Radiation Therapist: Occupational Outlook and Career Summary

Sep 13, 2019

Radiation therapists require an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. They are required to be licensed by most states, which usually includes passing an exam, and may include other requirements. This is a rapidly-growing field that offers good salaries.

Essential Information

Radiation therapists are responsible for administering the treatments that fight cancer. They typically have an undergraduate degree in radiation therapy and are licensed in the state they work in. Licensure requirements vary by state, but generally include being certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State licensure, ARRT certification
Projected Job Growth* 9% between 2018 and 2028 for radiation therapists
Median Salary (2018)* $82,330 for radiation therapists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Occupational Outlook for Radiation Therapists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for radiation therapists was expected to increase 9% from 2018-2028, which is faster than average. Job growth will be spurred by the increasing number of elderly citizens along with developments of treatment techniques. Besides hospitals, outpatient care centers and physician's offices are major employers.

Salary Information

In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual salary of radiation therapists was $82,330. Those who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools had the highest average salary. Many of the major employers, including physician's offices and specialty hospitals, were among the highest paying industries.

Career Summary for Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists are members of the cancer treatment team who operate cancer fighting equipment. Prior to the start of treatment, they operate X-ray machines or computer tomography scanners to locate tumors. Once a treatment plan has been created, radiation therapists operate linear accelerators, which administer radiation treatments. They keep records on a patient's treatment that include the dosage and duration of radiation.

Radiation therapists need to be attentive to the readings on equipment and the condition of a patient during treatment. They must follow safety precautions to ensure they aren't exposed to excessive amounts of radiation as well. Radiation therapists interact with other members of the cancer treatment team, including oncologists, physicists and medical dosimetrists. While they normally have standard work hours, some radiation therapists may need to be on-call in case of an emergency.

Educational Requirements for Radiation Therapists

An associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy is required for most jobs. These programs may require prerequisites in biology, chemistry and physics. The radiation therapy curricula includes coursework in human sectional anatomy, radiation biology and pathology. Some programs incorporate clinical experience that places the student in a healthcare facility under the supervision of a licensed radiation therapist.

Students may consider programs that are accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Graduating from an accredited program is required in order to sit for the ARRT's certification exam, which may be necessary for licensure.

Licensing and Certification

The BLS indicates that most states require radiation therapists to be licensed. State standards vary, but the ARRT's certification exam is a common requirement. This exam tests individuals on cognitive skills and knowledge needed for entry-level work. Certification is good for one year, and radiation therapists need to meet continuing education standards to maintain eligibility.

The job growth outlook for radiation therapists is much faster than the job market as a whole. The median salary for a radiation therapist is around $80,000. Radiation therapists need to complete an accredited associate's or bachelor's degree program and meet their state's licensing requirements, which usually calls for passing an accreditation exam.

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