How to Become a Radiation Therapist

How to Become a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapy is an effective way to treat a variety of cancers and other life-threatening illnesses. Radiation therapists are specially trained professionals that administer radiation therapy to patients with many different cancers and conditions.

What does a radiation therapist do?

Radiation therapists administer radiation therapy to patients using advanced machines called linear accelerators. They work with radiation oncologists to create treatment plans based on the needs of the patient. They explain the treatment plan to the patient and answer any questions. When administering radiation treatments, radiation therapists position patients in many different ways to make sure the radiation exposure is focused on the area where the tumor or condition is located. They monitor the physical condition of patients to determine if there are any unfavorable side effects from the treatment. They keep detailed records, which include the amount of radiation used during each treatment, the area treated, the patient’s reactions, and the total amount of radiation.

What kind of training does a radiation therapist need?

Radiation therapists typically need an associate or bachelor degree in radiation therapy. Some radiation therapists complete a program in radiography and then complete a certificate program in radiation therapy. Courses usually include human anatomy and physiology, physics, research methodology, radiation theories, and radiation therapy procedures. Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but usually include minimum education and passing an American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification examination. Some states and employers require radiation therapists to be certified by the ARRT. The requirements include completing an accredited radiation therapy program, abiding by ethical standards, and passing an examination. Continuing education courses are required for certification and licensure renewal.

What are the prospects for a career as a radiation therapist?

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 25% from 2006 to 2016 (1). A growing population and increased need for radiation therapy will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for radiation therapists that are certified. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace radiation therapists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do radiation therapists make?

As of October 2009, radiation therapists with less than 1 year experience earn average annual salaries between $48,884 and $64,637. Radiation therapists with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $49,336 and $62,467 (2).

A career as a radiation therapist is an excellent choice for people with a strong interest in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be emotionally stable, empathetic, and caring and be able to make patients feel comfortable and at ease. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills is essential because radiation therapists work with a variety of patients and other professionals. They must be able to keep detailed and accurate records and be able to be on their feet for long periods of time.

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