Radiation Therapist: Career and Salary Facts

As part of the medical team that strives to beat cancer in patients, radiation therapists administer radiation treatments. Read on for a detailed look at the responsibilities of radiation therapists, and find out what education, licensing and certification they might need. Review the typical earnings for radiation therapists. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Duties Will I Have as a Radiation Therapist?

Working with a medical team, radiation therapists treat cancer and other illnesses by giving patients targeted radiation dosages prescribed by a doctor. The work involves operating radiation therapy machinery.

You might use a linear accelerator to give external beam therapy, which aims highly energized X-rays at the appropriate body parts to eradicate or diminish tumors. You arrange and immobilize the patient before adjusting the linear accelerator to give the appropriate dosage as specified by the team including a physician, radiation physicist and dosimetrist. To protect against overexposure to radiation, you manipulate the linear accelerator from another room that is fortified while observing the patient via a TV monitor and intercom. You must advise the doctor if the patient displays any unexpected reactions to treatment.

As a radiation therapist, your duties include protecting the patient, yourself and other workers from radiation exposure. You also keep precise data on the treatments, including any side effects experienced by the patient, therapy machinery settings, the body site being treated and the amount of radiation dosage used per session plus the total to date.

What Education Should I Obtain?

You need formal education to work as a radiation therapist. You may choose from two educational paths. You can earn an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. This includes learning about cancer, anatomy, medical imaging, medical terminology, planning treatments, pathology, radiation physics and radiation safety precautions.

You may also choose to earn an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in radiography followed by completing a one-year certificate program in radiation therapy.

Will I Need a License or Certification?

Most states mandate that you obtain a license to work as a radiation therapist. The licensing requirements differ from state to state. You will need to get certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) to obtain a license in most states. Most potential employers also demand that radiation therapists get ARRT certification.

To earn ARRT certification in radiation therapy, you need to pass an accredited program that is recognized by ARRT, show proficiency in clinical procedures, pass ARRT certification testing and abide by the organization's ethical principles. You must renew your registration yearly plus meet continuing education requirements to keep your certification.

What Salary Could I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median yearly salary for radiation therapists nationwide was $74,980 as of May 2010 (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicted that job opportunities for radiation therapists will increase by 27% between 2008 and 2018.

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