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From the Publisher Welcome to this preview from the newest entry in our TechCareers series: Radiation Protection Technology. From scientists to doctors to pharmacologists, the science industry is discovering more and exciting uses for radiation to help improve lives. The radiation field is constantly changing as better equipment is designed and technological advances create new devices to save lives and progress science. As new discoveries of radiation use are made in areas such as nuclear power, X-rays and MRIs, Radiation Protection Technologists (RPTs), or health physicists, ensure that no harm is done to the environment or the public. Features in Radiation Technology Protection include (as do all the TechCareers titles): x x x

A three-part structure consisting of career overview and pathways, necessary education and certifications (including sample degree plans), and listings of RPT programs around the country; Numerous profiles of RPT students, instructors, technicians in the field, and employers; and Additional suggested websites and other sources of industry information.

New to this title in the TechCareers series, however, is additional free digital ancillary—including videos and additional suggested resources—through mobile web pages accessible from the printed version via QR codes and enabled hyperlinks in the ebook. All of us at TSTC Publishing feel “hybrid” books—also known as “transmedia” publications—integrating printed pages with mobile web pages are the next logical step in the transformation of publishing, especially in higher education. To that end, we are very fortunate to be partnering with Immediatag in Austin, TX, to produce this web-based content. If you have questions or comments, we would greatly appreciate your feedback (email us at ) and look forward to hearing from you. And, of course, feel free to visit the TechCareers website, on Facebook, and Twitter for the latest news and developments!

Mark Long Publisher TSTC Publishing


Radiation Protection Technology Shayla Crane and Mike Jones


© 2012 TSTC Publishing ISBN 978-1-934302-92-7 (softback) ISBN 978-1-936603-14-5 (ebook) All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any portion thereof in any form. Requests for such permissions should be addressed to: TSTC Publishing Texas State Technical College Waco 3801 Campus Drive Waco, Texas 76705

Publisher: Mark Long Editor: Ana Wraight Art director: Stacie Buterbaugh Graphics specialist: Grace Arsiaga Marketing: Sheila Boggess Sales: Wes Lowe Office coordinator: Melanie Peterson Printing production: Data Reproductions

Manufactured in the United States of America First edition

Publisher’s Cataloging-in-Publication (Provided by Quality Books, Inc.) Crane, Shayla. Radiation protection technology / Shayla Crane & Mike Jones -- 1st ed. p. cm. -- (TechCareers) Includes index. ISBN 978-1-934302-92-7 (softback) ISBN 978-1-936603-14-5 (ebook) 1. Radiation chemistry--Industrial applications-Vocational guidance. 2. Radiation--Safety measures. I. Title. II. Series: TechCareers. TP249.C73 2012

660’.2982 QBI12-600006

Table of Contents



CHAPTER ONE: Radiation Protection Technology Careers


RPT Overview 2 Industry Overview 16 Employment Outlook 25 Job Duties 31 Salary Ranges 34 Work Schedules 36 Necessary Skill Sets 39 Conclusion 44 CHAPTER TWO: Education and Certification


Certifications 53 Associate of Applied Science Degree 57 Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degrees Tuition and Fees 78 Conclusion 82


CHAPTER THREE: Additional Information and Resources Higher Education Programs in the United States Online Resources 107 Index



111 iii



About the Authors


About TSTC Publishing


TechCareers Series


Commonly Used Abbreviations


American Board of Health Physicists


American Board of Radiology


Atomic Energy Commission


American Registry of Radiologic Technologists


Advanced Technical Certificate


Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs


Computerized Axial Tomography


Certified Health Physicist


Council for International Organization of Medical Sciences


Decontaminating and Decommissioning


Environmental Health and Safety


Environmental Protection Agency


The European Atomic Forum


Hazardous Materials


Health Physics Research Reactor


Health Physics Society


International Atomic Energy Agency


Institute of Nuclear Power Operation


Licensed Medical Physicist


Magnetic Resonance Imaging


Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board


Nuclear Regulatory Commission


National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists


Occupational Employment Statistics


Occupational Outlook Handbook


Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education


Oak Ridge National Laboratory v




Positron Emission Tomography


Radiation Protection Division


Radiation Protection Technologist


Radiation Safety OfďŹ cer


Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography


Texas State Technical College


World Health Organization


Radiation Protection Technology Careers

Nuclear energy has become an integral part of everyday modern life. Whether producing electricity to power appliances, using microwaves to cook food faster, or perhaps one day discovering a cure for diseases such as cancer or the common cold, radiation plays and will continue to play an integral role in our daily lives. Alongside the doctors and scientists who strive to discover new uses for radiation, another group of people works to ensure human and environment safety: radiation protection technologists (RPTs). RPTs constantly monitor areas in different facilities for the potential exposure to the environment or general public. They design safe work places, inspect nuclear machinery and safety devices, and test air quality. They also work with government ofďŹ cials to develop federal guidelines that all companies using any form of radiation must abide. Though radiation and nuclear power have many beneďŹ ts, there also are many negative effects associated with the use of radiation. RPTs protect the world from industries inadvertently damaging the air supply or ecosystem with radiation gas emissions by monitoring how much actually is released at a speciďŹ c time. They are in charge of guaranteeing the safety of all involved and of creating solutions to any existing or potential problems.




If you have a passion for science and technology, as well as the environment and human health, you should consider radiation protection technology. With so many advances in different areas including nuclear science, medical science, and environmental science, the need for RPTs is increasing significantly.

RPT Overview Discovering new wonders has been a goal of the human race from the very beginning, whether it was the discovery of fire or the discovery of the atom. Around 500 B.C., Democritus claimed the world was made up of small particles similar in shape, but made up of different components. He called these particles atomos, which means indivisible. When researchers discovered atoms many centuries later, not only did they find the building blocks of matter, but they also opened the way for the development of new equipment and methods to explore and heal the human body. Fast forward several centuries, the discovery of atoms led to the first use of radiation to photograph ; LEARN MORE the human skeleton. In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen was at the University of Wurzburg – continuing the work of his predecessors involving cathode rays – when he stumbled upon what he would later name X-rays. During an experiment with a cathode Scan the code or visit tube, Roentgen noticed a photographic plate in his lab glowed whenever the current ran through the glass tube. Further tests revealed he was not dealing with cathode rays, but something entirely different. For lack of a better name, he called the new, unknown ray X. He later produced the first X-ray photograph, using his wife’s hand. Instead of flesh, the image showed the bones inside her hand, supposedly prompting her famous quote, “I have seen my death.”


Profile: Josh Wilder, Senior Health Physics Specialist Josh Wilder is not a Texas native. He grew up in Crystal River, Florida, before moving with his parents to Texas. After graduating from Glen Rose High School, he entered the field of carpentry, working on contracts. During one of his jobs, Wilder discovered his interest in radiation protection. He was working as a contract carpenter at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Somervell County, Texas. While he was at the power plant, Wilder observed the RPTs performing their jobs and found the work very interesting. Wilder turned to his family for advice when it came to switching careers. His father had been working in the radiation protection field for many years. One day, Wilder sat down with his father, who was formerly an RPT and an RPT manager, and asked him what he needed to do to follow his footsteps. That conversation was all he needed to get started in an exciting career. Wilder then researched Texas colleges and universities with degrees in radiation protection technology in area. His research led him to Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco, Texas, where he majored in Environmental Safety with a specialization in Health Physics. During his time at TSTC Waco, he learned the multiple skills and background knowledge he found necessary to help him through his current career in radiation protection. Wilder explains, “I learned instrument theory, instrument calibration, interactions, and how to use all of the formulas I still use in the field today.” He realized, though, there were multiple other skills he would have to achieve before being able to do his work properly. “I had to qualify on performing job coverage, pulling an air sample, performing a radiation survey, controlling movement of radioactive materials, issuing respiratory equipment, and evaluating air samples.” Most of the skills he learned on the job, but he recommends others have a basic knowledge of these situations before they are forced to learn by jumping in unprepared. Wilder finds the job as a tech highly rewarding. “I greatly enjoy that the work is constantly changing. Each environment is different from the last. One day I may be responding to a radioactive shipping




accident and working to contain the situation, while another day I will be performing a radiation survey to determine if an area is unsafe or out of regulation standards.” Along with a constantly changing environment, Wilder loves making a difference in people’s lives. “Not only do I get to work in a different environment from day to day, but I get to do it while protecting the public and my fellow workers.” Being able to save lives is something most RPTs admit is the best part of their job, regardless of what they do each day. He advises anyone who asks him to consider entering the field of radiation protection if “they have a strong interest in health physics or with working to keep the general public safe from the nasty effects radiation can have on anyone who is unknowingly exposed to it. You get to save many lives, even if they don’t always realize someone is protecting them.” He also explains those interested should get into the field soon. “I see the RPT field and basically any job in the nuclear industry growing very fast in the next few years. Most of this growth is due to the construction of new plants and an aging workforce. A majority of the people I work with are getting closer to the retirement age, and there aren’t a lot of people entering the field.” Wilder currently works at the VD Summer Nuclear Plant in Columbia, South Carolina, as a senior health physics specialist. At the Summer Nuclear Plant, he works in field operations. His main job in field operations is to prevent errors during maintenance and testing and to clean up any mistakes. Wilder is very excited about the job he does and plans on continuing in the field for a while. “I find my job very satisfying. I work with a lot of great people, and they appreciate what I do.”

