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. The table below provides some additional details about this field:

Radiation TherapistsOncologists
Degree Required Bachelor's Doctor of Medicine
Education Field of Study Radiation science and Radiography Oncology residency
Key Responsibilities Administer x-rays, explain treatments to patients, operate equipment, keep records of treatment Create treatment plans, study the effects of radiation
Licensure Requirements Varies state to state Must past state board exams
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14%* 14% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Median Salary $80,220 (2015)* $247,294 (for oncologists in 2017)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

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 Doctor of Medicine (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 you narrow your research and find 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 physician's office. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for radiation therapists in 2015 was $80,220 (www.bls.gov). If you decide to become an oncologist, you can expect to earn between $103,246 and $421,297 per year, according to 2017 data from PayScale.com.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Diagnostic medical sonographers operate machinery that create complex internal images of a patient's body through sound waves; some diagnostic medical sonographers are present during surgical procedures. Nuclear medicine technologists use special radioactive chemicals and medicines to prep patients for imaging technology by turning specific parts of the body different colors when viewed on these machines. Radiologic technologists use short bursts of different kinds of radiation in order to see inside a patient's body. All of these careers typically require a minimum of an associate's degree.

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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