Radiation Safety Officer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a radiation safety officer's job description and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career as a radiation safety officer.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Radiation Safety Officer

Radiation safety officers (RSOs) are present within an organization or business that uses radioactive material, such as hospitals, universities, or industries to insure safety or stop unsafe activity. It is important to understand the pros and cons before deciding to take an RSO job.

Pros of a Radiation Safety Officer
Has authority in organization to enforce rules and stop unsafe activity *
Opportunity to teach (i.e. employees about radiation program) *
May become a radiation safety officer within career of your choice (i.e. may choose to be a lab technologist where radioactive material is use and be appointed radiation safety officer) *
Very responsible position *

Cons of a Radiation Safety Officer
Working with hazardous materials, possibility of injury or illness *
Job may be stressful, dangerous or strenuous and you need support of management **
Must be able to properly manage radiation safety program or face penalty **
In some cases, RSO must perform regular job duties along with radiation safety officer's duties **

Sources: *NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), **APNGA (American Portable Nuclear Gauge Association).

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

A radiation safety officer (RSO) is responsible for a company's or organization's radiation safety program. RSOs make sure that the company is complying with all laws and regulations regarding radioactive material, and the material is handled in the safest way possible. They stop any unsafe activities with licensed material. They answer questions from employees about the radioactive material that they are using, supervise decontamination, control disposal, maintain records, audit program yearly, perform surveys, and investigate abnormal events. RSOs are the regulatory agencies' contact person within the company.

Organizations must have licenses to use radioactive material, and the RSO must make sure that any radioactive material possessed by the organization agrees with the materials recorded on the license. In addition, the RSO ensures that only the personnel authorized to use the material, as listed on the license, uses the material. The RSO makes sure that all individuals who are authorized workers wear on their person monitoring equipment, usually a TLD (thermoluminescent dosimeter) or film badge. The RSO is responsible for securing radioactive materials so that it can't be removed (unauthorized removal) when not in use. They assist in emergencies and assure that the company meets the conditions of the license.

Salary Info

Although comprehensive salary information for RSOs is not available, the Health Physics Society (HPS) compiled statistics for Certified Health Physicists (CHPs) also working as RSOs. The HPS found that these individuals made an average salary of $103,000 as of 2014.

Nuclear medicine technologists also use radioactive material. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nuclear medicine technologists made a median salary of about $72,000 per year as of 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

The management of an entity licensed to use radioactive material appoints one of its employees who work in the area covered by the license to be the RSO or advertises for a qualified candidate. The requirements to become an RSO vary with the type of license. NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) sets the guidelines. However, some states (agreement states) have the authority to set out their own regulations.

The qualifications needed to become an RSO are available on the NRC or the HPS websites. Specific licenses are issued for radioactive material used in manufacturing, radiopharmacy, medicine, and academic research, as well as irradiator licenses and industrial radiography licenses. Each license has its own education and training requirements for RSOs.

NRC recommends that an RSO have at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological sciences, chemistry, or physics or the equivalent experience and training. They also need to be trained in principles of radiation protection, ionizing radiation characteristics, radiation quantities and dose units, instrumentation for detecting radiation, standards and regulatory requirements of NRC, radiation material handling, and biological hazards when exposed to radiation.

The licensed organization needs to submit the qualifications (education, experience and any courses taken) to the regulatory agency for their state (either NRC or a state agency). The regulatory agency will either approve or reject the proposed RSO. Private organizations, colleges, and universities offer RSO training programs, and some offer an RSO training program for laboratory professionals.

Job Posting From Real Employers

Companies or organizations that use radioactive material must have a radiation safety officer, as mandated by NRC. Requirements vary depending on the type and quantity of radioactive material owned by the company. The three jobs below were open jobs posted online as of April 2012.

  • A medical center in New York advertised for an assistant radiation safety officer to help set up and oversee a radiation safety program. The officer keeps track of radioactive trash, gives out and collects radiation badges, and makes sure the center is following regulatory agency requirements. Education requirements include an associate's degree, although a bachelor's is preferred with knowledge of physics, chemistry, or nuclear medical technology.
  • A lab in Maine was seeking a radiation safety officer to make sure the lab complies with federal, state, and local regulations. Must have a bachelor's degree in environmental health and safety, physics, or health physics plus experience in overseeing a radiation safety program.
  • A cryogenic equipment manufacturer in Texas required a safety radiation officer to give training in radiation safety and to make sure radiation detectors and monitoring equipment are working properly.

How to Stand Out

Along with completing the require training to become a radiation safety officer, consider earning one or more certifications relevant to this area. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (www.bcsp.org) offers a variety of certifications, including certified Safety Professional or Certified Loss Control Specialist.

You may consider taking a HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) course. The course provides instruction in how to manage hazardous waste and respond to a spill or leak.

Alternative Career Paths

If you decide that working in a safety program is something that interests you, then consider making it a career. Occupational health and safety specialists make sure that workplaces are safe and following regulations. You need a bachelor's degree in safety, occupational health, chemistry, biology, or engineering. If you decide to specialize and become a health physicist, you may need a master's degree. Occupational health and safety specialists made a median salary of about $66,000 as of 2011 with a predicted employment outlook of nine percent for the decade 2010-2020, according to BLS.

If you want to stay in the field of health and safety, but work in something more practical or hands-on, a career as a health and safety engineer might be for you. In this position, you develop systems and procedures to help keep workers safe and avoid injury or sickness, along with keeping property undamaged. Engineers made a median salary of about $75,000 as of 2011. Health and safety engineers need bachelor's degrees in industrial, electrical, or mechanical engineering. Job prospects were expected to increase by 13% over the 2010-2020 decade, according to BLS.

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Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS Health Administration

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Executive Certificate in Health Administration

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Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

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  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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