Shortly after the discovery of the X-ray, Henri Becquerel began an experiment to see if X-rays were connected to phosphorescent occurrences in nature. He used uranium in his experiments, placing the element near a photographic plate wrapped in dark, opaque paper. When he then developed the plates, he found the uranium had produced


a strong, clear image, rather than the faint imprint he had expected. Because it had not been exposed to the sun at the time, Becquerel deduced the uranium was producing its own energy emissions, which would later be called radiation. He also worked with Marie Curie and her husband Pierre on radioactive atoms, leading to the discovery of other radioactive elements. Ernest Rutherford took the work of Becquerel and the Curies and furthered it by discovering that the atomos, or atoms, were made up of smaller particles: protons, neutrons, and electrons. His findings led him to believe the transfer of neutrons from one atom to another was possible, thus creating isotopes, which are atoms with the same atomic number (which is determined by the number of electrons), but a different number of neutrons. The discovery of isotopes is an important ; LEARN MORE discovery for modern medicine. Isotopes can be digested and tracked throughout the body’s systems. For instance, they can show the way biochemical and metabolic processes are working in the body, Scan the code or visit which then allows doctors to determine if any diseases or other health problems are present within a patient. Through Roentgen’s discovery, radiation also helps doctors determine if there are any fractures in bones or foreign items within the human body. In addition, radiation has been used as an active component in fighting diseases, especially in aggressive cancers. Radiation is used in other areas besides the medical field. Rutherford’s discovery of isotopes led to the invention of carbon dating. Carbon dating is a form of radioactive dating that measures the amount of carbon-14 within an organism. After an organism dies, it no longer produces carbon-14 but begins to release it. Therefore, as carbon-14 has a set rate of decay,however much is left in the organism in comparison to its amount of carbon-12 – which does not decay but remains constant – helps scientists to determine the age of a given organism up to 60,000 years. Anthropologist and archaeologists often use carbon dating to determine the age




of artifacts and fossils, which then allows them to determine the history of life on earth, both human and animal.

Profile: John C. White, Radiation Safety Officer John White grew up in Texas, spending a majority of his life in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After graduating from a Fort Worth high school in 1966, he attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where he double majored in biology and physics. His initial interest in radiation safety stemmed from volunteering as an assistant in a Nuclear Medicine department, where he received hands-on training and learned everything he needed to know to start his career. White explains, “My career path was a very general ‘River of Life’ path. I started out as a Laboratory Assistant in Radiobiology. From there I moved to Nuclear Medicine and later to Nuclear Effects Engineering. After my transition from Nuclear Effects Engineering to Reactor Health Physics, I discovered my real passion for radiation protection. My work in Nuclear Medicine and Reactor Health Physics led to me working in Radiation Safety.” White is currently the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) and Assistant Director at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where part of his job includes hiring recent graduates, primarily from TSTC. “I also oversee all radiation safety activities involving radioactive materials, including emergency response for University of Texas Southwestern, Parkland Memorial Hospital, Children’s Medical Center, and Saint Paul and Zale Lipshy University Hospitals. In total, these locations make up a total of 2,500 beds.” White is also the chair of the North Texas Radiation Response Group. Though White received most of his training in the lab, school taught him some other very important skills he would need in order to succeed in his job. White learned “the ability to write, to present, to lead and make quality decisions, and to account for [his] expenses and actions.” White finds the very basic abilities the most valuable. “These abilities allow me to sound like I know what I’m doing and give people confidence in what I’m telling them. Of course, I also have to know what I’m talking about, so knowledge of my field’s


requirements and regulations is highly important,” explains White. As with many jobs, White quickly discovered in order to succeed in his career, he would have to master the basics of using a computer. He then also had to master “the mathematics of accounting, using online resources for information, and the ability to write and make presentations professionally.” Later, he learned how to use data processing as well. “I found I also had to learn multiple social skills with persons of similar interests and the value of respecting others’ skill sets.” Besides the basic usage of skills and equipment, White believes it is important to be a well-rounded person when entering any field. White travels from multiple locations between hospitals to help make a difference in the lives of others. Being able to help people is one of the top reasons why techs enjoying working in radiation protection. “I get to meet a lot of people, whether I’m working with them or helping them through a situation where radiation is involved. I love the feeling of making a difference in protecting millions of people. It feels great once you get to save just one person; imagine how it feels to get to save a million more.” When considering the future employment outlook for his chosen career field, White believes individuals will easily find work as soon as they receive the necessary certification and education. “The employment outlook for the field of radiation safety is excellent. New nuclear power plants are being planned all the time, and they will be built. There is nothing that should stop someone from finding an exciting career in this field. If you are flexible in your location, it will be extremely easy to find a job you enjoy as the field expands and previous techs turn toward retirement.” White recommends a career in radiation protection to anyone who is interested in radiation and looks for a rewarding career. He also advises students and those interested in the field be aware that education does not end after school. “If you are thinking about becoming involved in radiation protection or safety, do not abandon education after graduation. Education never ends. There is always something more to learn, and you will not be sorry for learning things you enjoy or that will help you succeed in life.”




Nuclear power plants also use radiation to produce electricity. Long gone are the days when people lit candles in order to see in the dark, and now electricity is no longer only powered by coal, oil, or natural gases. Instead, scientists have learned how to harness the power of nuclear fission – the splitting of an atom – and uranium in order to create electricity to power the everyday appliances of a home, from TVs to lamps to laptops all over the world. There are many negative effects, however, naturally associated with the use of radiation, ; LEARN MORE affecting humans and the environment alike. While radiation may be used to cure cancer, too much exposure can cause cancer as well. For instance, Nobel Prize winner and scientist Marie Curie died of leukemia thought to have been caused from Scan the code or visit her extensive radiation exposure. Thomas Edison’s assistant died from a radiation-induced tumor, which came as the result of too much X-ray exposure. Two participants of the Manhattan Project in the late 1940s, Harry K. Daghlian, Jr., and Louis Slotin, both died in criticality accidents involving the same plutonium core, sometimes referred to as the Demon Core. There were other incidents involving women unknowingly swallowing small, and eventually lethal, amounts of radium when they would use it to paint watch faces to make them glow in the dark. In 1915, the first movement toward radiation protection appeared in Britain through the British Roentgen Society, which developed regulations to help minimize instances of overexposure to X-rays in particular. By 1922, Americans also adopted Britain’s rules in regards to radiation protection, allowing for growth in education and awareness of the effects of radiation. Over the next twenty years, more guidelines were created as well as more groups and associations to protect against radiation throughout the United States and in overseas countries. Until the 1940s, radiation protection was in the hands of the scientists, with little to no government intervention. The government did not become involved until after World War II, a time period which included the development of nuclear


reactors and the atomic bomb. With the potential dangers of nuclear energy becoming more relevant, the United States federal government established polices to protect humans against radiation exposure. Congress established the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1946 with the Atomic Energy ; LEARN MORE Act, replacing it eight years later with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which made commercial development of nuclear energy possible for the first time. The 1954 legislation tasked the AEC Scan the code or visit with encouraging and regulating the use of nuclear power. The idea was to assure public health and safety without imposing restrictions that would slow the growth of the industry. The use of nuclear materials to produce electrical power, as well as its applications in other areas of industry such as medical and research applications, presented the possibility of unknown dangers to workers or members of the general public who could inadvertently be exposed to hazardous radiation levels. The Federal Radiation Council was established in 1959. The council’s responsibilities included informing the president on radiological issues concerning public health, helping federal agencies create and follow radiation protection standards, and working with States in regards to radiation issues. Within a few short years, critics were claiming the AEC’s regulations were not strict enough in several important areas and too strict in others, including reactor safety and environmental protection. By the mid-1970s, the agency’s activities had become so controversial that Congress decided to discontinue it. Supporters and critics of nuclear power agreed that the regulatory and business development duties of the commission should be assigned to different agencies, and the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 created the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Both the AEC and the NRC published radiation standards that incorporated all available scientific information and the best judgment of leaders in nuclear technology research and development. Because questions persisted about the hazards




of exposure to low levels of radiation, the continuously evolving standards remained the subject of active debate. The overriding concern of the NRC’s regulatory programs was prevention of a major reactor accident that would endanger the health and safety of American citizens. Both the NRC and the AEC – before it issued strict operational requirements – were designed to prevent accidents that could release massive amounts of radiation from a power reactor. As the number and size of plants being built increased through the early 1970s, reactor safety became the subject of furious debates over the safety and reliability of emergency systems, quality assurance, and ways of minimizing the probabilities of major accidents. In March of 1979, an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear facility in Pennsylvania melted ; LEARN MORE about half of the reactor’s core and changed the nature of the debates regarding nuclear power for future generations. After widespread fear that massive radioactive contamination had occurred, Scan the code or visit NRC officials concluded there had been no release of dangerous radiation. The incident nevertheless confirmed that improved nuclear regulation standards were essential. The NRC immediately required a much greater focus on operator training and began developing ways of minimizing “human factors” and the prevention of smaller equipment failures that could escalate


