Average Salary: $104,270
Expected Lifetime Earnings: $4,353,000
You'd think that someone who goes into nuclear science—as a chemist, a physicist, or some other sort of engineer—could expect to earn a very, very good living. Well, you'd be right. A million points to you.
The field varies in as many ways as there are electrons in a uranium atom (hint: it's ninety-two). Your salary will depend on your level of education, the area of nuclear science you decide to pursue, and how much hands-on experience you have in the field.
If you're a project manager at a national laboratory, you're going to be making bank, but if you're just some part-time technician, we're going to hope you've got a respectable side job to help make ends meet.
In 2010, the average salary for someone working in nuclear science (with bonuses and possible profit sharing) was a little over a hundred grand—$70,000 on the low end of the scale and $140,000 on the high end (source).
For a recent college grad, even that low amount ain't chump change. But for someone supporting a family of five, acquiring the skills, training, or education to move forward much faster is probably worth the time and effort—and will make the difference come payday.
Job location also figures into it. If you're in one of the big nuclear meccas like Washington, D.C. (home to science centers), Boston (major hospitals and research centers), or Albuquerque (Los Alamos National Laboratory), you're easily pulling down six figures or more (source). Less-renowned locales mean less-rewarded research and development.
The good news is even walking through the door you're going to be making almost double the national average (source). So even if you never split an atom, you'll still never have to split rent with your parents. We call that a big success.