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Radiation Therapists

Summary

radiation therapists image
Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.
Quick Facts: Radiation Therapists
2021 Median Pay $82,790 per year
$39.80 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 17,700
Job Outlook, 2020-30 9% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 1,600

What Radiation Therapists Do

Radiation therapists administer doses of radiation to patients who have cancer or other serious diseases.

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

Radiation therapists typically need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed or certified, which often includes passing a national certification exam.

Pay

The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $82,790 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,100 openings for radiation therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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 teams that treat patients with cancer.

Radiation therapists administer doses of radiation to patients who have cancer or other serious diseases.

Duties

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation
  • Determine the location of tumors to ensure correct positioning of patients for administering each treatment
  • Calibrate and 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, such as linear accelerators, to deliver concentrated radiation therapy to the region of a patient’s tumor. Radiation treatment may shrink or eliminate cancers and tumors.

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

  • Medical dosimetrists calculate the correct dose of radiation for cancer treatment
  • Medical physicists help in planning radiation treatments, develop better and safer radiation therapies, and check that radiation output is accurate
  • Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in radiation therapy

Work Environment About this section

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

Radiation therapists held about 17,700 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of radiation therapists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 65%
Offices of physicians 24
Outpatient care centers 6

Radiation therapists stand for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients.

Injuries and illnesses

Because radiation therapists work with radiation and radioactive materials, they should be aware of the risks involved and must follow safety procedures. These procedures require therapists to be in a different room while administering radiation to a patient and to wear a film badge dosimeter to track their exposure.

Work Schedules

Most radiation therapists work full time. They have 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 or certified in most states.

Radiation therapists typically need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed or certified, which often includes passing a national certification exam.

Education

Employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in a healthcare and related field, such as radiation therapy, or in science technologies or biology. However, candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a 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 such as human anatomy and physiology, physics, and algebra. A list of accredited radiation therapy programs is available from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

Important Qualities

Compassion. Radiation therapists work with patients who are suffering from cancer or another serious disease. They must display empathy while helping patients through the experience.

Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow precise 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 over multiple weeks and must be able to explain the treatment. Radiation therapists also must work well with other members of the oncology team to effectively coordinate care.

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 may include graduating from an accredited radiation therapy program and passing an exam or earning certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must earn an associate’s or higher degree from an approved radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the certification exam. The exam covers topics such as radiation protection, treatment planning, and patient care and education.

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

Advancement

With additional education and certification, therapists may 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 2021

Radiation therapists

$82,790

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$81,270

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $82,790 in May 2021. 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 $61,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $128,550.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for radiation therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $121,140
Offices of physicians 82,540
Hospitals; state, local, and private 81,050

Most radiation therapists work full time. They have 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 2020-30

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

12%

Radiation therapists

9%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,100 openings for radiation therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

The incidence 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.

Employment projections data for radiation therapists, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Radiation therapists

29-1124 17,700 19,300 9 1,600 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 on Entry-Level Education 2021 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Dental hygienists Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists examine patients for signs of oral diseases, such as gingivitis, and provide preventive care, including oral hygiene.

Associate's degree $77,810
Diagnostic medical sonographers Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests.

Associate's degree $75,380
Nuclear medicine technologists Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs for imaging or treatment.

Associate's degree $78,760
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

See How to Become One $30,290
Physical therapist assistants and aides Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.

See How to Become One $49,180
Radiologic technologists Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Associate's degree $61,980
Registered nurses Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

Bachelor's degree $77,600
Respiratory therapists Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, because of a chronic condition such as asthma.

Associate's degree $61,830
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiation Therapists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm (visited July 26, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2022

What They Do

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Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2021 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

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, 2020

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2020, which is the base year of the 2020-30 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2020-30

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate for all occupations is 8 percent.

Employment Change, 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

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 2020-30

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030.

2021 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.