Dosimetrist

When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they often work with a team of health care professionals who provide a wide variety of services to help them get well. The leader of this team is typically an oncologist and other well-known professionals are involved such as nurses, social workers, genetic counselors, and pathologists. If a patient is to receive radiation therapy, a dosimetrist is added to this team. While they are lesser-known, they are vital to ensuring patients get adequate care. 

Dosimetrists’ primary job duty is to design, generate, and measure radiation doses for patients. They will calculate overall dose distributions as well as provide oversight to the entire radiation therapy process. They have an in-depth understanding of math, physics, anatomy, physiology, and radiobiology in order to tailor treatments to a patient’s particular kind of cancer or tumor.

For each patient, dosimetrists start with simulations to locate the cancer or tumor with scans and then create immobilizing devices to ensure patients will not move during treatment. Once the simulation is complete and the oncologist has determined the specific treatment modality, dosimetrists will administer radiation therapy. 

The two primary therapy methods are external beam radiation, where radiation is delivered outside the body, and brachytherapy, where radiation is placed inside a patient’s body. 

To work in this field, dosimetrists must complete at least a bachelor’s degree in math, physics, or dosimetry. Many professionals in this field earn a master’s or certificate in dosimetry in order to have the necessary skills and knowledge. Certification is optional for dosimetrists, although many employers may require it. The primary certification body for dosimetrists is the Medical Dosimetry Certification Board (MDCB)

This is a detail-oriented, highly technical career. Keep reading to learn what it takes to become a dosimetrist, including top programs, typical wages, job duties, and certification steps.  

Dosimetrist Specializations & Degree Types

Dosimetrists are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree to practice in this field. Currently, there are only four bachelor’s programs in medical dosimetry in the United States, so many professionals pursuing this career earn a degree in a related field such as math or physics. 

Upon completing a general bachelor’s degree, students must pursue either a master’s or certificate in medical dosimetry. These programs are offered both at universities and hospitals or clinics.

Admissions Requirements for Dosimetrist Programs

Admission requirements for dosimetry programs vary based on the type of degree and the institution. Bachelor’s degree programs require applicants to have completed high school and take a national standardized exam such as the ACT or SAT. Often, bachelor’s degree dosimetry programs are just the junior and senior years of a student’s degree. These programs require students to complete general education requirements and prerequisite coursework before applying. 

Master’s or certificate programs require applicants to have already earned a bachelor’s degree. Preferably, this bachelor’s degree is in math or physics. Many master’s or certificate programs require applicants to hold an American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certificate to be eligible for admission. 

Lastly, some programs may require a minimum number of years of work experience in radiation technology. 

Dosimetrist Program Accreditation

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits dosimetry education programs. Currently, there are only 15 certificate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs accredited by the JRCERT. Students should ensure their dosimetry program is JRCERT accredited, as this is a requirement in order to be eligible for Medical Dosimetry Certification Board (MDCB) certification. 

JRCERT accreditation assures students, employers, and the MDCB that a program has met strict quality standards in faculty, curriculum, and facilities. JRCERT standards were updated in 2021 to ensure students are receiving the highest level of education. 

In addition, all JRCERT accredited programs must submit year programmatic effectiveness rates along with an assessment to ensure they continue to meet standards.  

On-Campus Dosimetrist Degree Programs

Loma Linda University – School of Allied Health Professions

In just 15 months, students can complete a certificate in medical dosimetry at Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions. Graduates have the necessary skills to work in radiation oncology and are eligible to sit for the MDCB certification. In addition to technical skills in medical dosimetry, students learn professionalism, critical thinking, clinical competence, and communication skills. Only two students are admitted to this program every year, so admissions are very competitive. 

This full-time on-campus program is available to students who either have an ARRT registration in Radiation Therapy Technology with a bachelor’s degree in any major or who have completed a bachelor’s in physics or math. Students who enter with an ARRT registration only need to complete 29 credits, while students with a bachelor’s must complete 40.  

