Exposure to radiation can have devastating health effects. Radiation safety officers are the professionals who are tasked with ensuring the wellbeing of employers who work in organizations that are authorized to use radioactive materials. If you are passionate about protecting other people, this is a career you could enjoy.
What Do Radiation Safety Officers Do?
The primary duties of radiation safety officers include:
- Creating policies that govern the use of radioactive materials
- Maintaining all records pertaining to the use, transportation and disposal of radioactive materials
- Advising workers on the proper use of radioactive materials
- Investigating spills and other radiological accidents
- Making sure all workers interacting with radioactive materials are properly trained
- Ensuring all activities are executed in compliance with radiation protection laws and regulations.
Radiation safety officers typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. In organizations that run day and night, such as manufacturing firms, RSOs work on a shift basis.
Although RSOs compile reports in their offices, they spend most of their time inspecting facilities and monitoring the activities of workers.
During radiation emergencies, they wear personal protective equipment to eliminate the risk of exposure to radiation.
The following table highlights the average annual salary for RSOs:
Radiation Safety Officer
Education and Training
To become a radiation safety officer, you must have a solid background in physics, chemistry and mathematics. You will then need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nuclear and radiological engineering or radiation protection.
Examples of institutions offering a degree in these fields include:
- Thomas Edison State College, New Jersey
- Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia
- University of Massachusetts Lowell, Massachusetts
It is also possible to get started with a degree in medical physics, radiation therapy or applied mathematics.
If you are currently practicing as a laboratory technician, you can enter the profession through a short-term radiation safety officer training course offered by the Harvard School of Public Health
All aspiring RSOs must be licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency. To obtain the license, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have at least a bachelor’s degree
- Possess at least one year of experience working under a medical physicist or any other qualified professional
- Pass a written examination
Apart from the radiological knowledge, what else do you need to become a competent RSO? You need:
- Strong analytical skills
- The ability to pay close attention to details
- Good record keeping skills
- The ability to recognize radiation warning signs
- Good problem-solving skills
- Good policy-making skills
- A good level of physical fitness
- The ability to stay calm when working under pressure
After getting employed, you will undergo a period of intensive on-the-job training to improve your competence.
Thereafter, complete the following steps to heighten your career advancement prospects:
- Pursue a master’s degree in radiation safety
- Join professional associations, such as the International Radiation Protection Association and the American College of Radiology
The employers of radiation safety officers include:
- Medical facilities
- Radiological laboratories
- Nuclear power plants
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies
With vast experience and a master’s degree, you can advance to become a facility manager. Besides, you could move into self-employment by establishing a radiation safety consulting company. Teaching opportunities are also available in universities for PhD holders.
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide projections for RSOs, you can expect to have strong employment prospects. For instance, the increasing interest in nuclear energy will definitely increase the demand for RSOs in nuclear power plants. Other fields that require RSOs, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, are also rapidly expanding.
So if you are interested in creating a safe working environment for employees in radiological facilities, this is the job for you.
Image: EPP Group