How to Become a Radiation Therapist
The Definitive Career Guide


Avg. Salary
$91,620

Education Duration
1-2 Years

Job Outlook
7%

The work of a Radiation Therapist is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fulfilling career.

This career is a great step into the medical field or a wonderful life-long pursuit.

Those who work as Radiation Therapists are strong, working with cancer patients to help them heal through radiation therapy.

Expect to have a close relationship with the oncology team in this career.


What is a Radiation Therapist?

A Radiation Therapist needs to have strength and compassion for others.

The only way to have a successful career in this field is to provide care and be determined to help every patient.

The strong people who work in this career must help cancer patients and other ill patients with therapy using radiation.

This can be very dangerous and scary, making this job that much more important.

The ability to multitask and pay close attention to detail will get you far in this field.

Duties

A Radiation Therapist has an important, and oftentimes sensitive, job title.

With this career, there comes a lot of responsibility.

On a daily basis, a Radiation Therapist will likely:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient
  • Answer questions
  • Protect patient and yourself from radiation exposure
  • Determine where to place the radiation
  • Use the equipment to treat the patient
  • Monitor the patient
  • Keep records of the data

Salary

With a career as a Radiation Therapist, you can expect to make about $91,000 annually.

This is the average salary for Radiation Therapists with an Associate’s degree and certification.

However, when just starting out in this career, you should expect a salary closer to $57,000 a year.

Once you gain experience and more certifications, a Radiation Therapist can make up to $128,000 a year.

Radiation Therapists who work in California make $119,000 a year, while Radiation Therapists working in smaller states, like Michigan, will make closer to $81,000 a year.

Having a job in a large hospital or outpatient center will provide higher salaries as well.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $91,620

$59K
$70K
$91K
$105K
$128K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$87,880
Arizona$93,450
Arkansas$75,260
California$119,800
Colorado$94,280
Connecticut$100,040
Delaware$99,350
District of Columbia$81,300
Florida$84,060
Georgia$87,610
Hawaii$98,240
Idaho$80,070
Illinois$84,420
Indiana$81,660
Iowa$82,220
Kansas$72,140
Kentucky$77,180
Louisiana$75,800
Maryland$89,570
Massachusetts$92,950
Michigan$81,140
Minnesota$84,020
Mississippi$93,370
Missouri$77,200
Montana$94,100
Nebraska$83,810
Nevada$97,780
New Hampshire$89,230
New Jersey$106,630
New Mexico$87,590
New York$115,150
North Carolina$79,160
Ohio$87,770
Oregon$105,810
Pennsylvania$84,310
Rhode Island$100,720
South Carolina$97,070
South Dakota$85,410
Tennessee$73,780
Texas$90,270
Virginia$88,600
Washington$101,630
West Virginia$74,030
Wisconsin$79,850
Puerto Rico- NA -

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $119,800.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $119,800
New York - $115,150
New Jersey - $106,630
Oregon - $105,810
Washington - $101,630
* Salary information based on May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Radiation Therapists, OCC Code 29-1124, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist

Step 1 Enter a Program

In order to become a certified and registered Radiation Therapist, you will need to have an Associates degree.

These types of programs typically take around two years to complete.

For Radiation Therapists, the average program will require math and science classes.

Some other classes you can expect in a Radiation Therapist program are:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Radiologic Patient Care
  • Medical Terminology
  • Oncology Radiation Biology

Most Associate’s degree programs require students to take clinical labs and externships in order to graduate.

Externships can lead to careers after graduation and can help with hands-on learning through school.

Some of the other types of things you should learn in a Radiation Therapy Associates degree program are:

  • Patient psychology
  • Oncology skills
  • Emergency procedures

In case you are interested in earning a Bachelor’s degree, there are many available for interested Radiation Therapists.

These programs can take another 2-4 years, depending on if your credits transfer from the Associate’s degree program.

Step 2 Become Licensed and Certified

Almost all of the states in the United States require that Radiation Therapists are licensed.

This is to ensure safety for patients and employees alike.

Licensure requirements vary by state, but typically in order to become licensed you must:

  • Have a degree from an accredited program
  • Be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

The ARRT provides certification in many areas for Radiation Therapists.

In order to have access to the ARRT certification, you must have at least an Associate’s degree in radiologic technology.

This certification also requires that you take an exam given by the ARRT.

Some of the areas to study on the ARRT exam include:

  • Treatment planning and delivery
  • Patient care
  • Radiation therapy
  • Quality assurance

Once you pass this exam, you will be able to become licensed with the state in which you work.