into severe accidents like that at Three Mile Island. Renewed emphasis was placed on emergency planning, plant operating histories, and other matters. While reactor safety remained a high-profile area of concern for the NRC, the commission also devoted substantial resources to other complex questions, such as protecting nuclear materials from being stolen, lost, or diverted. This concern increased as Americans became increasingly aware that nuclear materials might be obtained by terrorists or nations wishing to develop their own atomic weapons. As the nuclear energy industry became more advanced and ubiquitous, the NRC devoted a great deal of attention to the safe management of high-level and low-level radioactive waste. It also exercised its limited duties in the field of radiation medicine by remaining actively involved in medical research and regulation to assure equipment safety and quality for patients receiving doses of radiation as part of their treatment. A few years after the Three Mile Island incident, ; LEARN MORE the potential dangers of radiation technology once again hit the front pages of newspapers around the world. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine had been one of the oldest and largest of its kind during the 1980s, with four 1000-megawatt Scan the code or visit reactors. On April 26, 1986, a few seconds into a systems test, explosions ripped through one of the reactors, blowing its half-ton steel top off and subsequently releasing massive quantities of dangerous radioactive material with a huge fireball. A couple of plant workers died within a few hours of the explosions, and over one hundred other employees were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation, nearly thirty of whom died within the next few months. In the days following the explosion, the extent of the radioactive exposure became apparent. The effected radius reportedly stretched over 58,000 square miles of land. The city of Pripyat, with a population of about 50,000, was soon evacuated, and the government established a restricted exclusion zone of thirty kilometers, or about nineteen miles.




Profile: Kenneth Krieger, RPT Instructor Kenneth Krieger teaches radiation protection technology at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Waco and is also the nuclear technologist coordinator. He was born in New York City, New York, and his family moved to Houston, Texas, in 1974, and he has lived in Texas ever since. Krieger graduated high school in 1978 from John Foster Dulles High School in Stafford, Texas, and then went to college at Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1986, graduating with degrees in Marine Biology and Marine Science. After graduation, he took a job with an industrial control instrumentation company, where he became interested in the radiation applications of the industry. After working there for about ten years, he went back to Texas A&M at College Station and graduated in 1999 with a master’s in health physics (also known as radiation safety). At the time of his graduation, he also received his certification in radiation protection as a Certified Health Physicist (CHP). His primary interest in radiation protection stemmed from his high school passion: science. Krieger explains, “In high school, I took every science class the school offered. When I later was introduced to radiation protection and found out it encompassed biology, chemistry, and physics, I was glad to know I could combine all the sciences into one area. While I was working as a technician at an industrial instrument company, I had a supervisor who was very educated about radiation. He kept feeding me information about the field, and I had to learn more. Since there were so many applications, there was a lot to learn, and I liked that as well.” Krieger discovered that before someone should start working in the field of radiation safety, “one has to have a good knowledge of the fundamentals of how radiation interacts and what it is. Many of the problems encountered in the field are not covered in the textbooks. You also have to be comfortable working around radiation. If you are working on a project and are nervous, that will project to the customer and make them wonder if this radiation stuff is bad. You have to be willing to explain what you are doing since many people do not understand radiation, and some will want to ask questions along the way.”


Once he started to work, he learned that every project he worked on built on previous projects, using similar skill sets and troubleshooting techniques. “I got better at problem solving the more times I saw things in the actual field. My people skills developed more as well. Most people go into scientific areas because they like the impartiality of science and the somewhat isolation it offers. However, I learned quickly if I wanted to get my ideas across to other people, I needed to learn to communicate better with them. I have to be able to explain things in several different ways in order to get certain concepts across to different types of people. These are things definitely learned along the way.” The thing he loves best about his career is the ability to pass on his knowledge, whether to students or professionals who just need a little more information. “I really enjoy seeing students understand a new concept or idea. You can really see the light bulbs going off over their heads.” Krieger believes when he teaches someone a new idea or concept, they will eventually pass it on to someone else, which makes the learning process grow exponentially. While there are some who are willing to learn and talk about different aspects of radiation safety, some refuse to be open to discussion. Krieger finds the people who are close-minded to radiation safety to be the least rewarding experience of the job. “If they aren’t open to discussion, it really frustrates me,” says Krieger. “They believe what they want to believe and will not even listen to your side. Many people cannot have a good conversation about nuclear topics due to the bias and misunderstanding many people have. It doesn’t make my job easier to inform the public when they refuse to listen.” He is glad there are some people who are still interested in talking about his field, especially when they want to enter the career themselves. As part of his current job, he informs high school students of the radiation protection field. Now is the time to enter the field for anyone interested because, according to Krieger, the number of jobs available will continue to grow in the next five to ten years. More than likely, those entering the field now will have a job waiting for them when they get out.




Besides talking to high school students and teaching at TSTC Waco, Krieger also owns his own health physics consulting company. He primarily teaches radiation safety to technicians and radiation safety officers, but he occasionally does special projects for people as they need them. He is also active in the local and national society for radiation protection professionals. Krieger does as much as he can in his career because he loves it.

The country still struggles to recover both emotionally and financially, and the evacuated survivors and residents of nearby cities and countries still face uncertainty regarding their health, particularly with the instability of the power plant’s nuclear core, which currently is housed in a crumbling sarcophagus. Over two decades later, the immediate vicinities of Chernobyl and Pripyat are still considered uninhabitable, though a few of the survivors returned to their homes. Cases of thyroid cancer, a usually rare but very treatable form of cancer, have reached abnormally high numbers throughout the region; birth defects among humans and animals have also been reported. More recently, a new wave of nuclear concerns affected the world. The March 2011 earthquake in ; LEARN MORE the Pacific Ocean resulted in a tsunami leveling large swaths of land in Japan and caused damage to the cool-down facilities at the nuclear power plant Fukushima Daiichi. The subsequent nuclear Scan the code or visit meltdown had government officials and workers, as well as the rest of the world, worried they might have another Chernobyl on their hands. Because of RPTs, the government took swift action. RPTs took charge of efforts to prevent a total nuclear meltdown at the plant and organized testing for radiation poisoning among the population, as well as established an exclusion zone. The full effects and consequences of the nuclear accident have not yet been determined, but with the help of RPTs, a Chernobyl-like disaster was averted.


The nuclear energy field is constantly working to improve standards to help prevents such as Fukushima Daiichi, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl. Today, in addition to its continued focus on ensuring reactor safety and overseeing reactor license renewals for existing plants, materials safety, tracking and licensing, and waste management, the NRC has been gearing up to begin evaluating applications for new nuclear plants. Other areas of activity include regulating and guiding nuclear licensees’ operational standards, establishing and maintaining regular communications between licensees and the commission, inspections, performance assessments and investigations, and high-level administrative and technical support in the form of research, performance, and risk assessment. The NRC actively maintains a large resource ; LEARN MORE database dedicated to both industry-specific and broad public relations and education regarding nuclear emergency preparedness. The commission staff holds regular public meetings, workshops, Scan the code or visit and conferences to raise awareness of subjects like the National Response Plan, the National Incident Management Plan, and response procedures for incidents of terrorism. The commission makes available a




veritable library of materials for both industry and the public, which includes Emergency Exercise Schedules, information on dirty bombs, emergency planning and preparedness for nuclear fuel facilities, nuclear power safety and security, and specific incidents such as the accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima Daiishi.

Industry Overview There are many career paths within the field of radiation protection. An RPT’s primary responsibility is to protect radiation workers, the general public, and the environment as a whole from the potential dangers of radiation exposure. The term RPT is a new addition to a long list of other titles for those in the career of radiation protection safety. Another commonly used title, which comes from a previous generation, is health physics technician. This title came from the physicists who, while working on the first atomic bomb, were primarily concerned with the health and safety of the workers constantly exposed to radiation. Over time, the title health physics technician expanded to include those who sought overall health protection. The technicians who dealt specifically with radiation protection were called either health physicist technicians or, more recently, RPT – a term often associated with those dealing with radiation. Health physicists create and enforce regulations and guidelines on emissions and the usage of radiation. They monitor levels of radioactivity throughout the environment and develop solutions if there is an abnormal amount in a specific area. There are those who deal with the amount of radiation exposure received by patients, workers and visitors in hospital or similar facilities. Since there are many different areas an RPT can work in, there are also many different types of titles that go along with the specific area of employment:


• • • • • • • • •

Nuclear medicine tech Health physicist Lab safety tech Health physicist technician Radiation safety officer Biomedical researcher Nuclear weapons physicist Medical physicist Environmental physicist

