Radiation Therapist Job Description
Radiation therapists use radiation to treat cancer and other diseases in patients. They work as part of a larger radiation oncology team, where each person is responsible for a different part of the treatment process.
Radiation therapists use special equipment called linear accelerators. This equipment directs x-rays into cancerous cells. When the treatment is successful, the cancer cells either shrink or disappear completely, while the surrounding healthy tissue is unharmed.
Before a treatment begins, radiation therapists check the equipment to make sure that it is working properly. They explain the treatment process to patients, and answer questions that they might have.
When the patient is prepped and ready for treatment, radiation therapists check the patient’s records to make sure that they are using the correct dosage and treating the right area of the patient’s body. During the procedure, they monitor the patient’s signs to make sure that they aren’t reacting in an unusual way.
Radiation therapists have to keep detailed records of all the treatments that they provide. Their records include the radiation dosage, the area of treatment, and any irregular reactions that occurred during the treatment process. These records are reviewed by the oncology team, and are used while planning future treatments for the patient.
If you’re passionate about helping people recover from cancer but you’re unable to spend a decade in college earning a doctoral degree, working as a radiation therapist could be a great career option for you. To learn more about the education requirements, read the ‘how to become a radiation therapist’ section below.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most radiation therapists work in cancer treatment centers and general healthcare facilities.
Because radiation therapists work with radiation and radioactive materials, this is a potentially dangerous occupation. However, following the proper safety procedures can greatly reduce the health risks. Most radiation therapists stand in a different room than the one the procedure takes place in to eliminate any chance of accidental exposure.
Radiation therapists spend most of their shifts working on their feet, and may be required to lift or move patients who are unable to do move on their own. This isn’t a physically demanding occupation, but it can be exhausting.
The majority of radiation therapists work full time, and are normally able to keep a regular working schedule.
How to Become a Radiation Therapist
There are a few different ways to become a radiation therapist. Some people choose to attend a 12 month certificate program, while others choose to earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy.
While it’s true that some people do find employment after completing a certificate program, most employers greatly prefer candidates who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. If you have the option, getting a degree can give you a better chance of finding a job. It will also ensure that you will remain employable in the future, as more and more employers are likely to require advanced degrees as time goes on.
Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed. Though the exact requirements vary from state to state, most require that you graduate from an accredited radiation therapy program and become certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
The certification requires you to successfully complete an exam that covers ethics, radiation treatment and planning, and various clinical concepts. This exam can be taken immediately following graduation.
There are currently 16,900 radiation therapists in the United States, with 670 new radiation therapist job openings created each year.
Radiation Therapist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Radiation Therapist Salaries
Radiation Therapist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most radiation therapists make between $62,500 – $94,100 per year, or $30.07 – $45.23 per hour.