Radiation Oncology Technician: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for radiation oncology technicians. Get the facts about job duties, salary, education requirements and certification to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Radiation Oncology Technician?

A radiation oncology technician -- more commonly called a radiation therapist -- is a healthcare professional who specializes in using radiation technology to treat cancer patients. Based on the orders of oncologists and dosimetrists, radiation therapists use linear accelerators to administer radiation therapy to patients. Prior to the procedure, they discuss the treatment strategy with patients and address any questions or concerns they might have. During the procedure itself, they are responsible for positioning the patient, following safety protocols to prevent overexposure, ensuring that the machine is functioning properly and monitoring the patient's reaction. They must also keep careful records of the treatment for review by the physician.

The table below gives an overview of what you might want to know about becoming a radiation oncology technician.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Radiation therapy, radiography/radiological imaging
Key Skills Using radiation-based equipment to diagnose and treat cancer
Licensure Required Licensure and certification may be required, varies by state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14%*
Average Salary (2015) $84,460*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Duties of a Radiation Oncology Technician?

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy and irradiation, is used to destroy cancer cells and is administered as a treatment in more than 50 percent of all cancer cases. As a radiation oncology technician, you will serve with a team of oncology health professionals, under a doctor's supervision and direction. You will use imaging equipment to pinpoint the location of cancerous cells or masses. You also use radiation treatment technologies, such as linear accelerators, to administer treatment. Your duties may also overlap with dosimetrists, who are radiation oncology technicians that specialize in calculating and customizing the radiation doses. You will also be responsible for keeping records of treatments, which includes dosing information and patient reactions.

What Education Do I Need?

Depending on the employer, you will need to complete either an associate's or baccalaureate program. You can complete a degree program in radiation therapy or a program in radiography/radiological imaging with a certificate in radiation therapy. In addition to general course requirements, such as English and algebra, you will take targeted courses in anatomy, pathology, physiology and radiation therapy. Associate's degree programs last two years, whereas bachelor's degree programs are four years.

Do I Need a License or Certification?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states require licensure through their state boards (www.bls.gov). Check with your state board for specific licensing requirements.

Numerous employers and states require that you obtain professional certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Certification is maintained by taking continuing education courses every two years. However, some employers and states do not require certification renewal after the initial registration.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another career that you may consider if you want to be part of an oncology treatment team is a job as an oncology nurse. Oncology nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in working with patients who have cancer; they are commonly involved in patient monitoring and the provision of basic medical care. To become an RN, you must earn an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass a registration exam. Alternatively, if you are particularly interested in radiation technology, you may want to become a radiographer or MRI technologist. These professionals use radiation imaging equipment to create diagnostic images; they need at least an associate's degree as well.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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