Many of these titles are specialized in a certain field of radiation protection. Specialization is a common aspect of being an RPT. The different areas an RPT can specialize in range from power reactors to medical, nuclear weapons to regulatory enforcement and occupational safety, and educational to environmental, specifically in decontaminating and decommissioning (D&D). While some RPTs generalize and work in multiple fields, many choose to work within a specific area. Generally within the broader category of Occupational Health and Safety and appearing on the peripheries of more encompassing areas of professional endeavor such as hazardous materials (HAZMAT) packaging and transport, biomedical equipment repair and maintenance,




radiopharmaceuticals manufacturing, and radiation protection equipment manufacturing, one finds the fairly specialized profession referred to as RPT. RPTs measure and record radiation levels, generally within the context of limiting the spread of contamination or verifying safe radiation levels. They play a vital role in ensuring the safety of employees, including training those who will be working in radioactive environments in the use of the equipment, personal protective equipment and emergency procedures. They may be called upon to participate in their facilities’ existing radiation equipment, and may be asked to assist in the installation of new equipment, setting performance benchmarks for equipment and personnel, and documenting the facility’s compliance with federal or state-mandated radiation protection requirements. RPT often list this specific training as one of their qualifications for a position as an occupational health and safety specialist, the education and training for which also includes practical and hands-on coursework in air and water standards, HAZMAT, confined-space entry, attendant and supervisory training, recognizing and evaluating a hazardous materials incidents and response options, and implementing control and containment measures. The radiation protection industry is looking for individuals who demonstrate strong mental faculties. Kenneth Krieger, instructor in the TSTC Radiation Protection program, explains, “RPT is another option for those students who love science and math. This work is all mental, having to figure out calculations in correlation to the protocol set out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” However, for those who fear their math skills may not be as strong as their science skills, Krieger reassures they can still go far in the industry. “As long as a student can do basic algebra, he or she will have the skills needed to succeed in this career.” One of the specialized fields is nuclear medicine technology. The U.S. Department of Labor describes a nuclear medicine technician as an individual who


“prepares, administers, and measures radioactive isotopes in therapeutic, diagnostic, and tracer studies using a variety of radioisotope equipment.” They also prepare “stock solutions of radioactive materials and calculate doses to be administered by radiologists.” Technicians also “subject patients to radiation, and are also qualified to execute blood volume, red cell survival, and fat absorption studies following standard laboratory techniques.” Diagnostic imaging (the term generally referring to the use of X-rays) constitutes a large portion of the nuclear medicine technologist’s traditional workload. However, today’s nuclear medicine embraces more advanced procedures, such as administering radiopharmaceuticals to patients and then monitoring the characteristics and functions of the target tissues or organs where the drugs are localized. Nuclear medicine differs from other diagnostic technologies because it determines whether disease is present based on metabolic changes, rather than changes in organ structure. Technologists explain test procedures to patients, prepare dosages of the necessary radiopharmaceuticals, and administer them to patients by mouth, injection, inhalation, or other means. Strictly adhering to all safety standards and keeping careful patient records, the technician positions the patient as needed and operates a gamma scintillation camera or “scanner,” which creates images of the distribution of the radiopharmaceuticals as they localize within the patient’s body. These images are recorded by computer for analysis by the physician. There are three specialties available to nuclear ; LEARN MORE medicine technologists: nuclear cardiology, computerized axial tomography (CAT) and positron emission tomography (PET). Nuclear cardiology targets heart functions, applying the imaging Scan the code or visit procedures to a patient who is actively stressing the heart with physical exercise during the imaging process. This provides doctors with a measurement of heart functions and blood flow. Technologists specializing in PET are trained to use a device which produces a 3-D image of the patient’s body, and those who administer CAT scans




are involved in helping to diagnose tumors, fractures, bony structures, and infections. Another specialization is radiologic imaging technologist and technician. The U.S. Department ; LEARN MORE of Labor describes radiologic imaging professionals as radiographers. Radiographers perform diagnostic imaging examinations like X-rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Scan the code or visit and mammography. The term radiographs refers to the films or computer printouts used by physicians to diagnose patient medical problems. CAT and PET scans produce a large amount of data in the form of cross-sectional X-rays that are assembled by computer into three-dimensional images of the area(s) being evaluated. Since CAT uses ionizing radiation, it requires the same radiation protection measures used with X-rays. PET scans are now frequently conducted alongside CAT or MRI scans, with the combination – called co-registration – providing doctors with information about both the structural and biological characteristics of the targeted areas. In addition to performing actual diagnostic procedures, radiologic technologists and technicians are required to keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. They also may prepare work schedules, evaluate purchases of equipment, or manage a radiology department. The information regarding work environments, training opportunities, certification and licensing, and opportunities for advancement is essentially the same for radiologic imaging technologists and technicians as that for nuclear medicine technologists. With experience and additional training and qualifications, staff technologists and technicians in any of these areas may become specialists performing CAT scanning, magnetic resonance, mammography, or bone densitometry – often related to diagnostic geriatrics and orthopedics. Many technologists also obtain the additional education and certification necessary to become a radiologist’s assistant. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers


specialty certification in many radiologic divisions as well as a credentialing for radiologist assistants. Biomedical research also uses radiation and nuclear medicine. Although many types of cancers have responded extremely well to radiation and nuclear medicine therapy over the past several decades, a large body of regulatory research and safeguards has grown up around the practice of exposing human beings to significant amounts of trace doses of penetrative diagnostic or therapeutic radiation or radiopharmaceuticals, either ingested or introduced into the body’s biological systems by other means. According to the Basic Safety Standards issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and guidelines for working with radioactive materials used by members of the United Nations and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), exposing human beings to radiation for purposes of medical research is not considered justified unless it is in accordance with the provisions of the Helsinki Declaration (a statement of ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects adopted globally in 1964); follows guidelines for its application prepared by Council for International Organization of Medical Sciences (CIOMS); and subject to analysis by an ethical review committee (or any other institutional body assigned similar functions by




national authorities) and to applicable national and local regulations. As a result, much of the basic experimental work using radioactive trace substances and ionizing radiation is usually done with animals in a laboratory setting. Most models are established as long-term studies of chemical, physiological and metabolic processes observable in the subject’s initial responses to the chemicals, as well as to determine the effects of updates or changes to the chemistries or dosages of the pharmaceuticals being evaluated. Since these experimental studies must necessarily be conducted or, at minimum, supervised by individuals with MD or PhD credentials and years of experience in all fields of medicine, any discussion of training and education objectives as prerequisite to “becoming” a biomedical researcher is superfluous. It can be said that when individuals – such as technicians, technologists or specialists – who work with radiation are considered as volunteers for research, steps must be taken to ensure that they are fully aware of the additional long-term risks to their health arising from their choice to add the experimental radiation to their day-to-day exposure on the job. Industrial RSOs are essentially broadly-trained individuals who must also have specific education and experience with the types and quantities of radioactive materials for which his or her employer is licensed to use in an industrial setting. The important job duties and the amount of authority with which RSOs are entrusted typically place them at a high supervisory level within the company’s organizational structure. The United States NRC believes that “adequate training and experience” for RSOs must include, as a minimum, a college degree at the bachelor level or equivalent training and experience in physical, chemical, or biological sciences. A qualified RSO for a manufacturing company where workers handle significant quantities of radioactive material is also expected to obtain up to forty more hours of radiation safety training specific to their job duties offered by an academic


institution, commercial radiation safety consulting company, or professional organization. As the relevant technologies evolve, RSOs are also likely to be required to engage in regular ongoing professional development, field training, and research. Additional training may include any or all of the following subjects: • • • • •

Radiation protection principles Characteristics of ionizing radiation Units of radiation dose and quantities Radiation detection instrumentation Biological hazards of exposure to radiation (appropriate to types and forms of byproduct material to be used) • NRC regulatory requirements and standards • Hands-on use of radioactive materials The bottom line objective for all this training is to enable the individual RSO to identify and control the radiation hazards that might be anticipated relative to the materials under observation and supervision. The RSO is also granted independent authority to stop operations that he or she considers unsafe. There are also those whose must design and build the safety equipment to protect the RPTs and other radiation specialists. According to the EPA, radioactive substances (radionuclides) are “known health hazards that emit energetic waves and/or particles that can cause both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic health effects. Radionuclides pose unique threats to source water supplies and water treatment, storage, or distribution systems because radiation emitted from radionuclides in water systems can affect individuals through several pathways – by direct contact with, ingestion or inhalation of, or external exposure to the contaminated water.” This startling paragraph from the EPA’s website highlights the need for industrial, governmental, and personal individual tools for radiation detection. From the recent concerns about detecting the presence of radon gas in older




residential dwellings to warnings about possible concerns on cellphone use, the effects of radiation have become hot topics for the citizens and governments of every industrialized nation. Widespread use of radioactive materials – in medical facilities large and small, industrial and military research and weapons manufacturing, normally benign industries such as pharmaceuticals and electrical energy production – have essentially created an important need for the manufacturing and marketing of radiation detection equipment. A brief summary of the types of radiation that can harm human beings quickly highlights how ; LEARN MORE quickly and broadly the field of radiation detection equipment research and manufacturing has grown in recent years. The three main types of nuclear radiation emitted from radioactive atoms are alpha, Scan the code or visit beta, and gamma particles. Alpha particles are the least threatening externally, since they are unable to travel more than six or seven inches through the air, and a single sheet of paper or our outermost layer of dead skin is enough to stop them from penetrating our bodies. On the other hand, an alpha particle that is inhaled or ingested in food or water can be very damaging. Beta particles travel faster and penetrate more deeply than alpha particles, and prolonged external exposure to large amounts can cause more damage, but it is generally not lethal – such as a skin burn. Like alpha particles, the most potential for harm is when beta particles are ingested or inhaled, in which case they can cause grave internal damage. Gamma particles, the third type, are a type of external radiation hazard, capable of traveling up to a mile in open air and penetrating all kinds of materials. Only sufficiently dense shielding and/or distance from gamma-emitting radioactive material can provide protection. All three of these primary radiation types can be hazardous if they are ingested or inhaled. Covering or sealing food and water and using a simple dust protector mask can be effective in preventing contamination by the first two types. For the penetrating gamma rays, however, it is imperative to be able to measure the strength of the radiation


and respond with the best shielding and distance options possible.

