How to Become a Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapists are a part of an oncologist team that helps with the medical treatment of a cancer patient.

An oncologist team can be made up of many other cancer specialists including a radiation oncologist and a radiation physicist.

The Radiation Therapist is mainly responsible for implementing the oncology team’s treatment plan.

Radiation therapy is one of the available medical procedures to treat cancer.

Its administration is done with the help of a machine called Linear Accelerator.

Radiation therapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy or used on its own to help eradicate a patient’s cancer.

A specific kind of treatment performed by a Linear Accelerator machine is called the External Beam Therapy in which targeted cancer cells are transmitted with high levels of x-rays.

The outcome of this therapy is to prompt the collision of x-rays with human tissue in order to produce extremely energized ions.

These produced ions will hopefully cause the cancerous tumor to shrink and eventually disappear.

A person who wants to become a Radiation Therapist will need some inherent skills such as being personable in addition to having a medical background in order to secure a position in this field.

These professionals are an integral part of an oncology team and are responsible for following a treatment plan created ahead of time.

Education Requirements to Become a Radiation Therapist

People who want to become a Radiation Therapist need to acquire either a certificate, an Associate’s or a Bachelor’s degree in Radiation Therapy in order to contend for this type of position.

In addition, a candidate who wants to become a Radiation Therapist can opt to complete a Radiography program at an Associate’s or Bachelor’s level and then seek a 12-month certification program in Radiation Therapy.

Students in 33 states will also need to seek licensure.

Visit your specific state’s accrediting board for details and protocol to get licensed.

Certain states and employers also require certification which can be sought from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART).

Students taking the direct Radiation Therapy route will learn information regarding radiation therapy procedures and the scientific principles surrounding them that will help in understanding their effects.

In addition, some programs such as the Bachelor’s degree offer information on mathematics, anatomy, physics, writing and physiology.

For a list of accredited Radiation Therapy programs, visit the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists at AART Recognized Educational Programs.

AART also offers information regarding certification protocol and requirements.

They administer the certification exam as well.

Visit their direct link for instructions and requirements: AART Certification

Radiation Therapist Job Description

Radiation Therapists can work out of hospitals, cancer treatment centers, private practices or clinics; however, the majority of Radiation Therapists work out of hospitals with a smaller percentage of workers practicing out of a physician’s office.
Radiation Therapists work with several patients a day and are responsible for the administration of the radiation process needed to eradicate the presence of cancer.

A Radiation Therapist first gets involved by gathering information about the location of a patient’s tumor.

There are two types of equipment a Radiation Therapist can use in order to do this: a computer tomography scanning machine (CT) or an x-ray machine.

The oncology team uses this information in order to create a treatment plan.

The Radiation Therapist is then responsible for following the oncology team’s plan.

They position the patient into the linear accelerator machine according to predetermine adjustments.

Radiation Therapists are then required to enter a different room and operates the machine from there keeping an eye on the patient and recording any information regarding their health.

They may also observe how the patient emotionally handles the radiation treatment.

Radiation therapy typically takes between 10 to 20 minutes to complete.

Radiation Therapist Salary and Career Path

Radiation Therapist jobs are expected to grow faster than average at a strong rate of 27% through the year 2018.

This is largely due to the fact that the elderly population will grow at a rapid pace and are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.

Another factor in growth is the advancements radiation therapy will experience resulting in safer and more effective forms of treatment.

This is expected to cause cancer specialists to prescribe this form of treatment more often.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median wage for Radiation Therapists is approximately $72,910 per year.

The salary range for these professionals begins at approximately $47,900 to $104,350 per year.

In addition to the high wages, this would be a great career choice for students who are interested in working with cancer patients and handling medical equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a radiation therapist?

Radiation therapists are allied health professionals who administer radiotherapy treatments.

As a radiation therapist, you will collaborate with an oncologist and your main task will be to supervise the delivery of radioactive material into your patients’ bodies.

You will gather all the relevant data regarding your patient, like CT, MRI, x-rays to determine the area where the treatment will be focused on.

Your job is to target the cancer cells and to avoid exposure of the surrounding healthy tissues and cells.

If you are thinking about this path as a possible career choice, you should know that you need good technical skills but also strong interpersonal and communication abilities because you will interact with cancer patients, and will have to explain the procedures and interventions, answer their questions, and try to make this difficult phase of their life as easy as possible.

When working with radioactive material there is the risk of radiation exposure, so you will need to follow very strict safety procedures to minimize health risks.

You will also have to face emotional stress because you will deal with patients in severe conditions.

However, if you can manage all this, radiation therapy can be a meaningful and rewarding career.

How much does a radiation therapist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for radiation therapists was $82,330 in May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors.

Some radiation therapists make less than $60,000 while others make more than $120,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a radiation therapist?

If you want to become a radiation therapist you will need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy.

You must also be licensed and in order to gain your license, you will typically need to pass a certification exam.

Tuition costs for radiology therapy programs vary depending on many factors.

For a two-year associate program in Medical Radiologic Technology, the average cost is around $21,000 per year with a total cost of $42,000.

For a four-year bachelor program, the average cost is around $36,000, with a total cost of over $140,000.

What is the demand for radiation therapists?

As the population is aging, the incidence of cancer increases and this will increase the demand for radiation therapists.

According to BLS, employment is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028.

How long does it take to become a radiation therapist?

To become a radiation therapist you will need an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy.

To be eligible for enrollment at a radiation therapy program you will need a high school diploma or a GED.

Associate’s degree programs can be completed in 2 years while bachelor’s degree programs are usually 4-years-long.

The program you choose should include clinical practice.

You might also want to take into account that most hospitals prefer to hire radiology therapists who hold a bachelor’s degree.

After finishing your studies, you will need to take an exam held by the American Registry Radiologic Technologists.

All in all, you may be able to work in the field in 3-4 years after finishing high school.

Find a Program