Should I Become a Dosimetrist?
A dosimetrist is a medical professional who works in radiation oncology to complete a variety of tasks. The American Association of Medical Dosimetrists (AAMD) notes that a medical dosimetrist may develop treatment plans for cancer patients, conduct research or teach others about radiation oncology and medical dosimetry. Safety procedures must carefully be followed at all times when working with radiation. A median annual salary of $80,220 was reported for radiation therapists by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2015.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree; registered radiation technicians can complete a 1-year certificate program|
|Degree Field||Radiation oncology or a natural science|
|Experience||3+ years of experience in the field|
|Key Skills||Strong verbal and written communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills; knowledge of electronic medical record EMR software, Lifeline Software RadCalc, Radiation dose calculation software, and Sun Nuclear MapCHECK; use of area radiation monitors, Dual diode dosimeter patient dose monitors, Multi-monitor dosimetry systems, and wireless patient dosimeters|
|Salary||$80,220 (2015 median salary for radiation therapists)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Association of Medical Dosimetrists, Careerbuilder.com postings in November 2012, Occupational Information Network.
You'll need a bachelor's degree radiation oncology or a natural science. If you already have a degree or are a registered radiation technician, you can complete a 1-year certificate program. You'll also need three or more years of experience in the field. Certification is voluntary. You'll need strong verbal and written communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills; and knowledge of electronic medical record EMR software, Lifeline Software RadCalc, Radiation dose calculation software, Sun Nuclear MapCHECK, area radiation monitors, aual diode dosimeter patient dose monitors, multi-monitor dosimetry systems, and wireless patient dosimeters.
Steps to Become a Dosimetrist
Let's go over the steps required to become a dosimetrist.
Step 1: Choose an Educational Path
Several possibilities exist for training to become a dosimetrist. A bachelor's degree in radiologic science specifically or a natural science is one option. Students will need further training and experience beyond a bachelor's degree program, but earning this degree positions them well. College graduates or individuals who are already registered radiation therapists with experience can go straight to the 1-year certificate for this field.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits and lists programs for dosimetry training. Programs accredited by JRCERT range from certificates to on-the-job training to bachelor's and master's degrees. Complete a variety of science courses in high school. A strong foundation in science will help when you begin courses in anatomy and physiology and physics.
Step 2: Complete an Educational or Training Program
A 4-year bachelor's degree in radiation therapy provides the most specific education to a prospective dosimetrist, but students may also major in biology or biological sciences. In addition to core courses on radiation therapy and its scientific basis, education programs typically include courses on anatomy, physics, mathematics and computer sciences.
Registered radiation therapists who have at least one year of clinical experience or individuals who have completed a bachelor's degree program in the physical sciences are qualified for admission to a 1-year dosimetrist certificate program. These certificates are also accredited and listed by JRCERT.
Step 3: Become Certified
With the experience and knowledge gained from an education or training program, the student may take the exam to become a certified medical dosimetrist (CMD). Certification, awarded after passing an exam, is available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Gain required experience through internships in college. The AAMD notes that a requirement for the certification exam includes previous observation at a radiation oncology site.
Step 4: Earn Continuing Education Credits
The AAMD requires that Certified Medical Dosimetrists renew credentials annually and earn a minimum of 50 continuing education credits every five years. Some options to complete these credits include online activities through AAMD, completion of courses approved for continuing education credit and attending AAMD conferences.
Step 5: Find a Job
Radiation therapists can find employment in the industry with jobs at hospitals, radiation centers and other healthcare institutions. Aiding in the process of giving patients radiation treatments is an intense and challenging profession, and radiation therapists must make sure that the machines which administer treatments are working properly. There is also an element of dealing with patients that radiation therapists will encounter. Closely monitoring the patient is highly important in these treatments.
Step 6: Gain Experience
Once you have gained some experience in the field, it is possible to advance to a managerial position in a healthcare facility. Thus, you can acquire a job as a dosimetrist and take on the role of diagnosing cancer patients with the amount of radiation that they must undergo for their treatments.
To become a dosimetrist, you'll need a degree or certificate in radiation therapy and should consider certification in the field.