Employment Outlook Radiation Protection Technologist The employment outlook for RPTs is extremely positive. There are many areas where they can work, especially as scientists continue to discover and use elements like uranium to improve the quality of life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for 20082009, “employment is expected to increase 14 percent during the 2008-2018 decade, faster than the average for all occupations.â€? There are several factors adding to the demand in this ďŹ eld: • Advances in technology for safety and threat equipment creating more jobs • Regulation changes requiring enforcement • Increase in public expectations in safety standards • Current employees changing careers or retiring • Possible building of new nuclear facilities In 2008, according to O*NET Online, there were approximately 10,900 technicians employed in the United States. That number is expected to increase by 14 percent to roughly 12,500 in 2018. The expected growth rate in Texas is even higher. There were 1,310 technicians employed in the state of Texas as of 2008. This number is expected to increase by 29 percent to 1,690 employed by 2018. +HDOWK7HFKQLFLDQV







According to the OOH, while the majority of jobs were spread throughout the private sector, about 22 percent of




technicians worked for government agencies. “In addition to working for governments, health and safety technicians were employed in manufacturing firms, public and private hospitals, educational services, scientific and technical consulting services, administrative and support services, and support activity for mining.” Anywhere radiation may be present, there are those trained to monitor and control it, working to protect the public and the environment. The top industries employing health physicists are: • • • • • •

Federal government Government contractors Nuclear power utilities Medical facilities National laboratories Universities

There is a potential for new nuclear power plants to be built all over the United States. President Barack Obama states, “nuclear power plants are a necessity,” and during his administration, he announced a plan of allotting $8 billion in federal loan guarantees for a new power plant’s creation. President Obama says this is only the beginning, as more money will be allotted for the creation of other power plants throughout the country, creating hundreds of new job opportunities as well. With these advances, more technicians are required to assess the amount of radiation production being emitted to the surrounding atmosphere. As nuclear energy becomes more involved in daily life, RPTs are needed to help regulate and protect the population and environment. A group of physicists in 1942 were working with the first nuclear reactor when they became concerned with the effects the radiation from the reactor might have on the group, the general public, and the environment. Since then, radiation protection has become a precaution everyone working in the nuclear field must be concerned with, creating a high demand for technicians who are knowledgeable about the field.


The biggest advantage of a career in radiation protection is the many areas in which one can become employed. For those who dream of working in the challenging field of nuclear power, technicians are an important section of the plant’s employees. Some health physicists work with nuclear weapons, where they are responsible for radiation safety during the monitoring of the weapons. There are also careers for those who are interested in the medical field, working with patients being treated for diseases like cancer with radiation. The technician is typically responsible for monitoring the radiation exposure of workers, patients, and visitors to the building. Not all of the careers for radiation protection are as hands-on and intense as those dealing with radiation




exposure to humans or from nuclear power plants or weapons. People interested in something a little less extreme can find jobs in education or the environment. Teaching is an important part of any career, as it helps teach and train future workers in the field. Usually, those technicians also survey the environment, using different kinds of equipment to make sure any radioactivity they find is appropriate under government regulations.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist The job outlook for nuclear medicine technologists is fair. According to the OOH, while ; LEARN MORE job opportunities are expected to increase at a rate faster than average (a 14 to 19 percent increase), the competition for those positions will also increase. The OOH attributes this to the number Scan the code or visit of students training for the field exceeding the open positions available. Students and current technologists are recommended to receive training in multiple diagnostic methods, including diagnostic medical sonography, in order to put them ahead of the competition. New technologies, particularly in nuclear medicine imaging, are used increasingly in the field. The top industries hiring nuclear medicine technologists are: • • • • •

General medical and surgical hospitals Physician offices Medical and diagnostic laboratories Outpatient care centers Colleges, universities, and professional schools

The five states with the highest employment levels were Florida, California, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), Florida employed roughly 2,430 technologists at the top of the list, and in the middle, Texas employed roughly 1,480 technologists. Among the states with the lowest number of employed technologists was Alaska with 30.


Any of the specializations in the field of radiation protection offer a great career for those seeking a hands-on application of science and math to protect those who work with radiation, as well as the general public and the environment. The career path has many options in regards to employment, giving the field of radiation protection a promising outlook for future growth. The employment opportunities available to nuclear medical techs reflect a broad range of duties, working environments, regions, and salary ranges. There are opportunities in general medical and surgical hospitals, doctors’ offices, research and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers, and teaching at the college and professional levels. In May of 2010, figures published by the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that opportunities are greatest in California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia. Mean hourly wages range from $43.68 in California to $29.72 in Pennsylvania, and annual mean wages range from $90,860 in California to $52,810 in West Virginia. U. S. Department of Labor statistics indicate that employment of nuclear medicine technologists is likely to increase through 2018 at a rate faster than average for all occupations. This will occur not only because of continuing technological advancements, but due to a rapid increase in the number of middle-aged and elderly persons as “baby boomers” begin utilizing Medicare and private medical insurance to take advantage of treatment to improve and maintain their health into their seventies, eighties, and nineties. On the other hand, although advanced procedures such as PET and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECAT) are likely to be used more frequently, equipment and user training costs, provider reimbursement policies, and the number of potential customers for these technologies will surely affect how quickly the field of nuclear medicine will grow. In most cases these new nuclear medicine capabilities will replace older technologies rather than supplementing them, which indicates that a relatively small number of new jobs will be created in the process.




In most industries, including those employing radiation safety professionals, individuals at the technician level typically advance through their particular industry’s career ladder to a specified full-performance level if their work is satisfactory. For positions above this level, including specialist and supervisory positions, advancement is highly competitive and based on employer or governmental agency needs and individual merit. Typically an advanced degree and substantial work experience are needed to compete for leadership or senior roles. Technicians and specialists who, in addition to offering outstanding education and experience, are familiar with business functions and practices usually enjoy the best advancement opportunities. As in all technical professions, a recommended way of keeping up with current industry developments is to join professional organizations, which offer members newsletters and journals, continuing education courses, conferences to provide continuing education and networking opportunities, and help workers at any level to advance. The career track for experienced technologists frequently leads to positions such as supervisor, chief radiologic technologist, and even department administrator or director. Other technologists specialize in the occupation to enter radiologic technology educational programs as instructors or take jobs as sales professionals for manufacturers of biomedical equipment or consumables such as radiation protection equipment and radiopharmaceuticals. It’s important to point out that, for these rapidly evolving specializations, employment nationwide is projected to grow faster than average. Those who are qualified to perform more than one diagnostic imaging procedure, such as CAT, MRI, and mammography, will have the best chances for employment. The availability of these positions will also increase as the patient population grows larger and older. Increasing numbers of illnesses and injuries that are most effectively isolated, treated, and monitored via diagnostic imaging will


likely result in substantially greater demand for imaging equipment and technologists, even in smaller clinics and doctors’ offices. Conversely, the degree to which diagnostic imaging procedures are performed will depend to a great extent on cost and insurance reimbursement, although their effectiveness in early disease detection and even prevention should outpace these concerns. Hospitals will remain the primary employers of radiologic technologists, but more jobs will become available in more desirable environs like doctors’ offices and diagnostic imaging clinics. Smaller employers will also be more attracted to candidates who can offer multiple credentials and demonstrate skills with a variety of imaging equipment and procedures. Since the demand for technologists and technicians will also vary by region, some qualified individuals may find it necessary to relocate to improve their marketability. According to the Oak Ridge Institute for Science ; LEARN MORE and Education (ORISE), men have dominated radiation related industries in the past, but women are increasingly entering the field. In a survey conducted in 2002 of all the schools with some Scan the code or visit kind of health physics or radiation protection degree, the number of women who graduated with a bachelor’s degree was only 19 percent of the graduating class. This number increased in 2005, according to the annual survey conducted by ORISE, to 40 percent of those receiving a bachelor’s degree. In the 2009 survey, the number decreased to 35 percent of women receiving a degree, but the number of those receiving a master’s in the subject had increased greatly.