There are other certifications provided by the ARRT for Radiation Therapists, including certifications in:

  • Mammography
  • Densitometry
  • Sonography

Step 3 Gain Experience

You should have gained some experience working as a Radiation Therapist when you were in school during your externship.

Most employers prefer at least a year of experience in order to be hired.

Working in clinics and hospitals as a Radiation Therapist is a great way to maintain knowledge and education throughout your career.

Those with at least two years of experience can earn more certification or even become promoted into higher paid careers.

Some of the advanced careers to look forward to as a Radiation Therapist include:

  • Dosimetrist
  • Technical Sales Representative
  • Radiation Research Therapist

Hands-on experience is the most important part of this career.

Step 4 Maintain Certification

It’s important to become certified, but it’s even more important to maintain that certification.

This is because things change so much in the medical community, that you will need to stay on top of new treatments and issues in the healthcare world.

The ARRT certification is valid for two years, and once it needs to be renewed you must complete a continued education program and submit a $25 fee.

Licensing expirations can vary by state, so it is important to find out what you need to do from your local hospital.

Keeping up to date on licensure and certification will allow you to work legally and safely in the United States.


Education

Radiation therapy is a serious treatment that needs special education in order to stay safe.

That is why most Radiation Therapists choose to earn an Associates degree.

This way, they can learn the medical terminology that is crucial for this career, as well as gain hands-on experience through clinical lab work and externships.

Most Associates degrees take around two years to finish, and can often lead to gaining certification and licensing.

The types of classes that you should take through an Associates degree program should fall under science and math.

The typical Radiation Therapist has a degree in Radiography.

The courses that are expected for this type of degree include:

  • Healthcare Financial Management
  • Radiation Science
  • Sectional Anatomy
  • Patient Safety
  • Healthcare Issues and Trends
  • Contrast Media Imaging

With the average Associate’s degree comes the chance to work an externship.

This means that students will go to a radiation therapy lab or clinic in order to gain hands-on experience.

Often, students will not get paid, but instead, gain class credit.

Having the proper education and experience will lead to many more opportunities as a Radiation Therapist.

If you are interested in finding out what other career choices you have beyond an Associate’s degree, then you should think about earning a Bachelor’s degree.

Radiation Therapists with a Bachelor’s degree will often find themselves at the top of their careers.

The types of classes you should expect to take in a Radiation Therapy Bachelors degree program are:

  • Treatment Planning
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Radiation Protection

Along with a Bachelors degree comes the chance to work in various occupations, including:

  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Cardiovascular Technologist
  • CT Technologist
  • Vascular Technologist

Earning a Bachelor’s degree should take another 2 to 4 years, depending on if your credits transfer from the Associate’s degree.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

Almost every state requires that Radiation Therapists become licensed and certified.

This is because radiation therapy is a serious treatment and needs special precautions.

In order to become licensed, aspiring Radiation Therapists must take an exam.

Other requirements include:

  • Graduation from an accredited program
  • At least 500 hours of experience as a Radiation Therapist

This exam is given through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, which is also the only accreditation association for Radiation Therapists.

There will be several topics on the exam, including the following:

  • Patient care
  • Medical record management
  • Safety and quality assurance
  • Radiation protection
  • Procedures and treatments

There are a total of 200 questions on this exam, passing means that you are licensed in the state in which you took the exam.

It is also possible to gain specific certifications through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Some of the options for certification as a Radiation Therapist through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists are:

  • Bone Densitometry
  • Radiography
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology

Each of the exams for individual certifications may vary, but typically the tests are around 200 questions.

The different subjects to study for these credentials include:

  • Patient care
  • Image production
  • Procedures
  • Ethical and legal actions

All credentials from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists must be maintained and renewed every 2 years.

In order to maintain certification, you must proof further education and renew registration annually.

Some other types of credentials that are good for Radiation Therapists to obtain are:

  • CPR and First Aid
  • Continued education classes through your employer
  • Specializations in pharmacology or research

Having certification will show employers and patients that you are competent in the field of Radiation Therapy.

Also, being licensed means that you are working legally in the state you live in, so always remember to maintain credentials by furthering your education and complying with ethical standards.

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

Most training programs to become a Radiation Therapist last around one year.

These can be done online or in-person at local community colleges or trade schools across the country.

The most important aspect of any program is the hands-on experience, so whether you do your schoolwork online or in the classroom, make sure that all of your clinical and externships are in person.

With an Associate’s degree, you can expect to take around two years to become a Radiation Therapist.

Online degrees that are shorter than a year may not give you all of the proper education, so make sure they are accredited by the ARRT.


