Radiation protection technicians guard against contamination at a variety of facilities. Careful attention to detail and scientific knowledge are some of the traits needed to perform this job. Read on to discover if a career as a radiation protection technician is for you.
Radiation protection technicians ensure the safety of workers, citizens and the environment from the hazards of radiation overexposure. A radiation protection technician's job is to monitor radiation levels and to take action to prevent dangerous exposure. These professionals, also called health physics technicians and nuclear monitoring technicians, also make sure nuclear facilities comply with applicable regulations. Radiation protection technicians work in the nuclear power industry, medical facilities, universities, government agencies, research reactors and hazardous waste removal firms. This career should not be confused with radiation technicians, who treat cancer and other diseases with radiation.
Working as a radiation protection technician, you'll determine how long workers can safely be exposed to radiation based upon site readings. Your job includes the maintenance and calibration of instruments and protective equipment. You'll take environmental samples to check for radiation levels. You might train workers in radiation safety plans and show them how to wear protective gear. Your job duties might include recommending decontamination plans based upon the extent of detected contamination.
You need a high school diploma or GED to become a radiation protection technician. Radiation protection technicians typically receive on-the-job training or earn an associate's degree before taking a credentialing exam.
PayScale.com reported that most health physics technicians earned between $41,343 and $91,215 as of January 2012. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), radiation protection technicians earned a median yearly salary of $69,056 as of April 2007 (www.nei.org). The NEI said ample job opportunities are expected in the nuclear power field due to industry growth, energy demands and employee retirements.
To become a radiation protection technician, it's recommended that you earn an associate's degree in radiation protection technology, nuclear energy technology or health physics. A degree program may include both classroom studies and hands-on experience. You can expect to study nuclear physics, decontamination methods, radiation detection equipment, environmental radiation, contamination control, reactor architecture, emergency plans and computers. Other training options you might consider for this career are military service or a union apprenticeship.
You'll face a pre-employment background check if applying for a job at a nuclear energy plant. Some nuclear power plants also require an aptitude test before hiring you.
The National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists (NRRPT) gives a professional credential and registers technicians who have demonstrated competency (www.nrrpt.org). Some employers demand NRRPT registration for new hires, job promotions and pay raises. To be eligible to take the NRRPT credentialing exam, you must possess a high school diploma or GED and have at least five years of work experience. You are allowed to substitute formal training and education for up to two years of work experience.