The Business of Health Physics—Jobs In A Changing Market

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Abstract

The health physics profession was born abruptly when once rare and precious radioactive materials became commonplace. The technological advancements that triggered an industrial complex and ended World War II demanded radiation safety on an unprecedented scale. Until then, protective measures against radiation were largely absent in laboratories. Over the subsequent decades, health physicists began protecting people and the environment in a wide range of settings including medical, research, and industrial. The use of radioactive materials and radiation-generating devices is prevalent today. Radiation doses occur continuously including during airline flights, in our homes, during medical procedures, and in energy production. Radiation is integral to numerous applications including those in medicine, dentistry, manufacturing, construction, scientific research, nuclear electric power generation, and oil and gas exploration. Activities that were once groundbreaking have now become routine and scripted. At higher doses, health effects are understood and avoided. Instruments for the detection and measurement of radiation are at times smarter than their users. Ironically, the same health physics community that has been successful in demonstrating that exposures to radiation and to radioactive materials can be effectively managed is shrinking at an increasingly rapid rate. This paper highlights the creation of past and current jobs, predicts the future opportunities in the profession, and makes recommendations necessary to protect the disappearing specialties.

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