  • Location: Loma Linda, CA
  • Duration: 15 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) 
  • Tuition: $825 per credit 

Suffolk University – College of Arts & Sciences

The master of science in medical dosimetry at Suffolk University’s College of Arts & Sciences features a combination of hands-on clinical experiences and coursework to graduate top entry-level medical dosimetrists. Faculty in this program are board-certified medical dosimetrists, so students have the opportunity to learn from leading professionals in the field. Suffolk features access to top-of-the-line technology, and all students receive training on the latest planning tools. 

Because Suffolk is located in Boston, students have access to world-class clinical experiences at both large hospitals and smaller community clinics. These include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber/Brigham, Women’s Cancer Center at Milford Regional Medical Center, and Rhode Island Hospital. 

Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, prerequisite coursework in math and science, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and four hours or more of experience shadowing a medical dosimetrist. 

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) 
  • Tuition: $1,320 per credit hour

University of Maryland – School of Medicine

The one-year certificate in medical dosimetry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine prepares students for a career in this field. With a combination of extensive hands-on experience and coursework, graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the MDCB certification and obtain entry-level work in the field. 

However, it should be noted that this is not a degree-seeking program, and courses completed for this program cannot be transferred to another institution or degree program. 

Faculty in this program include radiation oncologists, PhD-level physicists, and board-certified medical dosimetrists. As part of this program, students will create treatment plans for patients that will be implemented under supervision. 

To be eligible for admission, students must have a bachelor’s of science or applied science with at least one year of physics coursework, or have a bachelor’s degree in any field and be a graduate of a radiation therapy program.  

  • Location: Baltimore MD
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) 
  • Tuition: $1,305.70 per credit 

University of North Carolina – School of Medicine

The mission of the one-year medical dosimetry certificate program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine is to prepare graduates with evaluation skills and knowledge of patient safety to find entry-level work in this field. In addition, students will gain expertise in how to plan treatment, communication skills, professionalism, and critical thinking in order to provide the highest level of patient care. 

Courses students must take include orientation to radiation oncology, introduction to medical dosimetry, radiation safety and protection, medical dosimetry physics, and radiation and cancer biology. Faculty in this program include medical physicists, radiation biologists, and radiation oncologists. 

Admission eligibility requirements include a bachelor’s degree, ARRT certification in radiation therapy, and two years of work experience in radiation therapy. 

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) 
  • Tuition: $18,390 per year

Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center

The Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center offers a one-year medical dosimetry certificate program. This is a hospital-based program, and as such, students do not earn any university credit for coursework completed. However, this is a JRCERT accredited program, and graduates are eligible to sit for the MDCB certification. Students will gain skills in brachytherapy, radiation oncology simulators, and treatment machines. 

Since 2016, 100 percent of graduates have passed the MDCB certification and been employed within six months of graduation. Graduates who go on to work at the Cleveland Clinic are eligible for tuition reimbursement. 

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and ARRT certification in radiation therapy to be eligible for admission.   

  • Location: Cleveland, OH
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) 
  • Tuition: $10,000 for the entire program

Online or Hybrid Dosimetrist Degree Programs

Southern Illinois University – School of Health Sciences

The Southern Illinois University School of Health Sciences offers a full-time online master’s of science in medical dosimetry. All didactic coursework is offered online, synchronous and asynchronous depending on the class, while clinicals are completed at a site near the students’ home. Key skills taught in this program include how to execute a research project, critical thinking, problem-solving, and how to continue learning to stay at the forefront of this field. 

Up to 20 students are admitted to this program each year. Preference is given to applicants with a bachelor’s degree and work in radiation therapy, although students with just a bachelor’s degree will be given consideration. To complete this program, students must earn a total of 30 semester-credits. Students can anticipate spending 40 hours a week between clinicals and coursework.

  • Location: Carbondale IL 
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Tuition: $1,173.75 per credit 

Bellevue College 

Designed for working professionals, the bachelor’s of applied science or certificate in medical dosimetry at Bellevue College offers all coursework online. Many courses are offered asynchronously and the ones delivered synchronously are scheduled from 6:00 to 9:00 in the evening, Pacific Time. 