Job Duties According to the NRRPT website, an RPT “is a person engaged in providing radiation protection to the radiation worker, the general public, and the environment from the effects of ionizing radiation.” According to O*NET OnLine, in order to perform to that standard, an RPT must be prepared to:




• Create and maintain all required documentation • Understand how to operate and maintain personal equipment necessary on the job site • Monitor equipment to ensure proper usage • Prepare all equipment used to collect samples • Test work areas for exposure to radiation and other hazards • Prepare and review orders for safety equipment, ensuring necessary safety features are present and meet health and safety regulations • Report results of environmental exposure analyses and recommend corrective procedures • Review worker reports in order to determine if illnesses are related to on-sight work • Examine all credentials, licenses, and permits to ensure everything is in compliance with government regulations There are times when RPTs work under a great deal of pressure. Sudden radiation exposure within a nuclear power plant such as in Japan and Chernobyl directly affects the environment and public. An RPT must quickly act and instruct others in order to keep the contamination to an absolute minimum. If the individual is an RSO in a hospital, he or she might detect an overabundance of radiation in a specific area, possibly putting not only the doctors and other workers, but also the patients in danger as well. An RSO must quickly take steps to ensure there is no harm done to anyone in the facility without causing undue panic among others. However, not all RPTs’ jobs are as intense as those dealing with emergencies. Some RPTs observe the environment, particularly areas with known radioactivity, and keep reports of any findings. Others enforce the laws set down by the NRC or Agreement State to ensure industries are complying with regulations and not over-exposing the public to unnecessary radiation. These RPTs usually make visits to industries, factories, and manufacturers and report any observations they have to their employers.


Since nuclear medicine technologists are on their feet much of the time and are often required to move or position disable patients, physical stamina is very important to perform effectively in this career field. Manual dexterity and a feel for mechanics are also important in the operation of complicated diagnostic equipment. On a daily basis, trained technicians work with supplies and equipment that are designed to shield the technician from exposure to radiation, monitor the amount of their exposure, and carefully limit and target the exposure of their patients. While it’s common for nuclear medicine technologists to be on call or to work evening and weekend hours, the general schedule industry-wide is based on the forty-hour week. Parttime and shift work opportunities abound, and individuals may be required to travel as part of their employers’ mobile imaging services. The general job descriptions and working conditions for RPTs can be compared to those for occupational health and safety technicians. Technicians generally work with specialists in the field to prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the public. They might help to design safe work spaces, inspect machinery or equipment, or test work environments for irregularities or violations of safe work practices. They often collect data for higher level occupational health and safety specialists to analyze, and then, working under supervision of specialists or engineers, they also help to implement and evaluate safety programs. Occupational health and safety technicians maintain, calibrate, and prepare scientific instruments to measure hazards such as noise, air or water pollution, or radiation. They may check that personal protective equipment – such as masks, respirators, protective eyewear, or radiation shielding – is being used according to regulations. They also ensure that hazardous materials are stored correctly. Their inspections of the workplace might involve training workers, observing their activities, and maintaining usage and disposal reports on hazardous materials like radiopharmaceuticals. Like most occupational health and safety professionals, RPTs may be exposed to many of the same dangerous




conditions faced by employees involved in working with medical diagnostic or industrial radiation. Like the specialists they work with, they may ďŹ nd themselves in an adversarial role if other employees or supervisors disagree with their recommendations. Most technicians and specialists work the typical forty-hour week, although some may be required to work overtime and often irregular hours.

Salary Ranges Those entering the ďŹ eld of radiation protection can likely expect above-average salaries for the entry-level positions at many companies. According to the latest OES published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor indicates technicians in the health and safety occupation make an average hourly wage of $30.86, with an average annual wage of $64,200. Note, though, salary does depend on the company or industry, state or area one lives in, the amount of experience and education one has, and the expected responsibilities of the position. According to OES, the six industries where technologists can expect the best pay are the Federal Executive Branch (an OES designation), general medical and surgical hospitals, state government, and local government. ,QGXVWU\



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Out of the RPTs surveyed, most of them were employed in Washington, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, and West Virginia. In 2009, the average annual salary for those employed in those states ranged between $64,000 and $73,000. (However, there are other states where RPTs received


higher pay, but there were fewer individuals employed in the area.) The top regions for salary were, in order, the District of Columbia, Alaska, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Colorado. Those employed in the District of Columbia received an average hourly wage of $40.48 and an average annual wage of around $84,200. Colorado is the lowest ranked of the five states, but the technologists still earn an average of $72,910. Another factor affecting how much an RPT may earn is the amount of education he or she acquires. The higher level of education the technologist has completed means the higher pay he or she may receive. For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher in health physics, the minimum salary is $101,250, with a maximum salary around $166,250. Experience is as important, if not more so, than education many times. As technologists gain more experience, their salaries will increase drastically. Those who received certification through NRRPT received a minimum salary of $46,250. With an increase in experience, RPTs certified through the NRRPT can expect to make an average of $110,306 as shown by the Health Physics Society’s (HPS) 2009 survey.




According to the OES, nuclear medicine technologists make a national average hourly wage of $33.20, with an average annual wage of $69,050. The lower 10 percent make around $23.62 an hour, or $49,130 annually, and the upper 10 percent make around $44.21 an hour, or $91,970 annually. The following chart from the OES shows a breakdown of the top industries hiring in this ďŹ eld and the average hourly and annual wages. ,QGXVWU\



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The top paying states in this ďŹ eld as of the 2010 OES were California, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington. California technologists made an hourly average wage of $43.68, or $90,860 annually. Washington technologists made an hourly average of $48.55, or $80,180 annually. Texas technologists made close to the average wages in the country, neither in the top nor the lower percentages. The average hourly wage was $30.53 with an annual wage of $63,510.

Work Schedules The work schedules for RPTs depend on where they are employed: medical, power plants, nuclear weapon manufacturers, national or state laboratories, or colleges and universities. Typically, an RPT works a forty-hour week, especially at a university or college, in a laboratory run by the government, or power plants. At other facilities like hospitals or surgical units where radiation may constantly be on site, depending on its usage, an RPT may be required to work overtime or irregular hours.


Profile: Audrea Tamez, Radiation Safety Specialist Audrea Tamez finds the job she does very exciting and loves the field she has chosen. “My work is very satisfying, being able to pass my knowledge on and helping others understand radiation. When people understand radiation, they become more aware and are more open to different things. I love knowing I get to be a part of that, no matter how small of a part.” Tamez started out her education in Copperas Cove, Texas, where she grew up, and later graduated from Copperas Cove High School. After graduation, Tamez attended TSTC and majored in Chemical Laboratory Technology. After taking a basic radiation class with Linda Morris at TSTC for a science credit, she discovered her passion for radiation protection. “By the end of the semester, I was fascinated with health physics. There are so many different fields in that particular area to work in.” After the semester, Tamez added radiation protection to her major. At TSTC, she received the necessary training to become a successful RPT. She still uses the skills she learned at school to this day. “All the skills I learned in the RPT program are still used directly in relation to my job. I learned about radiation and its effects and different kinds of medical equipment used. I also learned to identify radiation and understand the basics of radiation safety in order to help protect as well as inform others.” She also discovered she had to hone other skills like multitasking. “I had to learn how to ‘business multi-task.’ As a mom, I multi-task all the time, whether I am doing the laundry while cleaning the rest of house and cooking or entertaining my kids while trying to get what I need to accomplish done. In business, multitasking is different than normal multi-tasking. You have to be on top of each specific task but also have the ability to switch from one focus to another in a moment’s notice.” “It was extremely important for me to learn about radiation safety in order to explain why staff members needed to wear radiation badges. I have to know what to tell them, how to train them to use proper shielding, and also be able to tell them why they need this protection. Without an explanation, people don’t like to listen to what they are told, even if it’s for their own good.”




Tamez is extremely happy with her job. She currently works as the Radiation Safety Specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. As the Radiation Safety Specialist, her job is divided into two parts. “First, I run the dosimetry program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where I am responsible for making sure all doctors, nurses, technologists, researchers, and anyone else working with or around radiation are wearing a radiation dosimeter. The second part of my job is being an internal auditor for our radiation producing machines, such as X-ray and dental equipment.” The thing she enjoys most about her job is the people. She works as part of a team at her current position, and she loves that each member has something to bring to the career. She explains, “I enjoy the team I get to work with. We all have different backgrounds with radiation, and as we come to work together, I love seeing the ways we complement each other’s strengths. It makes a difference when you know you are working with great people.” According to Tamez, now is the perfect time to enter the field of radiation safety. “The nuclear industry is a fast-growing field. With everyone trying to find different methods for power and being ‘green’ in general, this field is going to boom here in the next few years. Radiation jobs will be plentiful for anyone interested in getting involved in a great career.” For anyone thinking about joining the field of radiation safety, Tamez has some great advice. “My advice would be to get involved! Join HPS locally and nationally. The more you know about different companies and the industry itself, the more you will be able to discover where you want to work, and you will feel more comfortable when you work with these people. Also, do as much as you can. Volunteer with the program; get to know your professors. In the long run, it will make the biggest difference in your career.”


No matter what hours an RPT holds, he or she must possess certain skills. If there is an emergency within a power plant, the RPT on duty needs to be able to assess the situation and determine the best way to contain any exposure. If the RPT has to call a superior to determine the solution to a problem, the situation will take longer to contain, and the effects of the contamination may be far greater than necessary. No matter when an RPT works, there is always something going on requiring their full attention, whether it is a challenging problem, interesting project, or understanding and enforcing the radiation regulations.

