Radiotherapists work with cancer patients, locating and treating tumors. Those interested in the field should plan to obtain anassociate's degree or bachelor's degree as well as any required certification.
A radiotherapist, also known as a radiation therapist, works with other medical professionals in treating cancer in humans. Aspiring radiotherapists can find entry-level employment in the field after completing a certificate, associate's, or bachelor's program in radiation therapy. Individuals who choose to complete a bachelor's degree program in radiation therapy are qualified to sit for the national certification exam. Achieving national certification can enhance a radiation therapist's job prospects and proficiency.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Licensure typically required|
|Projected Job Growth* (2018-2028)||9% for radiation therapists|
|Median Salary* (2018)||$82,330 annually for radiation therapists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Job Description of a Radiotherapist
Radiotherapists use technical equipment to locate and treat cancerous tumors. Working with radiology oncologists, radiotherapists assist in the examination of cancer patients and help in the diagnoses process and the development of treatment plans. Workers monitor patients during the treatment process while assessing the effectiveness of treatment and interpreting the patient's physical and mental condition.
Job Duties of a Radiotherapist
One of the main duties of a radiotherapist is to keep a record of patient treatment, such as frequency, test results, the area being treated, and the amount of radiation used. Physical duties include the lifting and maneuvering of patients on and off examination tables. Workers are also in charge of operating linear accelerators, which use concentrated X-ray beams to breakdown cancerous tissues. Radiotherapists work mostly during the daytime, but can occasionally be on call if there's an emergency treatment procedure.
There are multiple training options that aspiring radiotherapists can pursue. Students may earn a Radiation Therapy Certificate, an Associate of Science in Radiation Therapy, or a Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy.
The certificate program is typically open to registered radiologic technologists, diagnostic radiographers, registered nurses, or graduates of a radiological-type program. The certificate program provides advanced training for students in the allied health field and prepares them for national certification as a radiation therapist. Certification allows them to operate linear accelerators and work directly with cancer patients.
Associate's degree programs provide clinical, didactic, and laboratory training to prospective radiotherapists. Students learn theoretical principles of radiation therapy, including topics like radiation therapy trends, radiation biology, oncology, physics of radiation, and radiation treatment planning. These programs can often be completed in two years and upon completion, students will be able to take the radiation therapy board exam provided by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Bachelor's-level degree programs also prepare students to enter the workforce after a combination of clinical and classroom learning. These four-year programs incorporate general education courses into the core curriculum, along with a clinical internship. Radiation therapy degree programs are typically affiliated with a nearby hospital so students can complete their clinical work. As a bachelor's degree student, common classes may include medical imaging, clinical concepts, quality management, and radiation therapy research. Graduates are eligible to sit for the ARRT national radiation therapy certification examination.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), radiation therapist jobs will likely increase faster than the national average through 2018-2028. However, because this field is so small, this growth will result in the addition of only about 1,600 new jobs during the decade. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $124,320 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $56,360 or less per year.
There are numerous educational routes that can lead to becoming a radiotherapist, including options for educational certificates, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees.