How to Become a Medical Dosimetrist in 5 Steps
Medical dosimetrists calculate the dosage of radiation to administer to patients, such as those with cancer. Learn about the education and specialized training you need for this career, and check the job outlook and typical earnings in the field. Schools offering Cardiovascular Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Medical Dosimetrist?
A medical dosimetrist works as part of a radiation oncology treatment team. Based on the prescriptions of radiation oncologists, they plan out effective radiation therapy programs for cancer patients that deliver the prescribed dose of radiation. To do so, they use advanced software to analyze tumor images, model radiation treatments and calculate appropriate doses. They also consult with physicians and medical physicists to make sure that the plan protects patient safety, based on the parameters of the plan and the radiation oncology equipment. Once a treatment strategy has been developed, dosimetrists may assist radiation therapists with the implementation, which can involve advising them on the correct usage of patient immobilizing devices, compensators and wedges. Some dosimetrists also work to improve process quality or take on academic roles, such as conducting clinical research or teaching medical dosimetry to radiation therapists and medical residents.
Take a look at the following table to get some more information about a career as a medical dosimetrist:
|Degree Required||Graduate certificate or master's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Medical dosimetry|
|Key Responsibilities||Develop radiation therapy programs based on oncologist's prescriptions; perform calculations and computer simulations to assure accurate delivery and patient safety; assist radiation therapists with treatment plan implementation; clinical research and teaching (optional)|
|Licensure Requirements||Optional certification from the Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board (MDCB)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)||14%* (for all radiation therapists)|
|Median Salary (2017)||$110,412**|
*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
You will need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in a postsecondary education program. If your school offers them, vocational courses in nursing could acquaint you with the basics of patient care. Math, biology and physics courses could also be helpful.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in a Relevant Subject
To prepare for a career in medical dosimetry, you can get a bachelor's degree in one of the sciences, such as physics or biology. Physics course topics relevant to dosimetry touch on fundamental particles, strong and weak nuclear forces, electro-magnetism and radioactive decay. In a biology program, you study the structure, behavior, life cycle and evolution of living organisms. Many programs offer specializations or elective courses to help you focus on an area of interest, such as molecular biology and microbiology.
Step 3: Complete a Medical Dosimetry Certificate Program
The next step toward a career in this field is to complete a medical dosimetry certificate program that lasts at least 12 months and has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). You could also complete a medical dosimetry master's degree program that has been accredited by JRCERT.
Classroom-based courses address medical imaging, cross-sectional anatomy, radiation physics, cancer biology and radiation oncology. You will also need to participate in supervised clinical practicums. These sessions help you get hands-on experience working with patients and planning radiation treatments.
Step 4: Get a Job
Specific figures for medical dosimetrists weren't available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 14% increase in job opportunities for radiation therapists from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). An expanding population of elderly patients and improvements to the safety of radiation therapies are expected to drive treatment prescriptions and consequently job growth. Hospitals and physicians' offices are your leading employment prospects, although you may also find a limited number of opportunities with long-term care facilities and outpatient care centers. Salary.com reports that the median salary of dosimetrists was $110,412, as of February 2017.
Step 5: Obtain Certification
While certification is not necessary for employment, it may help you demonstrate your expertise to a potential employer. The Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board offers the Certified Medical Dosimetrist (CMD) credential (www.mdcb.org). You're eligible for the CMD if you've completed a 12-month medical dosimetry program or acquired a related undergraduate degree and the appropriate combination of work experience and continuing education credits. The CMD certification exam consists of 155 multiple-choice questions in nine subject areas, including treatment planning, dose calculation and radiation physics.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Instead of becoming a dosimetrist, you might be interested in a different job on the cancer care team. For instance, as an oncology nurse, you would specialize in caring for patients with cancer, including those who are receiving radiation. This job would include more hands-on care than a job as a dosimetrist, as nurses often perform treatments and counsel cancer patients about their progress and upcoming treatments. To become a registered nurse (RN), you need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass a licensure exam. If you are looking for a laboratory-based job, you could consider becoming a medical laboratory technologist. In this position, you would use specialized equipment to analyze biological samples for diagnostic or academic purposes. Technologists also oversee the activities of lab technicians. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree.
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