Necessary Skill Sets In any career path an RPT takes, one can expect employers to require similar skills. Technicians are expected to have the following skills: • Understanding of radiation levels and what is considered unsafe • Know and understand radiation standards set by the NRC • Up-to-date knowledge of new material and regulations in regards to his or her career and willingness to apply this new knowledge to their job • Ability to work alone and take charge of a situation to reach an appropriate solution under pressure • Strong computer skills and the ability to write and understand reports regarding his or her area of expertise • Ability to think critically, solving problems or finding alternatives if the original solution does not work; particularly taking into account what is acceptable to the government, employer, or the public at large • Solve challenging problems, potentially lifethreatening crises, when they arise • Monitor and assess situations and people involved




• Think critically, particularly under pressure • Advise and make recommendations for management When a radiation emergency occurs, the RPT is typically the first on the scene. He or she must identify and analyze the problem, as well as determine the amount of radiation exposure and the possible effects the amount could have on the environment and public. The RPT needs to be able to use the necessary equipment to discover and contain the situation to prevent negative effects. He or she must be able to work under pressure and effectively communicate with those directly involved.

Analyze, Evaluate, and Solve Thinking critically is an important skill for an RPT, with much of their work pertaining to keeping the public safe. When dealing with radiation experiments, scientists do not always know what the outcome will be. They try to prepare for the worse possible outcome, but sometimes their precautionary steps are not enough. An RPT will usually be present during lab experiments or, at the very least, on call in case something happens.


If a problem does arise, the RPT must be able to analyze the situation, identifying the cause of the issue. Then, the RPT must evaluate and understand what could happen if the problem is left unattended. If he or she is unable to understand the severity of a problem, the problem may end up being unnecessarily bigger and more extreme. The RPT then needs to determine a permanent solution for the problem, not just a temporary fix. In addition, he or she needs to be able to create this solution within a timely fashion. Being able to provide quality work under pressure is an important quality when working in the field of radiation protection.

Technology RPTs use all kinds of equipment in their day-to-day work. Some of the equipment used includes: • • • •

Computers Ionization chambers Geiger counters Dosimeters

An RPT needs to be able to use such technology ; LEARN MORE as a Geiger counter, also known as Geiger-Muller counter, which is used to detect particles of ionizing radiation. Another type of radiation detector is an ionization chamber, which is the simplest of radiation detectors. The RPT also needs to know Scan the code or visit how to use a dosimeter, which is used to measure an individual’s or an object’s exposure to radioactivity in the environment. RPTs must have strong computer skills, as well. They take the measurements from the detectors and put them into computers. There are also some devices that transfer the information directly into the computer, where the RPT can analyze the findings. Computers allow RPTs to record their data, make observations, and keep track of any changes in different areas where they are taking constant readings.




Written and Verbal Communication An RPT monitors radiation levels and protects others from unnecessary exposure. In order to monitor the amount of radiation properly, the tech will need to make reports of his or her findings. The ability to write clear and concise reports other people will be able to comprehend is important. If a tech is unable to convey information correctly, there may be a miscommunication causing unnecessary consequences, even dangerous ones. It is important for a tech to be able to express his or her findings clearly in reports. Verbal communication is also an important skill for an RPT to possess. If he or she is working in a field where the workers may and do become ill from radiation exposure, the tech will need to communicate with a worker clearly to determine the cause of his or her symptoms. If the tech is unable to convey the questions clearly, the worker may be unable to answer properly, leading to a wrongful assessment on the part of the RPT. In other emergencies, an RPT will need to figure out the problem of a situation. The ability to ask the proper questions allows the RPT to analyze, evaluate, and solve the problem in quickly.

Mental An RPT needs to stay up-to-date on the latest technological advances and information of the field. The RPTs who are the most informed in their area of expertise and on the newest equipment will be in the highest demand. Certified techs must have at least a basic knowledge of science and mathematics. Once techs become employed, they will need to keep their knowledge of science and math updated to succeed in their career. The ability to take the knowledge of different sciences and apply it to everyday situations is an important part of an RPT’s job. Using math, including basic algebra, he or she must able to read charts and understand what needs to be done to lower radiation levels by plugging numbers into specific equations. The application of science allows the tech


to understand what effects a certain amount of exposure will have on a person or the environment. Other skills learned in science and math classes also can easily be applied to an RPT’s job, such as inductive and deductive reasoning. The tech uses inductive reasoning to put pieces of information together in order to form a conclusion and deductive reasoning to apply known rules to a specific problem in order to discover answers. These skills allow the tech to find solutions to any problem, no matter how unique the situation he or she comes across. Being able to apply science and math as well as use reasoning will help make the tech successful at his or her job.

Other Skills In addition to the skills and knowledge previously mentioned, RPTs: • Prepare for emergencies and take necessary actions to minimize health issues and assure quick recovery • Consult with others to plan corrective measures • Provide the public with necessary information and training on radiation to ensure the public knows about the possible consequences • Develop, modify, test, and/or evaluate new or improved equipment, procedures, techniques, or anything else that would help the tech in the field • Provide advice to university problems and assistance when appropriate • Keep public officials up to date on statuses of regulations and any potential problems affecting the environment or the public as a whole • Know and understand the regulations set down by the federal and state governments • Participate in preparing necessary tests, licenses, and requirements of future RPTs




RPTs must perform their jobs to the best of their abilities at all times and in compliance to the law, knowing others are expecting them to be honest and ethical about their work. RPTs are individuals who are knowledgeable, skilled, and reliable when it comes to radiation protection. The skills required to handle these situations are learned in the classroom as well as through field-based work. In a radiation protection or health physics program, students learn about the necessary equipment and how to use it in hands-on labs. They learn the difference between safe, natural levels of radiation and health-threatening levels, as well as how to read and comprehend charts in regards to radiation. Students graduate from the program with the necessary skills and knowledge of radiation protection to enter the workforce.

Conclusion The discovery of new and exciting things in science is something that fascinates almost everyone. Using radiation to make these discoveries both intrigues and terrifies people, as they not only wonder about the possible new cures and inventions but also fear the possible consequences. Many people do not realize the steps RPTs continuously take to protect them and the environment against radiation exposure. People put their lives in the hands of RPTs daily, often not even realizing the work the RPTs are doing to keep them safe. Whether publicly acknowledged or not, John C. White, RSO, says he finds his job highly enjoyable. “I find the job I do very satisfying, very much so. The things I enjoy most are the people I meet and knowing I am making a difference in protecting 6.5 million people. It is hard to believe one person can make such a difference in so many lives.” According to the HPS website (, one of the questions commonly presented to RPTs is “what is a permissible dose of radiation, and how can it be measured reliably?” In order to have the ability to answer this question, an RPT needs to have familiarity with radiation standards,


biology, and genetics, along with the knowledge of radiation dosimetry. An RPT also needs to understand the regulations set down by the government and apply them to a situation. They need to be able to identify a problem or determine if too much radiation is being emitted, and then they must analyze the situation to discover a solution. Coming up with a particular plan and then enforcing that plan are other skills they must possess. Their main job, no matter where they are employed, will be monitoring employees, environment, and the public, so the ability to read and understand the charts is also important.



Index A Advanced Technical Certificate (ATC), 61 Agreement State, 32 alpha particles, 24 American Board of Health Physicists (ABHP), 48, 53, 54, 57 American Board of Radiology (ABR), 54 American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), 20, 56 associate degrees of Applied Science, 57–58, 59–60 at Spartanburg Community College, 51–52, 65, 67–69 at TSTC Waco, 49, 60–63 at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, 63–64 Atomic Energy Act, 9 Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), 9, 10 atomos, 2, 5

B bachelor’s degrees advantages of, 47, 69, 71 at Idaho State University, 75–76 at Purdue University, 71, 73–75 Basic Safety Standards, 21 Becquerel, Henri, 4–5 beta particles, 24 biomedical research, 21–22 Bittner, Bryan, 58–59 Blanchard, Karen, 79–81 British Roentgen Society, 8




C carbon dating, 5–6 CAT (computerized axial tomography), 19, 20 certifications, 53–57 Certified Health Physicist, 48, 54, 69 Charles, Richard F., 66 Chernobyl, 11, 14 colleges and universities Alabama, 83 Arizona, 83–84 Arkansas, 84 California, 84–85 Colorado, 85 Connecticut, 85–86 Delaware, 86 Florida, 86–88 Georgia, 88 Idaho, 75–77, 88 Illinois, 77–78, 89 Indiana, 71, 73–75, 90 Iowa, 90 Kansas, 91 Kentucky, 63–64, 91 Louisiana, 91–92 Maine, 92 Maryland, 92 Massachusetts, 93–94 Michigan, 94 Minnesota, 95 Mississippi, 95 Missouri, 95–96 Nebraska, 96 Nevada, 96 New Jersey, 96–97 New York, 97–98 North Carolina, 98 Ohio, 99


Oklahoma, 100 Oregon, 100 Pennsylvania, 100–101 Rhode Island, 102 South Carolina, 51–53, 65, 67–69, 102 South Dakota, 103 Tennessee, 103–104 Texas, 49, 52, 104–105 Utah, 105 Vermont, 106 Virginia, 106 Washington (state), 106 West Virginia, 106–107 Wisconsin, 107 Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), 52 computer axial tomography (CAT), 19, 20 Council for International Organization of Medical Sciences (CIOMS), 21

