Health Physicist

Professionals in many lines of work are finding that the current job market has rare opportunities for steady employment at a fair wage.  Public health careers are not only stable, but also have ample openings in a number of fields that are related to community welfare.  The position of a health physicist is one such career path that can provide opportunity and advancement.

Healthcare in general is showing incredible growth potential, and the field of public health has an impressive increase in positions for both entry level and advanced applicants.  This career track will also give you the opportunity to serve the community and better the population.  If you are interested in a service position that is also rewarding, than the job of health physicist could provide you with good pay and steady work.

What Is A Health Physicist?

A health physicist monitors and inspects workplaces that use radioactive materials.  These professionals monitor radiation levels and inspect equipment for functionality.  They also educate staff and management on safety protocols and emergency procedures and conduct training seminars to improve workplace health and safety.  In the public sector, they will inspect houses for radioactive intrusion and instruct the community on safety and prevention measures in cases of exposure.  Health physicists will also suggest possible changes that can reduce the risk of fallout accidents.

Health physicists would have the following expectations as a part of their job:

  •   Inspect facilities such as hospitals, imaging clinics, and nuclear plants.
  •   Evaluate the acceptable radioactive contents in soil, air, and water.
  •   Assess residential premises for any environmental hazards.
  •   Propose structural or equipment changes to improve safety.
  •   Report finding and suggestions to the boards of health and to facility management.
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These professional skills can also aid health physicists in performing their job:

  •   Observation:  You will need to be able to pick up on visuals cues in structure, equipment, or procedures that may pose a threat.
  •   Analytical thinking:  You will also need to evaluate your data and samples to draw conclusions about the health of the environment and the public.
  •   Communication skills:  You will need to present verbal and written analysis of your findings, as well as interact with the public when gathering information.
  •   Lab techniques:  This job requires that you have lab skills and familiarity with testing procedures and equipment to run samples.

Nature Of The Work

Much of the work that you would do as a health physicist would be on site or in the field.  This will include going to hospitals, power plants, and radiology clinics, as well as taking samples from the environment to assess any threats.  Field work and on site activities would involve interviews, inspections, and observations.  This information would be documented and then analyzed at the office.

Office and lab work are the other components of this job.  Samples that are taken would be measured for possible contamination, and statistical and narrative data would be compared.  After analysis, you would need to draft your conclusions and suggestions into a report that may be either submitted or presented at a municipal hearing.

Education And Training

Health physicists will require a four year Bachelor’s degree to qualify for this line of employment.  The coursework should include health physics, industrial safety, chemistry, engineering, and computer systems skills.  Internships are not required for this position, but many employers do prefer some experience in entering into this job.

Certification as a health physicist is obtained through state examination, and must be maintained through continuing education.  Although not all levels of this position require certification, it can be beneficial for job advancement. 

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Health physicists have a generous rate of wages.  Entry level positions can start at around $42,000 and the top 10% in the industry make well over $110,000 per year.  Median range for salaries is close to $66,000 per year, and this offer a competitive market even if you are new to this line of work.

The expected growth rate in this field is a little slower than most jobs in public health, but it is still above the national average for employment.  Between 2012 and 2022, it is projected that a 13% rise in employment will be seen for health physicists.  This makes this position attractive for both entry level and advancement applicants. 

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