Health Physics Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a health physics technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and educational information to find out if this is the career for you.

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Health physics technicians work to ensure workplace safety in industries with exposure to radioactivity. Most positions provide training, and little education is needed. These jobs are expected to grow faster than all jobs.

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Essential Information

Health physics technicians, also known as occupational health and safety technicians, ensure workplace safety in industries that use radioactive materials or expose people to radioactivity. Technicians often implement procedures and programs crafted by health physicists, which can include monitoring nuclear activity, collecting data and analyzing results. Health physics technicians can also aid in the design of safer work environments or work in a regulatory capacity performing site inspections to certify the safety of facilities. Individuals commonly complete an associate's degree or certificate program prior to seeking employment in this field, although employers will hire candidates who only hold high school diplomas, since a good amount of on-the-job training is provided.

Required Education Equivalent of high school diploma, but postsecondary training is preferred
Skills Requirements Fairly comfortable with technology; ability to solve problems; pay attention to detail; and, able to communicate clearly.
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Occupational health and safety technician: +9%*
Median Salary (2015) Occupational health and safety technician: $48,070*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

Health physics technicians use equipment, such as spectrometers and gamma counters, to determine levels of radiation. They calculate exposure times and instruct workers in safety procedures and precautions, including the use of radiation detectors and protective gear. Health physics technicians monitor work environments for fluctuations in radioactivity levels and perform decontamination procedures. Additional duties may include repairing equipment, creating reports and maintaining safety records.

Education and Certification Requirements

Employers prefer individuals who have some postsecondary education or training. Many health physics technicians complete an associate's degree program in health physics or a related science field, such as biology, chemistry, physics or environmental technologies. Some community colleges and technical schools also offer certificate programs in health physics or radiation protection. The coursework in these programs covers nuclear technology, radiation detection, radiological emergencies, instrumentation and protection. Associate's degree programs also typically include practical experience.

Employers rarely require professional certifications; however, validating professional skills can provide a competitive advantage for professionals seeking employment or advancement. Individuals with at least five years of work experience are eligible to take an examination for the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist/Certified Loss Control designation offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the employment of occupational health and safety technicians, which does include health physics technicians, would increase by 9% from 2014 to 2024. This growth prediction is largely due to the increased need to protect workers from radiation hazards at nuclear power plants. These workers made a median annual salary of $48,070 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

Health physics technicians require a high school diploma, although employers may prefer completion of a program or associate's degree. Certification is available, though usually voluntary. The median annual salary for these workers is about $48,000.

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