What Are Some Career Options in Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy is the use of radiation, mainly x-rays and gamma rays, to treat disease in patients, including cancer. The most common career options in this field include radiation oncologist, radiation physicist, dosimetrist, and radiation therapist. Read on to learn more. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Radiation Therapy Career Overview

The field of radiation therapy uses radiation to help diagnose and treat illnesses and other medical issues. This broad field includes everyone from specialty physicians who use x-rays and other forms of radiation to cure and inspect medical issues and disease to technicians, who may operate the actual equipment and interact directly with patients. Below are some career options available in this field.

Important Facts About Career Options in Radiation Therapy

Radiation Oncologists Radiation Physicists Radiation Therapists
Median Salary (2015) $310,131 $148,049 $65,485
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 15% growth (for all physicians) 8% growth (for all physicists) 14% growth
Key Skills Leadership; organization; attention to detail; problem solving Analytical and critical thinking; strong math and science foundation; self-motivated; clear communication Computer competency; attention to detail; physical endurance
Similar Occupations Physicians assistants; registered nurses; nurse practitioners Chemists and materials scientists; nuclear engineers; computer and information research scientists Nuclear medicine technologists; radiologic and MRI technologists; registered nurses

Source: PayScale.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Radiation Oncologist

A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the use of radiation for treating cancer. The radiation oncologist prescribes radiation treatment and oversees a radiation therapy team that usually includes a dosimetrist and a radiation therapist. The radiation oncologist treats any radiation side effects that the patient has. Radiation oncologists undergo rigorous training, including medical school and a 5-year residency.

Radiation Physicist

The radiation physicist, sometimes called an oncology physicist, takes charge of the radiation therapy equipment. He or she ensures that the linear accelerator (the machine used to beam the radiation) is working and that the correct amount of radiation is being dispensed. While some radiation physicists obtain a bachelor's degree in physics and gain on-the-job training, most employers require a master's degree or doctoral degree in medical physics or a related field.

Radiation Therapist

The radiation therapist is the hands-on member of the radiation therapy team. The therapist positions the patient and beams radiation to an exact location on the patient's body by operating a linear accelerator. Radiation therapists maintain the patient records and report back to the radiation oncologist. Most radiation therapists have 2-year degrees; some earn bachelor's degrees.

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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