Are you concerned with the harmful effects of radiation on humans? Would you like to find ways to protect people from the hazards associated with radiation? If so, then a degree in health physics may be for you. Health physics degrees are offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many health physicists earn the Certified Health Physicist credential. Read this article to learn more.
Inside Health Physics
Medical treatments, nuclear reactors, x-ray machines and electrical power generation all use radiation that can pose risks to human health and safety if not regulated properly. The primary role of health physicists is to protect people from the adverse effects of radiation. They work to ensure people receive minimal exposure to radiation while still benefiting from new technologies and therapies. Health physicists often measure radiation levels in water, soils or medical doses used in patient treatments. They may also work to prevent unnecessary environmental contamination.
A handful of schools offer health physics programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Health physics curricula combine a broad range of sciences, including chemistry, biology, anatomy and physics. Courses in radiation biology, biochemistry, genetics and physiology are also typically required. Some programs allow students to further specialize in such areas as nuclear engineering, medical physics and radiation biology. Practical, hands-on training within laboratories is an important component of most programs.
Health physics has applications in many different areas, including environmental impacts, nuclear weapons, medicine and occupational safety. Power and electrical plants, nuclear reactor facilities, medical facilities, research laboratories and government agencies often require the expertise of health physicists. These professionals often work alongside other scientists and engineers in industrial settings focused on building new systems and equipment. Those working in the medical industry may ensure that new biomedical research and therapies are safe and remain within exposure limits. Health physicists may also work in education and outreach, teaching facility workers and the general public about the risks of radioactivity and ways to protect themselves.
Graduates of health physics programs can earn two levels of certification in the field. Those with bachelor's or graduate degrees may earn the Certified Health Physicist (CHP) credential through the American Board of Health Physics, which further requires having at least six years experience in the field and passing a written examination (www.hps1.org). Additionally, certification as a technician may be acquired through the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists by gaining at least five years of experience or and passing an examination (www.nrrpt.org).
Health physicists were projected to have good job prospects in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected above-average job growth for physicists in general, at 16%, between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS further expected good job prospects in the areas of applied research and development for physicists with master's degrees. As of February 2012, PayScale.com reported that most health physicists earned salaries of between $45,913 and $116,670.
Learn More About Health Physics
Several schools offer health physics degree programs, ranging from the associate's to doctorate levels. Certification is also common in this line of work. Whether you want to focus in the area of environmental or medical health physics, use Education-Portal.com as your number one online resource for education and career information.
Associate's degree programs typically prepare graduates for careers as health physics technicians. If you want to work as a health physicist, you'll likely need at least a bachelor's degree in the field. You can also choose to earn an advanced degree, like the Master of Health Physics, depending on your career interests. There are a handful of health physics degree programs in the country accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
- Bachelor's Degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology
- Master's Degree in Medical Physics
- Undergraduate Degrees in Radiology Technology
- Degrees in Nuclear Engineering by Level
- Doctor of Philosophy in Physics
Distance Learning Options
Online degree programs in health physics are rare but do exist. Students wishing to study health physics remotely can also find physics courses through distance learning.
- Online Associate's Degree in Health Physics
- Online Associate's Degree in Nuclear Power Technology
- Online Master's Degrees in Physics
- Online Graduate Physics Courses
The articles below include just a sampling of careers related to the field of health physics. Find additional career opportunities by exploring Education-Portal.com.
- Health Physics Technician
- Medical Physicist
- Nuclear Engineer
- Radiation Technologist
- Radiation Therapist
Continuing Education Options
Depending on your career goals, you may consider earning a certificate or pursuing voluntary certification in your specialty area. Use these links below to explore additional educational opportunities related to health physics.
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