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Here's how radiation protection specialist work to protect human beings from radioactive matters

Image: Marisol Leffler.

Ionising radiation is generally used in industry, medicine, research and other fields. South Africa is one of the world’s main producers of uranium which is used for the generation of electricity in nuclear power stations. There is an increasing need for protection from radiation and control over radiation supplies in these fields of application.

The radiation protection specialist can specialise in the following fields:

Industrial radiation protection: These radiation protection specialists advise management of organisations on the utilisation of radiation and assist personnel during radiation work. They are, amongst other things, involved in the design and planning of new facilities and construction and also develop radiation protection programmes.

Environmental studies: These radiation protection specialists determine the level of radioactive pollution and radiation in the environment and also study the influence of nuclear energy on human beings and the environment. They must also monitor the long-term effects of radiation.

Research: Research projects can involve various disciplines but will always be directed at the acquisition of knowledge and the solution of specific protection problems or the development of new techniques. An example of research subjects would be the interaction between various types of radiation and matter, and measurement techniques.

Regulative control: Here radiation protection specialists must ensure that the legal requirements regarding the utilisation, application and control of radiation, as well as the protection against radiation and the design of plants such as nuclear power stations, are met.

Personal requirements

  • Interest in nuclear technology
  • Interest in the protection of human beings and their environment
  • Enjoy solving problems and doing research
  • Above average intelligence
  • Keen to work with nuclear and other technology
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Accurate worker
  • Willing to work under dangerous conditions
  • Able to make quick, objective decisions in crisis situations

How to enter

Schooling & school subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

What to study

Degree: BSc with a suitable natural science subject as a major - any South African university. NWU offers a course called Applied Radiation Science. A higher degree will allow certification as a RPS following the required in-service experience.

In-service training: The Chamber of Mines offers special courses in Radiation Protection for the mining industry. Further in-service training in a specific field is essential.


  • Such organisations as NECSA, CSIR, SABS, Mittal Steel, Eskom
  • National Accelerator Centre
  • Council for Nuclear Safety
  • Department of Health
  • Gold and uranium mines
  • Universities of technology and universities
  • Self-employment, as private consultant advising institutions on the utilisation and application of radiation

Getting started

  • Develop your interest in science and read up on new discoveries in radiation and the latest technology
  • Arrange to speak to a radiation protection specialist about this type of career.

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