Oncologists, physicians who specialize in cancer treatment, frequently prescribe radiation, along with chemotherapy, as a cancer treatment. It is commonly administered by an oncology team. A dosimetrist is the member of the team that calculates and monitors the radiation dosage in conjunction with the attending radiation oncologist and medical physicist.
The ability to use computer software that calculates radiation dosages based on the particulars of each patient’s condition is required to be a dosimetrist. Skills in advanced math including calculus, trigonometry and algebra are needed to calculate treatment parameters. Good communication skills are necessary to work well with the oncology team members. Knowledge of radiation safety is required for this position.
When a physician prescribes radiation as part of a patient’s treatment, a dosimetrist reviews the dosage and frequency numbers. She confers with the physician and may recommend adjustments based on her expertise. Prior to administering the treatment, a dosimetrist studies body scans and X-rays, so she can confirm the targeted treatment areas. She assists the radiation oncologist in applying protective shields and other devices to the patient. After each treatment, she monitors the patient’s reactions and advises the physician of any adverse or noteworthy effects.
This job is typically performed in a medical environment like a clinic, hospital or doctor’s office. The atmosphere is typically quiet and is usually a mix of patients, family members and medical personnel. A dosimetrist usually works 40 hours a week, which may include nights and weekends. His work day normally requires him to stand while preparing patients for treatments and walk among different divisions and rooms in the medical facility. Clothing appropriate for medical personnel is required.
There are several educational options to become a qualified dosimetrist. The job candidate may have completed an authorized program in dosimetry, which includes a minimum of 18 months of combined classroom and clinical training. Another option is to have a bachelor’s degree in some area of biology or physical science or to be a registered radiation therapy technologist combined with two or more years of related job experience. The third alternative is for the job candidate to have an associate or bachelor’s degree unrelated to science combined with on-the-job training supervised by a medical physicist or certified medical dosimetrist along with four years of experience in the field of medical dosimetry.
Salary and Advancement Opportunities
Salary increases are generally given based on performance and seniority. Advancement opportunities may be available for dosimetrists who continue their education in the field of radiation therapy. Based on information provided at salary.com, the median annual salary in 2009 for a dosimetrist working in the United States was $89,976.
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