over 2008, after six consecutive years of increases. The ORISE report calls the decrease in graduate degrees unexpected as graduate enrollments have grown since 2001.

According to the report, a total of 715 nuclear engineering B.S., M.S. and Ph.D degrees were earned in 2009.

Richard Toohey, associate director of Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Independent Environmental Assessment and Verification Program, believes long-term trends will continue to be positive. “B.S. and M.S. degrees are most in demand in the nuclear industry and government agencies today to staff up for the inevitable nuclear renaissance,” said Toohey, who is also a recent past president of the National Health Physics Society.

Additionally, the ORISE report breakdown showed the University of Michigan led the way in numbers of B.S. degrees, with 37 earned in 2009. Two schools tied in highest numbers of M.S. degrees. Georgia Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology each granted 24.

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Source: Oak Ridge Associated Universities