Dosimetrist: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements
Do you have an aptitude for math, physics and biology? Are you comfortable working with technology and as part of a team? Does radiation therapy interest you as a potential medical career? If so, you may consider becoming a dosimetrist. Read on for more information about the career, job outlook and education needed for dosimetrists. Schools offering Cardiovascular Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What is a Dosimetrist?
A dosimetrist is a medical specialist who determines what dosage of radiation cancer patients should receive. Your duties as a dosimetrist include measuring radiation doses, consulting with radiation therapists and radiation oncologists on treatment plans and ways of limiting radiation exposure, monitoring the effectiveness of treatment and keeping treatment records. Your medical training needs to include knowledge of brachytherapy and the proper use of radiation equipment and technology.
You must be able to work independently and have a good understanding of rules regarding radiation safety. You'll need strong computer skills as well as a working knowledge of calculus, trigonometry and algebra. The ability to visualize objects in three-dimensional forms will help you in your work.
Where Will I Work?
General hospitals, cancer treatment centers, outpatient clinics, medical schools and physicians' offices are your likely employers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that approximately 15,200 people worked as radiation therapists in 2008 (www.bls.gov). Employment in radiation treatment positions was projected to grow 27% to about 19,400 between 2008 and 2018 due to a growing elderly population, falling costs and improved treatment effectiveness.
According to Payscale.com, dosimetrists' salaries ranged between $70,203 and $117,609 a year in June 2011. Cancer research centers had an average starting salary of $58,052 a year for dosimetrists.
What Training Do I Need?
A bachelor's degree in radiation therapy or in radiologic technology provides you with good training to work as a dosimetrist. These programs cover subjects such as radiation physics, radiation biology, imaging techniques and safety methods. Many allow you to specialize in dosimetry. Through a combination of classroom instruction and clinical work, you'll learn how to provide safe, effective patient care. You'll also develop analytical skills and competence in planning treatments.
Upon completion of your degree, you may want to consider a certificate program. These 12-to 18-month programs provide further instruction in cancer biology, treatment planning, dosimetry physics and brachytherapy. It also includes a number of clinical rotations to give you hands-on lab and patient experience.
Once you've gained enough experience, you may want to consider certification from The Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board. You'll need to meet eligibility requirements and pass a nine-part examination. You'll need a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, two years of supervised dosimetry experience and 12 hours of continuing education credits.
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