Careers in Radiation Biology

Radiation biologists may work as radiation therapists, oncologists or research scientists. Continue reading to find out about job duties, education requirements for radiation biology careers and salary information. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Types of Careers are Available in Radiation Biology?

Radiation biology is sometimes referred to radiobiology. It is an interdisciplinary field that explores the biological effects of radiation, including x-rays, microwaves and gamma rays. Depending on the level of education you complete, you may find work as a radiation therapist or oncologist, developing treatment plans for cancer patients. You could also become a dosimetrist, or a member of a radiation oncology team operating a variety of treatment equipment.

If you're interested in pursuing research in the field of radiation biology, you might consider becoming a professor or associate professor in the field. Most such positions are offered by a university's medical department or health center.

What Type of Education Will I Need?

Many bachelor's degree programs in radiation science and radiography include courses in radiation biology. These programs can prepare you to become a radiation therapist. A bachelor's degree in physical science or biology can also prepare you for graduate programs in radiation biology.

The most common degrees in the field of radiation biology are Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree programs. These programs are research-based and include heavy clinical rotations. In these programs, you'll learn how to make advancements in the field of radiation therapy. You'll also study ways in which radiation can be used to further fight cancerous cells, and also study how to minimize the side effects of radiation.

If you're interested in a career as an oncologist, you'll need to earn a Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree. This requires four years of study beyond a bachelor's degree, plus up to seven years of residency and fellowship programs.

What Concentrations are Available?

If you are pursuing a doctoral degree in radiation biology, you'll most likely be allowed or required to focus on a particular topic in the field. Choosing a specialization will help to narrow your research and find you a position within a university laboratory or health center. You might choose to research how imaging equipment can be improved, or study how herbal medicines interact with radiation treatments.

What Will My Salary be Like?

If you choose to become a radiation therapist, you'll probably find work at a hospital or physicians' office. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for radiation therapists in 2009 was about $74,000 (www.bls.gov). If you decide to become an oncologist, you can expect to earn between $122,895 and $247,289 per year, according to 2011 data from PayScale.com.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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