In the Classroom

Career Opportunities in Radiation Safety

National Demand for Radiation Protection Technologists Expands

Photo courtesy of US DOEThe US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job opportunities in this area are growing as employers encounter difficulty hiring enough radiation protection technologists. As the existing technician workforce nears retirement age, nuclear facilities are competing with other segments of the industry for qualified employees for laboratories, hospitals, and electric utilities. The Health Physics Society concluded in a recent study that the present demand for radiation safety professional is approximately 130% of supply and over the next five years demand will outpace supply by 160%.

A great number of new jobs will be found in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and diagnostic imaging centers. In this setting, radiologic technologists and technicians take x rays and administer diagnostic procedures. They specialize in diagnostic imaging technologies such as computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Radiologic technologists and technicians, also referred to as radiographers, produce x ray films (radiographs) of the human body for use in diagnosing medical problems. Radiographers who operate machines that use strong magnets and radio waves, rather than radiation, to create an image are called MRI technologists. Radiologic technologists and technicians must follow physicians’ orders precisely and conform to regulations concerning the use of radiation to protect themselves, their patients, and their coworkers from unnecessary exposure.

Seventy percent of the total demand for radiation protection technologists will come from the Department of Energy and the nuclear power industry, according to the “Nuclear Pipeline Analysis” study completed by the Nuclear Energy Institute. These additional jobs will be the result of retirements of existing professionals.

Numerous reports show that job opportunities are expected to be numerous. In just three years, the pool of contractor radiation protection technicians has declined from 2000 to 1100. Shortages of technologists may inspire efforts by prospective employers to attract and retain new hires. As an example of such efforts, employers may provide more flexible training programs or improve compensation and working conditions. Hospitals, colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and the U.S. Armed Forces offer preparation in this vocation.

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