Radiation Therapist Jobs

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As a radiation therapist you are an essential part of a healthcare treatment team utilizing radiation therapy as a treatment. There are a number of aspects that make this a rewarding career and may give you the opportunity to travel as well as apply your needed skills. Radiation therapy is commonly used in the treatment of cancer, but is also used in the medical treatment of other diseases such as hyperthyroidism or acoustic neuroma.

As part of a cancer treatment team you will also likely interact with the following specialists:

  • Radiation Oncologist- a medical doctor who specializes in radiation therapy as a treatment
  • Oncology nurse- specially certified nurses who focus on the treatment of cancer patients
  • Medical radiation physicist- works with the radiation oncologist in development of a patient specific treatment plan as well quality control for all radiation equipment and procedures.
  • Dosimetrist- calculates patient specific radiation doses to kill cancerous tissue while preserving healthy non-cancerous tissue

Duties of a Radiation Therapist

A radiation therapist will preform a number of different activities such as:

  • Discussing radiation treatment plans with a patient
  • Answer patient questions
  • Administering radiation treatments for a variety of conditions as prescribed by a radiation oncologist
  • Construct devices that help limit overexposure to healthy tissue surrounding a tumor or other organ that requires radiation treatment
  • Follow radiation safety procedures to ensure your safety and your patient’s from overexposure
  • Mark the exact location to be treated using an x-ray
  • Ensure that the radiation software and machine are functioning correctly so the correct dose of radiation is given to the correct part of the body
  • Deliver radiation treatments to patients and monitor patients for side effects or reactions from radiation
  • Keep detailed logs of treatments each patient receives

Qualities That Make A Great Radiation Therapist

To be successful as a radiation therapist, you need to possess a number of different skills and qualities. Because the field is technology driven, complex, and focuses on sick medical patients, common sense, problem solving, and critical thinking skills are essential. You will need to have very good oral and written communication skills to effectively communicate with your healthcare team.

You will need to be comfortable with technology and also be able to follow complicated protocols. Adapting to new technology and change is also important as radiation therapy is an evolving field of medical science with frequent technology changes.

However, medical and technical competency is really just an essential entry level requirement. You must also be able to demonstrate compassion and sensitivity to patients with both physical and psychological complaints due to their severe and sometimes terminal medical illness. You will also need a different, but equally important interpersonal skill set to connect with your patient and their families.

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Pros of being a radiation Therapist
  • You will be an important part of a healthcare team providing very valuable services to patients. Radiation therapists are in demand and positions are expected to grow by about 20 percent between 2010 and 2020. However, because there are only about 17,000 positions across the United States, this will only translate into an increase of 3400 new jobs.
  • Predictable schedule. Because most radiation therapy treatments are scheduled and provided in hospitals or cancer centers, you will likely have a predictable schedule. However, there are a few radiation oncology emergencies so you may have to participate in a call schedule.
  • Learning opportunities. Additionally, radiation technology is an evolving field with new treatments evolving all the time. New technology means learning opportunities and opportunities for career advancement.


Cons of being a radiation therapist
  • Physically demanding. Radiation therapists are on their feet all day long and the job can be physically demanding as you help weak or chronically ill patients to and from radiation treatment tables.
  • Potentially emotionally difficult. The patients treated with radiation can be severely ill and many will eventually die. There can be a significant psychological impact on some people involved in treating cancer patients and those with other severe illness. How you emotionally deal with severe chronic illness is something to consider. On the other hand, these situations can also be seen as an incredible opportunity to grow personally, serve and help those in need.

Educational requirements

Unlike other therapy positions that may allow for a job path through on the job training, becoming a radiation therapist requires formal training.

While you can become certified radiation therapist by completing a 12 month certificate program, many employers today prefer radiation therapists who have completed either an associate’s bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. In 2015 American Registry of Radiologic Technologists will require an associate or more advanced degree as a prerequisite for certification

Radiation therapy degree programs include a number of different didactic areas including:

  • Radiation therapy theory
  • Radiation therapy practice
  • Safety
  • Patient care
  • Treatment planning and delivery
  • Human anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Physics
  • Math
  • Computer science

Licensure is required in most states and the exact requirements vary as each state regulates licensure. In general, employers prefer to hire therapists with degrees as opposed to certificate only applicants.


Some radiation therapists are paid by the hour and others are paid a salary. Annual compensation averaged $74,980 in 2010 with 10% making more than $110,000 and 10% making less than $51,000.

Key Differences Compared To Other Similar Medical Career Opportunities

While radiation therapy positions are similar to other technologist positions such as nuclear medicine technologists or ultasonographers, salaries are general higher. Part of this is likely due to fewer total positions available throughout the United States. You will need to follow stricter safety standards to ensure that you do not expose yourself to harmful radiation. Your general patient care training may be similar to other technologist specialties, but your main educational focus will center around radiation as a treatment modality.

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Radiation Therapist Travel

As a traveling radiation therapist you will have the ability to manage time commitments by taking longer or shorter assignments as well as possibly taking on administrative roles. Travel medicine also provides you with the opportunity to grow professionally by learning new techniques, procedures, and policies that make radiation centers successful.






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By Pat F. Bass III, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.


Pat Bass

Pat is a board certified General Internist and Pediatrician He has served as a reviewer for leading national publications including Pediatrics, the Journal of General Internal Medicine and the Annals of Internal Medicine. Pat is also the asthma guide to About.com, a New York Times Company. Learn more about Pat on Google+