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Radiation Therapist Job Description, Career as a Radiation Therapist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

therapists cancer treatment patients

Education and Training: College or certificate in radiation therapy

Salary: Median—$66,170 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

As members of a medical radiation oncology team, radiation therapists treat cancer in the human body. To do so, they use special machinery—linear accelerators—to administer treatments to shrink and eliminate cancerous tumors in the human body. In some cases, radiation therapy is the only treatment used for cancer patients. However, in most situations, it is used along with chemotherapy or even surgery.

In addition, radiation therapists must keep thorough records of all treatments provided for each patient as well as the patient’s reaction to the treatment. These records are later evaluated by the oncology team in determining the patient’s progress, to monitor the amount of radiation exposure, as well as note any side effects. All these are necessary to provide the best possible care for each cancer patient.

Radiation therapists generally work in hospitals, cancer treatment centers, or physician offices. They are constantly on their feet setting up treatments for cancer patients and often have to assist disabled patients on and off the treatment table. Since they work with cancer patients, radiation therapists should have good interpersonal skills, a caring and empathic attitude, be physically fit, and maintain a positive attitude.

Education and Training Requirements

Many employers prefer radiation therapists to have an associate or a bachelor’s degree in either radiation therapy or a degree in radiography with a certification in radiation therapy. In addition, many employers, as well as some states, require ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists) certification.

Some continuing education and certification renewal may be necessary. Employers often reimburse their employees for continuing education courses.

Getting the Job

Interested candidates should apply directly to the employer. Another resource that may provide job postings is the American Society of Radiologic Technologist (ASRT) website. In some case, students may get referrals from their instructors as well as earn a position through clinical training.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

The job outlook for radiation therapists is good for the next seven years. There will be a 25% job growth rate with additional job openings as well as job replacement opportunities for those who change careers or retire. With an increase in radiation technology, radiation therapy will be approved for treating more types of cancer in the future. Certified radiation therapists will have the best job opportunities.

Experienced radiation therapists have the opportunity to advance to managerial positions.

Working Conditions

Radiation therapists can work in cancer treatment centers, physician offices or hospitals. A typical work week consists of 40 hours of dealing with cancer patients which can be stressful and rewarding at the same time. There is also considerable lifting that goes along with this job, especially when assisting disabled patients on and off treatment tables. On occasion radiation therapists are called in after hours to assist with emergency treatments.

Due to the nature of their job, radiation therapists work around many radioactive materials. Therefore, it is important for them to follow all safety precautions not to be exposed to any levels of radiation.

Where to Go for More Information

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
1255 Northland Dr.
St. Paul, MN 55120
http://www.arrt.org

American Society of Radiologic Technologies
15000 Central Ave., SE
Albuquerque, NM 87123
http://www.asrt.org

Earnings and Benefits

The median salary for radiation therapists was $66,170 in 2006. The average salary for a radiation therapist working in a treatment center is $73,810 per year. Physician offices pay radiation therapists an average of $70,050 per year, while the lowest salary is offered to those working for hospitals at $63,580 per year.

Benefits vary depending on the size and location of the employer. However, in most cases paid vacations, health insurance and pension plans are included. Other benefits may include tuition reimbursement.

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