D Democritus, 2 diagnostic imaging, 19, 30–31 Dongos, Osman, 72–73 dosimeters, 41

E effects of radiation, 8, 23–24 Energy Reorganization Act, 9 Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), 60, 66, 79 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 18, 23, 29




F Federal Radiation Council, 9 fees and tuition, 78–79, 81–82 financial aid, 81–82 FORATOM (The European Atomic Forum), 108 Fukushima Daiichi, 14

G gamma particles, 24 Geiger counters, 41

H Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT), 17, 18 health physicists, 16 Health Physics Research Reactor (HPRR), 49 Health Physics Society, 35, 44, 53 health physics technician, 16 Helsinki Declaration, 21 history of radiation science, 2, 4–6, 8–11, 14–16 Hopkins, Berta, 53, 67

I industrial radiation safety officer (RSO), 22–23 Institute of Nuclear Power Operation (INPO), 65 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 21 ionization chambers, 41 isotopes, 5, 19

J-M Japan nuclear crisis (2011), 14–15 Krieger, Kenneth, 12–14, 18


Licensed Medical Physicist (LMP), 54 master’s degrees, 76–78 Morris, Linda, 60, 61, 79 MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), 20, 30

N National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists (NRRPT), 31, 35, 48, 53 nuclear cardiology, 19 nuclear medicine technologists career outlook for, 28–31 career overview for, 18-19 certification for, 55–56 salary ranges of, 36 Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB), 56 nuclear power plants, 8, 26 Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), 9–10, 11, 15–16, 22

O O*Net OnLine, 25, 31 Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE), 31 Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), 49 Obama, Barack, 26 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), 28, 34–36 occupational health and safety technicians, 33–34, 56–57 Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 25–26, 28

P PET (positron emission tomography), 19, 20, 29 Poston, John W., 49–51 postsecondary education, 47–49, 82 See also associate degrees; bachelor’s degrees; master’s degrees




profiles Bittner, Bryan, 58–59 Blanchard, Karen, 79–81 Charles, Richard F., 66 Dongos, Osman, 72–73 Krieger, Kenneth, 12–14 Poston, John W., 49–51 Tamez, Audrea, 37–38 Truitt, Mick, 70 White, John C., 6–7 Wilder, Josh, 3–4 positron emission tomography (PET), 19, 20, 29

R-S radiation effects, 8, 23–24 radiation protection field salary ranges within, 34–36 skills for, 18, 39–44 specialties within, 17, 27–28 women in, 31 radiation protection technologists career outlook for, 25–26 duties of, 1, 18, 19, 31–32 skills for, 18, 39–44, 45 working conditions for, 32, 33–34 work schedules for, 36, 39 radiation regulation, 8–10, 11, 15–16 radiation safety officer (RSO), 22–23 radionuclides, 23, 77 Roentgen, Wilhelm, 2, 5 Rutherford, Ernest, 5 Single Photon Emission Computer Tomography (SPECAT), 29


T Tamez, Audrea, 37–38 The European Atomic Forum (FORATOM), 108 Three Mile Island, 10–11 Truitt, Mick, 70 tuition and fees, 78–79, 81–82 types of radiation, 24–25

U-X U.S. Bureau of Labor, 25, 34 U.S. Department of Labor, 18, 20, 29 White-, John C., 6–7, 44 Wilder, Josh, 3–4 World Health Organization (WHO), 21 X-rays, 2, 4–5





About the Authors Shayla Crane Shayla Crane graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in creative writing. She served as an editorial intern at TSTC Publishing while a student at Baylor University. Crane is a senior technical writer at Nuclear Logistics, Inc., where she assists engineers in writing reports, plans, and manuals to distribute to their nuclear clients. She is a native of Fort Worth, Texas.

Mike Jones Mike Jones is a freelance writer based in Waco, Texas. He is a transplant from New Mexico, where he graduated from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque with training in writing for theatre and broadcast media. He worked extensively in the broadcasting, advertising and marketing ďŹ elds before moving to Texas to work as a writer/ producer of instructional and student recruitment videos for Texas State Technical College. More recently, he has been involved in technical instructional curriculum research and development, as well as freelance media writing and production.




Publishing Established in 2004, TSTC Publishing is a provider of high-end technical instructional materials and related information to institutions of higher education and private industry. “High end� refers simultaneously to the information delivered, the various delivery formats of that information, and the marketing of materials produced. More information about the products and services offered by TSTC Publishing may be found at its website:




TechCareers Series TSTC Publishing launched the TechCareers series with Biomedical Equipment Technicians in 2008. TSTC Emerging Technologies initially underwrote the series, created to inform the public about existing technologies and those to come. Emerging Technologies also provided funding for 500 copies of each book in the series to be distributed throughout Texas to high school career and technical education counselors. In addition to Biomedical Equipment Technicians, the series includes Automotive Technicians, Avionics, Wind Energy, Computer Gaming Programmers & Artists, Welding Technology, Aviation Pilots, and Graphic Design. Forthcoming titles include Aviation Maintenance. For information about Emerging Technologies, go to

Every TechCareers book features: • Detailed overviews of career pathways, skill sets, and educational requirements • Profiles of professionals, experts, employers, current students, and instructors • Program listings, sample degree plans, and additional industry resources • Salary ranges and benefits


TechCareers: Biomedical Equipment By Dr. Roger Bowles


$14.95 Softback ISBN 978-1-934302-29-3 1st edition September 2008



The outlook is very bright for the medical equipment service industry and, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook and professional recruiters, the demand for individuals in this field will remain strong in the future

-TechCareers: Biomedical Equipment Technicians

TechCareers: Biomedical Equipment Technicians offers an in-depth description of a growing career field that becomes more important with every medical advancement. Today’s healthcare facilities use millions of dollars’ worth of medical electronic devices. Biomedical equipment technicians maintain the reliability and safety of the equipment needed to save lives. With information about the training and education needed, as well as what can be expected as a biomedical equipment technician, this book is a great source for individuals interested in entering the field.


TechCareers: Automotive Technicians By Helen Ginger



$14.95 Softback ISBN 978-1-934302-43-9 1st edition July 2009

In today’s world of technologically advanced cars, an automotive tech can have a successful, long-term career and make a comfortable living.

-TechCareers: Automotive Technicians

TechCareers: Automotive Technicians is a useful guide to entering the career field of automotive repair and maintenance. Filled with tips about education and employment trends, this book is a useful source of information for those interested in a career with automobiles. The book explains how being an automotive technician is about more than being handy with a wrench. Technicians now have to be up to date with the computer software used in modern engines. This book includes useful websites that provide practical information about succeeding in the automotive industry.


TechCareers: Avionics By Helen Ginger


$14.95 Softback ISBN 978-1-934302-47-7 1st edition October 2009



If you’re just beginning to think about this field and a career in avionics, now is the opportune time to begin your training … the good news for those now considering this field is that the super techs are reaching retirement age, creating a job gap and a wide open door for new techs to step through. -TechCareers: Avionics

TechCareers: Avionics gives a clear description of the growing need for avionics technicians. Avionics deals with the maintenance and repair of all flight instruments, including flight control, weather radar, and missile control. With many of the current avionics technicians reaching retirement, airlines will be looking for new techs to take their places. Featuring necessary information about job opportunities, training, and educational requirements, TechCareers: Avionics is a valuable tool for prospective students entering the field.


TechCareers: Wind Energy By Mike Jones

$14.95 Softback ISBN 978-1-934302-55-2 $9.99 Ebook ISBN 978-1-936603-02-2 1st edition August 2010



Kindle edition available at

With increasing demand for wind power, there is already a pressing need for wind technicians to maintain the wind turbines. -TechCareers: Wind Energy

TechCareers: Wind Energy describes the current wind energy market and the explosive growth of the energy field. Due to current interest in green energy, wind energy is now becoming a popular energy source in countries across the world. Increased demand for expert wind energy professionals is expected to continue. This book describes the jobs needed to support this growing career field and the education and necessary skills for success.


TechCareers: Welding Technology By Joseph Abbott and Karen Mitchell Smith


$14.95 Softback ISBN 978-1-934302-33-0 $9.99 Ebook ISBN 978-1-936603-05-3 1st edition December 2011



Learn your trade, whatever it is. Everything you do builds your reputation, no matter what kind of work. Have integrity, take pride in what you do, and you will develop a great future in the business.

-TechCareers: Welding Technology

TechCareers: Wind Energy describes the current wind energy market and the explosive growth of the energy field. Due to current interest in green energy, wind energy is now becoming a popular energy source in countries across the world. Increased demand for expert wind energy professionals is expected to continue. This book describes the jobs needed to support this growing career field and the education and necessary skills for success.

TechCareers: Radiation Protection Technology  

Sample from the forthcoming title in the TechCareers series. Release date is 6/1/2012.

TechCareers: Radiation Protection Technology  

Sample from the forthcoming title in the TechCareers series. Release date is 6/1/2012.