Clinical experience must be completed in person but can be performed at a clinic near the student’s home. Students in Washington are provided with a clinical practicum site, while students in other states are responsible for securing their own. Beginning the second quarter of this program, students are expected to spend at least 24 hours in their practicum each week. 

This program is available every two years, with courses starting in the fall of every even-numbered year. All applicants must have a national-level certification in radiation therapy as well as prerequisite coursework in precalculus, English composition, human anatomy and physiology, sectional anatomy, humanities, and social sciences.

  • Location: Bellevue, WA
  • Duration: 22 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Tuition: $18,390 per year

Grand Valley State University 

With full-time and part-time options, the hybrid master’s of science in medical dosimetry degree at Grand Valley State University offers students a lot of flexibility. Course students complete include clinical disease processes, human anatomy, radiation physics, and computer technology. To graduate, students must complete a total of 38 credits of coursework and present either a research project or a thesis. 

Clinical locations for this program can be anywhere in the United States. Students stay at one clinical site for their entire practicum, allowing them to integrate into a team and provide continuity of care for patients. There are two required on-campus meetings where students must travel to Grand Rapids if they are not local to the school. 

Admission to this program is competitive and factors considered include undergraduate GPA, a personal statement, an in-person interview, health care experience, letters of recommendation, and leadership experience. 

  • Location: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Tuition: $723 per credit 

Pitt Community College

The curriculum in the certificate in medical dosimetry at Pitt Community College prepares students to become valuable members of an oncology radiation team. With the exception of clinical practicums and four on-site visits, this program is offered online with the working professional in mind. 

Graduates from Pitt Community College are trained to provide quality patient care, perform research, and continue their education post-graduation. Upon completion of this program, students are eligible for MCDB certification and entry-level work. 

Not only do students in this program complete lecture classes and clinicals, but they also participate in cutting-edge studies related to the roles of medical dosimetrists. These studies are led by top faculty in the field who are board-certified dosimetrists or radiation therapists. Other topics students cover in this program include professionalism, ethics, treatment planning, radiation oncology anatomy, and quality assurance. 

  • Location: Winterville, NC
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Tuition: $18,390 per year

University of Texas – School of Health Professions

 Students in the bachelor’s of science in medical dosimetry at the University of Texas School of Health Professions can choose to complete their program either on-campus or through distance learning. Online students can be anywhere in the United States, so long as they can complete their clinical rotations at an affiliated clinical site. Students in the distance learning program are required to travel to Houston for a few in-person classes at the start of the program. 

Although this is a bachelor’s program, it is only two years long, as students are required to complete general education and prerequisite coursework before enrolling in this major. Required coursework in the program includes radiation biology, clinical radiation oncology, brachytherapy dosimetry, radiation physics, external beam dosimetry, and more. In addition, all students must complete 70 semester-hours of upper-division coursework in dosimetry in order to graduate.  

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • Tuition: $531.47 per credit 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dosimetrist?

How long it takes to become a dosimetrist varies based on the level of education completed. All dosimetrists must earn at least a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years. If the bachelor’s degree was in medical dosimetry, then no additional education is necessary. If the bachelor’s was in another field, then aspiring professionals will need to complete a certificate or master’s, which can take anywhere from one to three more years of education.

How To Become a Dosimetrist- Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

Earning a high school diploma or completing a GED is the first step towards becoming a dosimetrist. A diploma or GED demonstrates a minimum level of education and is necessary to enroll in the additional education necessary for this career. Aspiring dosimetrists should focus on classes such as physics, chemistry, and advanced math. 

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years) 

In order to earn MDCB certification, candidates must complete a bachelor’s degree. Students can complete a bachelor’s of science or applied science in dosimetry or in another related field such as math or physics. If a student pursues a degree other than dosimetry, they should ensure they take the prerequisite coursework necessary to complete a certificate or master’s in dosimetry. 

