Career Advancement for Radiation Therapists

Oct 28, 2019

Radiation therapists are experienced in administering treatment to reduce the size of tumors. Radiation therapists may wish to seek other opportunities in cancer care, research, or management.

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Career Growth Opportunities for Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists play a crucial job in administering radiation treatments to patients battling cancer. Working as a radiation therapist is a wonderful introduction to the field of cancer treatment. Practitioners typically begin in the profession with an associate's degree. After working as a radiation therapist, some may wish to advance to other positions focused on cancer treatment, research, or management.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)** Education
Dosimetrists $98,302 13% (radiation therapists) Dosimetry training program
Oncologists $248,675 11% (physicians and surgeons, all other) Medical degree and residency
Medical Physicists $134,385 14% (physicists) Master's degree
Medical and Health Services Managers $98,350 (2017)** 20% Bachelor's degree

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Dosimetrists

Radiation therapists have had experience administering radiation treatment to patients. A logical next step would be a career as a dosimetrist. Dosimetrists work hand-in-hand with the doctors to develop a treatment plan regarding a patient's cancer. They advise the physician regarding how many radiation therapy treatments will be required. Dosimetrists must balance the importance of shrinking a tumor via radiation with ensuring that the patient's organs remain healthy. Dosimetrists must be highly familiar with the machines that are used to administer radiation services, and be able to maintain the machines in proper working order. To become a dosimetrist, candidates must be licensed as radiation therapists or have a bachelor's degree in a natural science, and then undergo a certification program in dosimetry. A national exam is required upon completion of the program.

Oncologists

Radiation therapists want to offer the highest level of treatment to their patients with cancer. Those who wish to advance the type of care they can offer may want to pursue further education to become an oncologist. Oncologists are physicians who specialize in cancer care. They perform a variety of tests to ensure proper diagnosis, and then treat the patient with radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. They may discuss prevention methods with patients. To become an oncologist, one would have to complete a bachelor's degree and then attend medical school. After medical school, the candidate must complete a residency in oncology. Further fellowships are available for those who wish to specialize in different types of oncology.

Medical Physicists

Radiation therapists are familiar with the changing nature of the equipment with which they work due to research and development. Some radiation therapists may wish to seek a position in which they are closely involved in this development and study to become a medical physicist. Medical physicists are heavily involved in medical research. They work to develop safer and more accurate radiation and imaging equipment. Some may work to develop computer models for dosage or other treatment information. Medical physicists may also consult directly with physicians regarding radiation output or radionucleotides. Most physicists who specialize in research work for hospitals or other health care companies possess a master's degree.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Some radiation therapists may wish to step out of a clinical role and become more involved in the management of a hospital or outpatient treatment facility. For these professionals, the field of medical and health services management would be a good fit. Health services managers are responsible for recruiting and training employees. They are familiar with laws and regulations concerning health care, and ensure their facility is following such laws. They must monitor patient data. One can enter this field with a bachelor's degree, however many employers prefer candidates holding a master's degree.

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