Radiation Therapists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 radiation therapist Jobs

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    Job Description Type of Opportunity: Full Time

  • Radiation Therapist III (on-call, VV) - NorthBay Healthcare - Vacaville, CA

    physicians for treatment of disease – generally cancer. A Radiation

  • ONCOLOGY THERAPIST 1 - Inova - Fairfax, VA

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What Radiation Therapists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Duties of Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Follow safety procedures to protect the patient and themselves from overexposure to radiation
  • Examine machines to make sure they are safe and working properly
  • X ray the patient to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
  • Check computer programs to make sure the machine will give the correct dose of radiation to the appropriate area of the patient's body
  • Operate the machine to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
  • Keep detailed records of treatment

Radiation therapists operate machines called linear accelerators, which are used to deliver radiation therapy. These machines direct high-energy x rays at specific cancer cells in a patient's body, shrinking or removing them.

Radiation therapists are part of the oncology team that treats patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:

  • Radiation oncologists, physicians who specialize in radiation therapy
  • Oncology nurses, registered nurses who specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Medical physicists, physicists who help in planning of radiation treatments and help to develop better and safer radiation therapies

Work Environment for Radiation Therapists[About this section] [To Top]

Radiation therapists hold about 16,600 jobs. Most therapists work in hospitals, offices of physicians, and outpatient centers.

Radiation therapists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. Because they work with radiation and radioactive material, radiation therapists must follow safety procedures to make sure that they are not exposed to a potentially harmful amount of radiation. These procedures usually require therapists to stand in a different room while the patient undergoes radiation procedures.

Radiation Therapist Work Schedules

Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Radiation Therapists near you!

Most radiation therapists complete programs that lead to an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be licensed or certified in most states. Requirements vary by state, but often include passing a national certification exam.

Radiation Therapist Education

Employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate’s degree or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. However, candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a 12-month certificate program.

Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. These programs often include experience in a clinical setting and courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology. There are about 120 accredited educational programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Important Qualities for Radiation Therapists

Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow exact instructions and input exact measurements to make sure the patient is exposed to the correct amount of radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Radiation therapists work closely with patients. It is important that therapists be comfortable interacting with people who may be going through physical and emotional stress.

Physical stamina. Radiation therapists must be able to be on their feet for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Radiation therapists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment, so they must be comfortable operating those devices.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary by state, but typically include graduation from an accredited radiation therapy program and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification.

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the ARRT certification exam. The exam covers radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts in radiation oncology, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education. A list of accredited programs is available from ARRT.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.

Advancement for Radiation Therapists

With additional education and certification, therapists can become medical dosimetrists. Dosimetrists are responsible for calculating the correct dose of radiation that is used in the treatment of cancer patients.

Radiation Therapist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for radiation therapists is $80,220. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,110.

Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

Job Outlook for Radiation Therapists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 14 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,300 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The risk of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population may increase demand for radiation therapists. Continued advancements in the detection of cancer and the development of more sophisticated treatment techniques may also lead to greater demand for radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapists Job Prospects

Candidates can expect very strong competition for most radiation therapist positions. Jobseekers with prior work experience should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Radiation Therapists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Radiation therapists 16,600 18,900 14 2,300

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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