In order to be eligible for MDCB certification, it is imperative that this program be JRCERT accredited. 

Step 3: Complete Dosimetrist Education (One to Two Years) 

Aspiring dosimetrists must complete a master’s or certificate program in dosimetry unless they have completed a JRCERT accredited bachelor’s degree in dosimetry. These programs can vary from one to two years, depending on the degree completed. Some dosimetry programs are at accredited institutions, and credits can be transferred to other schools or count towards another degree program should students pursue additional education. Other programs are integrated into a hospital or clinic, and courses completed only apply to that specific certificate.   

Step 4: Earn a Dosimetrist Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

Certification, while optional, is an industry-standard. The primary certification agency for dosimetrists is the Medical Dosimetry Certification Board (MDCB). More details on how to obtain this certification can be found in the certification and licensing section below. 

Step 5: Obtain a Dosimetrist State Licensure (Timeline Varies)

While there are no state licensing requirements for dosimetrist specifically, they may be required to obtain a state license as a radiologic technician or nuclear medicine technologist.

What Do Dosimetrists Do?

Dosimetrists work primarily in hospitals, cancer clinics, or research centers. Job duties vary based on place of employment, but typical responsibilities include:

  • Developing plans for tumor or cancer radiation treatments
  • Practicing safe handling practices of radioactive materials
  • Assisting, performing, or supervising treatment simulations using medical imaging equipment such as MRIs, CTs, or PET scans
  • Consulting with members of the oncology team on appropriate treatment for patients
  • Conducting dose calculations for brachytherapy procedures
  • Developing, producing, and applying molds, casts, or other immobilization devices to keep patients still

Dosimetrist Certifications & Licensure

The primary certification for dosimetrists is through the Medical Dosimetry Certification Board (MDCB). To be eligible for this exam, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree and have completed a JRCERT accredited medical dosimetry program in the past 12 months. 

The MDCB certification exam is offered once a year, typically in September. This computer-based exam consists of 155 questions that must be answered in three hours and 50 minutes and costs $200 for the application fee and $375 for the exam fee. Topics covered include:

  • Radiation physics
  • Localization
  • Treatment planning
  • Dose calculation methods
  • Brachytherapy
  • Radiation Protection
  • Quality assurance and standards of care

Currently, there are no state licensing requirements for medical dosimetrists. However, many states may classify dosimetrists as nuclear medicine technologists or radiologic technicians. Nuclear medicine technologists must be licensed in 30 states, and radiologic technicians must be licensed in approximately 75 percent of the states. 

Dosimetrist should contact their local state licensing boards to ensure they have the necessary qualification in order to practice.

How Much Do Dosimetrists Make?

Wages for dosimetrists vary based on level of education completed, work experience, and place of employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020) estimates that medical dosimetrists earn $48,270 per year on average. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $28,800
  • 25th percentile: $34,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,090
  • 75th percentile: $57,840
  • 90th percentile: $73,370

Dosimetrist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a dosimetrist: 

Become a Radiologic & MRI Technologist

Medical imaging necessary to diagnose and treat patients is obtained by radiologic and MRI technologists. Professionals in this field are responsible for operating imaging equipment, explaining procedures to patients, following safety procedures, communicating with physicians, and maintaining patient records. 

  • Typical Education: Associate degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Dosimetry is a specialization within nuclear medicine. Professionals in this field who perform diagnostic imaging using nuclear medicine are called nuclear medicine technologists. They are responsible for administering physician-prescribed radiopharmaceuticals to patients and then running imaging equipment to obtain images physicians can use to make a diagnosis. 

  • Typical Education: Associate degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)

Become a Cardiac Sonographer

Cardiac sonographers are health care professionals who use diagnostic imaging tools to evaluate cardiac function. Day-to-day responsibilities for cardiac sonographers include taking patient histories, explaining procedures, operating diagnostic equipment, writing reports on findings, consulting with physicians, and maintaining patient records. 

  • Typical Education: Associate degree or higher
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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