Become a Radiation Technician: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a radiation therapy technician. Explore the job description and education and licensing requirements that can help you start a career in radiation therapy. View article »

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  • 0:04 Radiation Therapy Technicians
  • 0:28 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:04 Step 1: Degree
  • 2:12 Step 2: ARRT Certification
  • 3:00 Step 3: License
  • 3:43 Step 4: Advance

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Video Transcript

Radiation Therapy Technicians

Radiation technicians work with oncologists, oncology nurses, radiation physicists, and other members of a team to treat cancer patients. They take x-rays, explain treatments to patients, and operate radiation equipment. Most radiation technicians work full-time schedules and stand on their feet for long stretches of time. Protective measures must be taken when working with radiation.

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Career Skills & Info

Common Requirements
Degree Level Many employers prefer an associate or bachelor's degree
Degree Field Radiation therapy
Licensure and Certification Accreditation by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is necessary to work in many states
Experience Employers often prefer 1-3 years of experience in a hospital or healthcare-related setting
Key Skills Aptitude for science and math, good judgment, ability to communicate effectively with patients and their families, comfortable operating large radiation and x-ray equipment
Salary (2016) $45,000 (average annual salary for radiation technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Now, we'll talk about the degree programs that can help you prepare for a career as a radiation technician.

Step 1: Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers require radiation technicians to have an associate or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy from a program that has been accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Accredited programs provide instruction in the clinical use of radiation through courses in radiobiology, medical imaging, radiation physics, and clinical oncology, among other subjects. They also include coursework in human anatomy and physiology, research practices, and advanced math. Some radiation therapy programs require an externship or clinical practicum.

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in radiation therapy are similar. However, four-year programs require more general education courses. Some of these courses may be related to the health sciences, like blood cell biology, medical terminology, health care ethics, and nutrition. Some bachelor's degree programs only accept applicants who are graduates of a radiologic technology program and ARRT-certified in radiography.

Step 2: ARRT Certification

In many states, radiation technicians must be ARRT-certified and licensed. ARRT certification requirements include completion of a degree program, clinical competency, and acceptance of the organization's code of standards and ethics. The certification exam covers topics in radiation treatment planning and delivery, patient care, quality assurance, and clinical concepts. Some radiation therapy programs focus on the knowledge necessary to pass the ARRT exam.

Radiation therapy technicians need at least an associate's degree to be eligible for initial ARRT certification, though the degree does not have to be in radiologic science. Candidates must earn their degrees before or after completing an approved radiation therapy program.

Step 3: License

According to the BLS and ARRT, radiation technicians in most states must have a license before they can practice. Requirements vary, but typically include completing an accredited program. Although ARRT certification is voluntary, it's common practice for state licensing boards to utilize ARRT scores during the licensing process.

To maintain ARRT certification, radiation technicians must answer questions that demonstrate their commitment to the organization's ethical standards and show proof of 24 continuing education units every two years. Requirements for renewing a license vary by state, with some mandating continuing education units on a different timeline than ARRT.

Step 4: Advance

The use of radiation technology in therapeutic settings has applications in dentistry and internal imaging in a host of medical specializations. As other careers have similar certification and education prerequisites, radiation technicians can pursue opportunities in registered nursing or ultrasound work. With the proper certifications and education, they may also qualify for advanced positions as chief radiation therapists in large hospitals or as operations managers for entire clinics.

We've covered a lot of educational and career information, so let's review. Aspiring radiation technicians usually complete an ARRT-approved associate's or bachelor's degree program in radiation therapy and obtain a state license. As of October 2016, the average annual salary for a radiation technician was $45,000.

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