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Department of Energy Jobs: Availability, Salaries, & More

The United States Department of Energy is involved in a wide range of tasks related to energy production, energy conservation, and waste disposal. In fact, much of the work of the department is related to nuclear energy. Jobs with federal agencies like the Department of Energy are popular because of the job security, research budgets, and often strong salaries that come with the roles. In particular, Department of Energy jobs offer men and women the opportunity to be engaged in work that is exciting, rewarding, and important both on a national and an international level.

What Is the Department of Energy?

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The United States Department of Energy, or DOE for short, is a cabinet-level department of the Government of the United States. Although the specific tasks of the department will be addressed in greater detail later, this federal department is concerned with various policies and management activities related to energy in the United States. The Department of Energy is headed by the United States Secretary of Energy, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The department is based out of Washington, D.C. although there are numerous laboratories nationwide.


In fact, much of the work of the Department of Energy is conducted through its system of national laboratories and technology centers. These laboratories are a direct result of the great research work that came out of the U.S. war effort in the 1940s. Much of the work of the national laboratories is related to nuclear technology or nuclear waste, although other aspects of energy management in the United States are also covered. There are seventeen national laboratories operated by the United States Department of Energy:


  • Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa
  • Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York
  • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois
  • Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico
  • National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Morgantown, West Virginia; and Albany, Oregon
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington
  • Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey
  • Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Livermore, California
  • Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California
  • Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia

The national laboratories were not always administered by the Department of Energy. The laboratories were first administered by the Atomic Energy Commission and later the Energy Research and Development Administration, and finally the DOE. The oldest of the national laboratories is the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California, which dates to 1931. At present, the Department of Energy is headed by Rick Perry, who was formerly Governor of Texas.


It may come as a surprise to some that the United States Department of Energy actually grew out of the efforts of the Manhattan Project in World War II. The Manhattan project was the effort to create an atomic bomb. The project had some input from the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Atomic Energy Commission was created immediately after the war, in 1946, to supervise nuclear energy projects.  Although the Atomic Energy Commission no longer exists, it gave way to some important organizations, including:

  • Energy Research and Development Administration
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Department of Energy

The Department of Energy was founded by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, a few years after the Oil Crisis of 1973. The 1973 Oil Crisis was an oil embargo directed against several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, due to political events at the time. The main result of the oil embargo was that the cost of oil quadrupled from about $3 a barrel to $12. This placed increased importance on energy, as an area of federal concern, and eventually led to the foundation of the Department of Energy, into which the Energy Research and Development Administration, along with a few other bureaus, was consolidated.


Although nuclear energy, which was the primary focus of the predecessor agencies of the Department of Energy, remains an important area of concern, the department is involved in several other areas, including solar energy. The National Renewal Energy Laboratory is involved in research with solar and other renewable sources of energy, and it operates programs in conjunction with the department to encourage the use of solar energy as a renewable energy alternative to oil and other fossil fuel energy sources.


The department has faced its fair share of controversy. It should not come as a surprise that there is some measure of secrecy associated with nuclear technology, both as it pertains to nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons. This necessitates that workers, especially those involved in the nuclear weapons side of things, are able to keep classified information classified. Alleged leaks of information to foreign rivals have garnered national attention. It is important that future workers in Department of Energy jobs understand the importance of confidentiality.


As mentioned, the Department of Energy is not only involved in nuclear energy work. Future workers in Department of Energy jobs can work in various sites and capacities, depending on their own area of training, skills, or the needs of the department. The department is involved in the following areas pertaining to the national energy needs and interests of the United States:

  • Production of nuclear reactors for the Navy
  • National nuclear weapons program
  • Domestic energy conservation and production
  • Energy research and renewable energy
  • Human Genome Project and other genomics initiatives
  • Radioactive waste disposal

Department of Energy Jobs and Salaries

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One of the great things about the United States DOE is that it offers positions in a wide variety of roles and workers in Department of Energy jobs can expect to work with professionals and administrative personnel in a wide range of disciplines. A small sample of Department of Energy jobs includes the following positions:

  • Accountant
  • Budget Analyst
  • Civil Engineer
  • Energy Project Specialist
  • General Engineer
  • Internet Technology (Computer Specialist
  • Geologist
  • Physical Scientist
  • Materials Engineer

It should not come as a surprise that many of the positions involve fields in science and engineering, like chemists and chemical engineers, physical scientists, geologists, and materials engineers. There professionals would be expected at an agency whose work is focused on new ways to conserve energy, on waste disposal, on renewable energy, and on the day-to-day operations and research associated with nuclear energy technology.


The salaries for Department of Energy jobs will vary based on a number of factors, not least of which is the specific title and requirements for the role. As previously mentioned, workers in Department of Energy jobs are involved both in professional occupations associated with advanced training as well as administrative roles and more hands-on, in the trenches work. It is estimated that of the approximately 15,000 open positions in the department, about 40% are professionals with advanced degrees and training, with most of the rest being workers in administrative roles.


In terms of the day-to-day work of employees in Department of jobs, this will naturally vary by the role, but much of the management and operation of facilities owned by the department is undertaken by workers in these Department of Energy jobs. Some department facilities may be operated by contractors, with DOE workers responsible only for the management and administration. Other facilities and offices are directly operated by the department and staffed by its employees.


As an example of a position for which there are Department of Energy jobs available is Materials Engineer. Pay for roles is standardized across federal agencies with salary falling within a range. The range for Material Engineers across all federal agencies is $87,252 to $113,428, which compares well with salaries for these professionals in other industries. Indeed, workers in Department of Energy Jobs may earn as much as or more than their colleagues in private industry.

How to Get a Job at the Department of Energy

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Men and women interested in Department of Energy jobs have a number of resources that they can use. Many jobs can be applied for online, just as one would when applying for work at private companies or other organizations. Typical workers at the department and other federal departments are required to meet certain qualifications in order to be considered for the role. These qualifications encompass the area of education (minimum degree held), experience, knowledge, and occasionally possession of a professional license or certificate.

Conclusion

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Department of Energy jobs are open to workers who are interested in the exciting and important work of addressing our nation’s energy needs. Workers at the department come from a variety of backgrounds, with nearly half of the workers being professionals engaged in a number of occupations necessary to the department’s work. With the promise of stable employment and a wide number of locations nationwide to choose from, the Department of Energy represents an attractive career choice for many.


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