Why We Should Push Students to Pursue a Career in Energy —...

Why We Should Push Students to Pursue a Career in Energy — Not in Hoop Dreams


In today’s society, we encourage our children to shoot hoops like Lebron James, bounce like Beyoncé, spit verses like Lil Wayne or T.I., or dominate the box office like Halle Berry. However, do we encourage our children to become the next Ralph Cleveland? Probably not. More than likely you’re asking yourself, “Who is Ralph Cleveland?” Well, he’s a mechanical engineer who currently serves as the Chairman of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), a national association of energy professionals founded and dedicated to ensure the input of African Americans and other minorities into the discussions and developments of energy policies, regulations, R&D technologies, and environmental issues.

You see while we encourage our children to pursue their hoop dreams in the NBA or ambitions to move to Hollywood, we need to consider encouraging them to pursue a career in nuclear energy, one of the most financially rewarding and stimulating career fields in the United States. Within nuclear energy, our children will be able to seek the same prestige and success as the other career paths, while positively enhancing public health, safety, and our environment.

At a time when unemployment is high for African-American and Hispanics, nuclear energy is one of the fastest growing sectors to offer long-term, high-paying careers throughout the United States. Organizations like AABE and academic institutions like Lincoln University and South Carolina State University are advocates for minorities in energy, helping to establish academic programs and events to promote the exhilarating field. Why are institutions and organizations promoting career paths in nuclear energy?

Here are some statistics:

  • The Department of Energy projects that Americans will need 22% more electricity by 2035 but our current supply will not meet that rise in demand.
  • Careers in nuclear energy provide a skill set that is very unique with most individuals pursuing majors in math, physics, and engineering; while working on a variety of projects that may deal with waste disposal issues, transportation, power generation, and outage services to name a few.
  • For 2013 alone, the pay for a nuclear engineer is between $56,228 to $126,986 with the median pay at $79,138.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nuclear engineers earn on average $8,000 more than all other engineering disciplines, except petroleum engineers.
  • 35% of the current nuclear industry workforce may be eligible to retire within 5 years.
  • Over the past two years, the industry has provided opportunities for close to 20,000 workers to replace retirees and 6,000 to account for other attrition.

So, the next time your child tells you about how they’re going to be the next basketball star or reality star, expose them to the world of nuclear energy.


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