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Salary Range: $80,000 or more
Average Hourly: $41.76
Education: Associate's degree
Number of Jobs: 17,700
Jobs Added to 2029: 1,600
Growth: As fast as average
Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.
What Radiation Therapists Do
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
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||65%|
|Offices of physicians||24|
|Outpatient care centers||6|
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
Since radiation therapists administer radiation treatments over many years they should take precautions to limit exposure and be aware of the risks involved.
Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.
Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 1,100 openings for radiation therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
How to Become a Radiation Therapist
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. In 2016, there were about 110 accredited educational programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
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 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.
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.