Job Outlook

Radiation Therapists will see a rise in career opportunities by around 7 percent over the next several years.

This is faster than many other therapy and technician careers.

The reason for this growth is that the baby boomer generation is growing older, which means that there is a higher need for medical care.

This also means that more Radiation Therapists will be retiring over the next decade, making room for new employees in many companies across the United States.

Having proper education and work experience in this career will help with job prospects as well.

Going above and beyond to earn certifications and specializing in a niche can lead to further career opportunities.

Employment Growth Projection: 7%

18,500
2018
19,900
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 1,400


Should You Become a Radiation Therapist?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

It seems that most Radiation Therapists love their jobs.

Most Radiation Therapists make a decent salary, and often only have to work a typically 40-hour workweek.

This doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful, it is, but there are some great things about this career as well.

The fact that a Radiation Therapist helps patients is also another great benefit of this career.

Those with more experience and certifications will likely find higher satisfaction.

When looking for a career as a Radiation Therapist, there may be more satisfactory jobs in smaller offices and clinics because of less stress and patient flow.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

Radiation Therapists can expect to make quite a bit in salary with the proper education and certification.

With two years of experience, the average Radiation Therapist can expect to make around $90,000 a year.

When just starting out in this career, it’s likely that you will make closer to $57,000, however.

Chances are that after many years of experience and earning certifications, your pay could go above $100,000 a year in some areas.

Those who work in large hospitals and radiation centers will likely find they have higher salaries than people working in smaller clinics.

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

Job Growth Outlook

If you are interested in becoming a Radiation Therapist, now is the best time to start your journey.

Over the next decade, this career will grow by around 7 percent.

Much higher than many other careers in the same field.

The reason for this advance in job opportunities is because of the baby boomer generation.

As they grow older, they will require more medical care, including radiation for certain cancers.

Expect to find more job openings in larger populations and big hospitals.

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

Education Duration

It can take a while to become a Radiation Therapist, but that is because it is an important job.

Some online programs offer Radiation Therapists programs that last about one year.

You should expect to take around two years to become a Radiation Therapist with an Associate’s degree.

However, some employers are now requiring Radiation Therapists to have at least a Bachelor’s degree.

This can take another 2-4 years.

All in all, it can take anywhere from 1-4 years to become a Radiation Therapist.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

You must be the type of person who wants to help others in order to be a great Radiation Therapist.

No one with an illness wants to get radiation therapy, so the Radiation Therapist can make it just a little bit brighter.

This can be done by having the following strengths:

  • Communication skills
  • Physical stamina
  • Emotional stability
  • Medical knowledge
  • Attention to detail
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Computer and science skills
  • Ability to work as a team and alone
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Critical thinking skills


Frequently Asked Questions

Q.

How much does a Radiation Therapist make?

Since radiation therapy is such a crucial part of cancer treatment, Radiation Therapists get paid quite well.

With several years in the field and with proper licensing and certification, you can expect to make around $91,000 as a Radiation Therapist.

Those who have been working in the field for many years and who have the skills to show can make over $100,000 in some areas.

If you are just starting your career as a Radiation Therapist, you can expect to make $57,000 a year on average.

Q.

How long does it take to become a Radiation Therapist?

The length of time that it takes to become a Radiation Therapist depends on the type of program you enroll in.

Some programs last about one year, but other programs can last two years or more.

An Associate’s degree can take two years to finish, while a Bachelor’s degree can add on another 2-4 years to that.

It can take anywhere from 1-4 years to become a Radiation Therapist.

Q.

What does a Radiation Therapist do?

A Radiation Therapist is a person who is there to help people who are in radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy can be used for treating cancer and other illnesses, which can make patients weak.

Radiation Therapists must ensure that patients are protected, relaxed, and comfortable while they are receiving treatment.

They will also clean and sterilize equipment, and monitor the machinery.

Q.

What is the demand for Radiation Therapists?

Over the next several years, we should see a 7 percent increase in this career.

That is because the baby boomer generation is growing older, which means they will need more healthcare and medical procedures.

Advancements in technology have made it easier as well, which means more career opportunities in the future.

Those with certification and proper education will find the most career opportunities.

Q.

How much does it cost to become a Radiation Therapist?

Depending on the type of education you receive, it can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000 to become a Radiation Therapist.

Some programs online or accelerated ones from trade schools can cost as little as $1,500 or as much as $3,000.

The average Associate’s degree can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 depending on the university that you attend.

Those looking to earn a Bachelor’s degree can expect to pay more than $35,000 for education.


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