Becoming a Radiation Therapy Technician: Salary, Education & Requirements

Explore the day-to-day work done by a radiation therapy technician. Learn more about the education and certification requirements as well as the median salary and projected job growth to see if this career is right for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Radiation therapy technicians, also known as radiation therapists, work as members of an oncology team that help treat patients with cancer. They are responsible for operating the machines that deliver radiation therapy to the region of a patient's tumor. In the table below, you'll find more details for radiation therapy technicians.

Education Required Associate's or Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Radiation therapy
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in most states; American Registry of Radiation Technologists (ARRT) certification
Required Skills Detail-oriented, physical stamina, technical skills, and communication skills
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 13% (radiation therapists)*
Median Salary (2017) $80,570 (radiation therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Radiation Therapy Technician Do?

Radiation therapy technicians administer radiation therapy to patients with cancer and other illnesses. They are responsible for determining what region must undergo treatment as well as calibrating and operating linear accelerators and other radiation therapy machines. It is also the role of a radiation therapy technician to oversee the process in its entirety to ensure that the patient is treated properly and does not show any signs of unusual or unsafe reactions. Radiation therapy technicians are also responsible for explaining the treatment plans to their patients and offering answers to questions they may have regarding the process.

What Type of Education Is Required?

Most radiation therapists complete programs that result in either a 2-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. As of 2016, there were 110 radiation therapy programs approved by the American Registry of Radiation Technologists (ARRT) across the United States. These programs teach the fundamentals of radiation therapy procedures as well as the scientific theories behind them. They are accompanied by coursework in subjects such as human anatomy, computer science, physiology, physics, and research methodology. Often times, these programs include a component that requires candidates to gain experience in a clinical setting in order to prepare them for working in a healthcare setting.

What Type of Certification is Required?

Most states require that radiation therapy technicians are licensed or certified to operate the machinery and administer procedures. The specific requirements vary by state, but generally include completing an accredited radiation therapy program and passing the ARRT certification exam. The exam covers clinical radiation oncology, radiation protection and quality assurance, treatment planning, and delivery, and patient care and education. Many employers also require radiation therapist technicians to obtain both their cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS) certifications.

What Skills Are Essential for Radiation Therapy Technicians?

Because radiation therapy technicians deal directly with a patient's health and safety, being detail oriented is a key skill. They must follow instructions precisely and input measurements exactly to ensure patients are exposed to the correct amount of radiation in the correct regions. As the title suggests, radiation therapy technicians must also be technologically savvy while calibrating and operating complex machinery. Radiation therapists work directly with patients to explain the procedures; thus, communication skills are essential in order for a patient to understand the procedures and feel comfortable. While working with patients, physical stamina is also required for radiation therapy technicians because they often times spend long periods on their feet and may need to assist in moving patients.

How Much Do Radiation Therapy Technician Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiation therapy technicians earned a median annual salary of $80,570 as of May 2017. Between 2016 and 2026, employment for radiation therapy technicians is expected to grow by 13%. In an aging population, the number of cancer patients is projected to increase, thus increasing the demand for radiation therapy. With an increase in demand comes an increase in job competition, as well. For job seekers, a relevant bachelor's degree, work experience in patient care positions, and related health certifications will become useful tools when applying for positions as radiation therapy technicians.

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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