Radiation Therapists

Summary

radiation therapists image
Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.
Quick Facts: Radiation Therapists
2014 Median Pay $80,090 per year
$38.51 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 16,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 14% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 2,300

What Radiation Therapists Do

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Work Environment

Radiation therapists work in hospitals, offices of physicians, and outpatient centers. Most radiation therapists work full time.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist

Most radiation therapists complete programs that lead to an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be licensed or certified in most states. Requirements vary by state, but often include passing a national certification exam.

Pay

The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $80,090 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. The risk of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population may increase demand for radiation therapists.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for radiation therapists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of radiation therapists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about radiation therapists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Radiation Therapists Do About this section

Radiation therapists
Radiation therapists are part of the oncology team that treats patients with cancer.

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Duties

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Follow safety procedures to protect the patient and themselves from overexposure to radiation
  • Examine machines to make sure they are safe and working properly
  • X ray the patient to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
  • Check computer programs to make sure the machine will give the correct dose of radiation to the appropriate area of the patient's body
  • Operate the machine to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
  • Keep detailed records of treatment

Radiation therapists operate machines called linear accelerators, which are used to deliver radiation therapy. These machines direct high-energy x rays at specific cancer cells in a patient's body, shrinking or removing them. 

Radiation therapists are part of the oncology team that treats patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:

  • Radiation oncologists, physicians who specialize in radiation therapy
  • Oncology nurses, registered nurses who specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Medical physicists, physicists who help in planning of radiation treatments and help to develop better and safer radiation therapies

Work Environment About this section

Radiation therapists
Radiation therapists work in hospitals, offices of physicians, and outpatient centers.

Radiation therapists held about 16,600 jobs in 2014. Most therapists work in hospitals, offices of physicians, and outpatient centers.

Radiation therapists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. Because they work with radiation and radioactive material, radiation therapists must follow safety procedures to make sure that they are not exposed to a potentially harmful amount of radiation. These procedures usually require therapists to stand in a different room while the patient undergoes radiation procedures.

Work Schedules

Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist About this section

Radiation therapists
Radiation therapists must be licensed in most states.

Most radiation therapists complete programs that lead to an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be licensed or certified in most states. Requirements vary by state, but often include passing a national certification exam.

Education

Employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate’s degree or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. However, candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a 12-month certificate program.

Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. These programs often include experience in a clinical setting and courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology. In 2014, there were about 120 accredited educational programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow exact instructions and input exact measurements to make sure the patient is exposed to the correct amount of radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Radiation therapists work closely with patients. It is important that therapists be comfortable interacting with people who may be going through physical and emotional stress.

Physical stamina. Radiation therapists must be able to be on their feet for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Radiation therapists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment, so they must be comfortable operating those devices.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary by state, but typically include graduation from an accredited radiation therapy program and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification.

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the ARRT certification exam. The exam covers radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts in radiation oncology, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education. A list of accredited programs is available from ARRT.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.

Advancement

With additional education and certification, therapists can become medical dosimetrists. Dosimetrists are responsible for calculating the correct dose of radiation that is used in the treatment of cancer patients.

Pay About this section

Radiation Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Radiation therapists

$80,090

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$75,430

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $80,090 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,180.

Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

Job Outlook About this section

Radiation Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

17%

Radiation therapists

14%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 2,300 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The risk of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population may increase demand for radiation therapists. Continued advancements in the detection of cancer and the development of more sophisticated treatment techniques may also lead to greater demand for radiation therapy.

Job Prospects

Candidates can expect very strong competition for most radiation therapist positions. Jobseekers with prior work experience should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for radiation therapists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Radiation therapists

29-1124 16,600 18,900 14 2,300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of radiation therapists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2014 MEDIAN PAY Help
Dental hygienists

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

Associate's degree $71,520
Diagnostic medical sonographers

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists assist physicians and surgeons during surgical procedures.

Associate's degree $62,540
Nuclear medicine technologists

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that creates images of areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.

Associate's degree $72,100
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

See How to Become One $25,090
Radiologic technologists

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Associate's degree $57,370
Registered nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Bachelor's degree $66,640
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Radiation Therapists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm (visited February 08, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Pay

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State & Area Data

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Job Outlook

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2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,540.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2014 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2014, the median annual wage for all workers was $35,547.