Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is a potentially life-saving form of treatment for various types of cancer as well as other diseases. If you have a detail-oriented nature, the technical skills to learn how to operate medical machinery and the compassion to work with patients who have serious illnesses, then a career as a radiation therapist could be an excellent choice for you. You could help patients fight their battles against cancer while earning a rewarding salary in a fast-growing occupation. To attain this career, you will need schooling beyond the high school level – and preferably a college degree.
The Role of a Radiation Therapist
In hospitals, outpatient facilities and doctors’ offices, these healthcare professionals administer radiation therapy to patients with different types of cancer as well as patients with certain tissue disorders like Ledderhose disease and Dupuytren’s disease. They operate machines such as linear accelerators, which send radiation into the patient’s body, as well as X-ray machines and high-tech computer programs, in accordance with treatment plans developed by doctors. Radiation therapists are also responsible to examining these machines to be sure they are in safe working order. If patients have questions about treatment, radiation therapists address them. Radiation therapists work with physicians called radiation oncologists and oncology nurses to care for patients as well as radiation physicists, the science professionals who adjust equipment like linear accelerators.
Education Options for Aspiring Radiation Therapists
Aspiring radiation therapists must complete some sort of formal postsecondary education program to become qualified for the demands of this career. Certificate programs in radiation therapy that take only 12 months to complete exist, but often, they are not the best degree path into the career. Many employers prefer candidates who have earned a college degree in radiation therapy at either the associate’s or bachelor’s level, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Students in accredited radiation therapy programs should expect to study computer science, physics, algebra, research methodology, anatomy, physiology and of course radiation therapy procedures and the science of using radiation therapy.
In addition to earning a degree, aspiring radiation therapists must obtain a license to work in the field in most states. While licensure requirements vary from state to state, most require that students graduate from an accredited academic program in radiation therapy and complete the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)’s certification examination.
Radiation therapist is a fulfilling job in many ways. These healthcare professionals get to help patients combat very serious diseases, and their work often saves or extends lives. From a career perspective, radiation therapists enjoy both a good salary and rapid growth in job opportunities. They earn a median salary of $77,560 per year, with the highest paid radiation therapists earning six figure salaries annually, the BLS reported. They can expect jobs to increase by 24 percent – substantially higher growth than the 11 percent predicted for all occupations – over just 10 years, according to the BLS.