Ever had an X-ray and wondered why the person taking the x-ray has to leave the room when the x-ray is taken? The answer is Radiation Protection. We know repeated exposure to radiation and radioactivity can lead to health issues over a period of time, so Radiation Protection puts in place controls to reduce people’s exposure to radiation.
Radiation Protection (or RP), is defined as “The protection of people from harmful effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, and the means for achieving this.” Exposure can be from a source of radiation external to the human body or due to internal irradiation caused by the ingestion of radioactive contamination. In the modern world radiation is used in a wide range of industries including nuclear power, medicine (including dentistry and veterinary medicine), industrial radiography, thickness gauging, the oil and gas industry, and in research and development.
This is a diverse profession – the Society for Radiological Protection is the UK Chartered Professional society for everyone who works in the RP field. We have members in hospitals, universities and the nuclear industry, at all levels from Health Physics technicians who take the measurements to Radiation Protection Advisors (RPAs) and Radioactive Waste Advisers (RWAs), who are appointed under legislation and give specific advice to keep people safe. In the medical field those overseeing the use of radiation are known as Medical Physics Experts.
How do you get into a career in Radiation Protection?
The profession requires a solid grounding in a scientific discipline and whilst this is often physics, it can be any STEM subject. Since it often involves working with people to ensure work with radiation is carried out safely and legally, then a high level of interpersonal skills is required.
Some Masters courses are available in Radiation Protection and Medical Physics and some employers offer on the job training often as part of their graduate training schemes which support graduates working towards a professional appointment and professional registration.
People working in the field can work towards obtaining professional registration from Technical Radiation Protection professional (TechRadP) and Incorporated Radiation Protection professional (IRadP) through to Chartered Radiation Protection professional (CRadP), and towards obtaining a relevant Certificate of Competence to giving advice on the relevant legislation. SRP can help by matching you up with a mentor in an appropriate sector.
Radiation Protection can be an exciting and rewarding profession with members getting involved with the protection of employees and the public, in planning for potential emergencies and in developing interesting new protection techniques. Our members have been involved in the operation and decommissioning of nuclear power stations, and industrial premises, and in waste disposal all over the world. They play a central role in developing and applying medical diagnostic techniques and treatments for cancer. For more information see our website.
The Society for Radiological Protection (SRP)
A professional and learned society founded in 1963 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 2007. Their Royal Charter states that the object of the Society is to “promote the science and art of radiation protection and allied fields for the public benefit”. The society offers support to members by offering conferences and training courses, professional registration and access to our scientific journal. They also offer a mentoring scheme. SRP can sometimes offer some support to those undertaking relevant courses.