Radiation Therapists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a radiation therapist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Radiation Therapist Jobs

  • Radiation Therapist - Radiation Oncology ( 2246KW ) - Bellin Health - Green Bay, WI

    The Radiation Therapist is a full performance advanced-level position responsible for administering therapeutic doses of ionizing radiation using advanced level linear accelerators as well as ...

  • Radiation Therapist - 21st Century Oncology - Venice, FL

    The Radiation Therapist coordinates, plans, and administers high quality and comprehensive age/disease appropriate radiotherapy to oncology patients of all age groups by utilizing equipment ...

  • Radiation Therapist - Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital - Yakima, WA

    ROLE SUMMARY The Radiation Therapist delivers ionizing radiation to the patient in accordance with the prescription and instructions of the Radiation Oncologist under the supervision of the Manager ...

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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
  • Protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation
  • Determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
  • Calibrate and 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, such as linear accelerators, to deliver concentrated radiation therapy to the region of a patient's tumor. Radiation treatment can shrink or remove cancers and tumors.

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

  • Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in radiation therapy
  • Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Medical physicists help in planning of radiation treatments, develop better and safer radiation therapies, and check that radiation output is accurate

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

Radiation therapists hold about 19,100 jobs. The largest employers of radiation therapists are as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 64%
Offices of physicians 21
Self-employed workers 6
Outpatient care centers 5

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.

Injuries and illnesses for Radiation Therapists

Since radiation therapists administer radiation treatments over many years they should take precautions to limit exposure and be aware of the risks involved.

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.

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Education for Radiation Therapists

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 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 110 accredited educational programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

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 for Radiation Therapists

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 ARRT certification.

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the 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 $80,160. 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 $53,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,710.

The median annual wages for radiation therapists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Outpatient care centers $83,360
Hospitals; state, local, and private 81,450
Offices of physicians 76,420

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 12 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

The incidence 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.

Job Prospects for Radiation Therapists

Candidates can expect competition for most radiation therapist positions. Jobseekers with prior work experience in patient care positions and more education, such as related allied health certifications or a relevant bachelor's degree, should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Radiation Therapists, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Radiation therapists 19,100 21,300 12 2,300

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

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