Answer to Question #11900 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Radiation Safety Careers
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I'm trying to get at least 40 hours of training in radiation safety. I've got a science-related bachelor's degree. What will be my license options after the training?
First of all, a 40-hour class is often a minimum requirement to qualify as a radiation safety officer (RSO) on a state or U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license to possess radioactive materials. Information on requirements to be an RSO may be found on the Health Physics Society (HPS) website. You can also find providers for 40-hour RSO training on Google.
Getting a certificate for a 40-hour RSO class does not automatically qualify you as an RSO, and you cannot call yourself an RSO based on that certificate. By the way, do not be misled by training providers who may advertise "certified RSO training." There is no such thing as a "certified RSO" and no training provider is "certified" to train RSOs. What you will get from RSO training is a certificate showing that you have completed a 40-hour class. The good news is that you only have to complete a 40-hour class one time. A certificate for such training could be a useful credential when seeking employment.
The type of employment that you may qualify for depends on the type of license your employer needs, as shown on the HPS link above. A state or the NRC will determine your qualification requirements for a particular license. While a 40-hour class is often a minimum requirement, the regulator may also want to know if you have other education or experience for the use of the radioactive materials requested by your license application. For example, if you request a license to use liquid radioactive materials (commonly used in research), the state or the NRC may want to know if you have ever worked with liquid radioactive materials before. Once the regulator is satisfied that your qualifications match the requirements for your license, they will issue a license with your name on it as the RSO. No one can call themselves an RSO unless their name is on a current license.
As you can see, your qualifications to serve as an RSO are highly dependent on the type of license needed, and a 40-hour class is only part of the qualification. If you wanted to be an RSO for a university or other large facility, the regulators may want you to have more than a 40-hour class, in which case your bachelor of science degree may be helpful.
A 40-hour RSO class will satisfy most states' requirements for you to serve as an RSO for registered x-ray machines. State registrations for x-ray machines require someone to be identified as a "designated responsible person" or an RSO. For many types of x-ray machines, the state may not require a full 40-hour class; instead, a one- or two-day class may satisfy state requirements for some x-ray machines.
Ray Johnson, MS, PSE, PE, FHPS, DAAHP, CHP