Radiation Therapist

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If you want to pursue a career as a radiation therapist, you will find there are many online radiation therapy programs designed to help you jumpstart your career. These programs teach you the science behind radiation therapy and give you the hands-on experience needed to work with radiation therapy equipment.

Jobs for radiation therapists are in high demand and the demand is expected to only increase in the next few years (BLS). If you enjoy helping people, are detail-oriented, and have good organizational skills, this could be the perfect career choice for you.

What is a Radiation Therapist?

Radiation therapists are responsible for carrying out the radiation therapy treatment plan set up by a radiation oncologist. A radiation therapist uses a high-tech machine called a linear accelerator to deliver a beam of radiation to the patient’s cancer cells. Therapists are responsible for using the correct radiation dosage and for positioning the linear accelerator to hit the correct target.

A radiation therapist is part of a team that includes a radiation oncologist, nurses, and other medical staff. This team comes together to design and implement a cancer patient’s treatment plan. Radiation therapists are typically the person most often seen by patients for several weeks at a time.

During a typical radiation therapy treatment, the radiation therapist brings the patient into the treatment room and prepares them for their treatment. The therapist then sets the correct dosage of radiation to be delivered by the linear accelerator and lines up the machine to the exact location where the radiation is to be directed.

The radiation therapist must be careful when setting the prescribed radiation dosage and positioning the linear accelerator. These two factors are determined by the doctor, but it is the radiation therapist’s job to carry those orders out exactly as prescribed. Doing these treatments correctly will make the difference in whether the cancer cells can be successfully killed and removed.

Once the setup is complete, the therapist leaves the room and controls the machine from another room. This is done to protect the therapist from too much exposure to radiation over time.

The radiation therapist is also responsible for keeping track of the patient’s medical record. They must record each treatment and radiation dosages, and at what date and time. Therapists are also expected to ask patients about side effects or if their condition is worsening. The therapist is expected to report any concerns about a patient to the radiation oncologist.

Radiation Therapist Salary

According to Salary.com, the average salary for a radiation therapy technologist in the United States is $88,106 as of May 27, 2021. However, the range typically falls between $80,116 and $98,426.

According to ZipRecruiter, the salary for a radiation therapist varies by state.

StateAnnual SalaryMonthly PayWeekly PayHourly Wage
New York$99,558$8,297$1,915$47.86
New Hampshire$96,512$8,043$1,856$46.40
Vermont$91,229$7,602$1,754$43.86
Wyoming$88,890$7,408$1,709$42.74
Maine$88,718$7,393$1,706$42.65
Massachusetts$88,584$7,382$1,704$42.59
West Virginia$86,509$7,209$1,664$41.59
Hawaii$86,195$7,183$1,658$41.44
Washington$86,110$7,176$1,656$41.40
Pennsylvania$86,091$7,174$1,656$41.39
Connecticut$84,244$7,020$1,620$40.50
Montana$84,053$7,004$1,616$40.41
New Jersey$83,375$6,948$1,603$40.08
Arizona$83,188$6,932$1,600$39.99
Rhode Island$82,712$6,893$1,591$39.77
Indiana$82,655$6,888$1,590$39.74
Alaska$81,981$6,832$1,577$39.41
North Dakota$81,491$6,791$1,567$39.18
Nevada$81,336$6,778$1,564$39.10
Maryland$81,255$6,771$1,563$39.06
Tennessee$80,579$6,715$1,550$38.74
Minnesota$80,543$6,712$1,549$38.72
Wisconsin$80,485$6,707$1,548$38.69
Georgia$80,249$6,687$1,543$38.58
Ohio$79,994$6,666$1,538$38.46
Nebraska$79,934$6,661$1,537$38.43
South Dakota$79,111$6,593$1,521$38.03
Virginia$78,886$6,574$1,517$37.93
Utah$78,781$6,565$1,515$37.88
Alabama$78,373$6,531$1,507$37.68
California$78,199$6,517$1,504$37.60
Louisiana$78,110$6,509$1,502$37.55
Kentucky$78,025$6,502$1,500$37.51
Oregon$77,945$6,495$1,499$37.47
Kansas$76,861$6,405$1,478$36.95
Iowa$76,664$6,389$1,474$36.86
New Mexico$76,496$6,375$1,471$36.78
South Carolina$76,378$6,365$1,469$36.72
Colorado$76,138$6,345$1,464$36.60
Delaware$75,944$6,329$1,460$36.51
Florida$75,634$6,303$1,455$36.36
Oklahoma$74,292$6,191$1,429$35.72
Idaho$73,183$6,099$1,407$35.18
Mississippi$72,014$6,001$1,385$34.62
Arkansas$71,528$5,961$1,376$34.39
Michigan$71,441$5,953$1,374$34.35
Illinois$71,140$5,928$1,368$34.20
Texas$70,616$5,885$1,358$33.95
Missouri$69,896$5,825$1,344$33.60
North Carolina$65,086$5,424$1,252$31.29

What is Radiation Therapy Used For?

Radiation therapy is used to help treat cancer patients. The treatment is performed by using a linear accelerator to shoot high-energy radiation at cancer cells.

Before the therapy plan is implemented, the radiation oncologist develops a plan for each patient. The plan is based on the type, size, and location of the cancer cells in the patient. Once the appropriate radiation therapy plan has been defined, it is up to the radiation therapist to implement the plan precisely as ordered by the doctor.

Many patients who come for radiation treatments are under a great deal of stress. Therefore, in some cases, their health may not be very good. It is the radiation therapist’s job to calm patients and help them feel comfortable. The more at ease you can make the patient, the easier your job will be.

How To Become a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapy programs are designed to prepare a therapist to perform their necessary job duties. Many of the programs will include classes such as human anatomy, biology, communication skills, computer science, algebra, and physics. These classes are created to help understand the science and workings behind radiation therapy, so they can understand how the treatment plan works.

Certification

There are a few different types of radiation therapy programs available. There are one, two, and even four-year programs that can be taken to earn a diploma, certificate, or degree in radiation therapy. These programs will vary on the classes that are required and on what topics are taught.

Many of the one-year radiation therapy programs are not accredited and may not be used in order to qualify with you state licensing regulations. If you are considering taking one of these programs, you should understand your state’s guidelines. You will also not be able to take the American Registry of Radiation Therapist (ARRT) exams to become a member of the registry without a degree from an accredited program.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Radiation Therapist?

The two-year radiation therapy programs are the most popular choice and will earn you an associate degree in radiation therapy. These types of classes are offered at trade schools or community colleges and most of the classes can be taken online. Most of the online programs require hands-on experiences that will require you to go to their lab or an affiliated hospital. This will let the student have some practice using the actual equipment used in radiation therapy.

Upon completion of any of the accredited online radiation therapy programs, you will be able to sit for the ARRT exam. This will make you a member of this registry and certify you as a radiation therapist. Over 30 states require this type of certification and many employees make the successful completion of this exam mandatory to employment. The exam will cover all of the information that you learned during your training program.

Radiation Therapist Programs

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Summary

A career as a radiation therapist can be very rewarding. It’s rewarding because you know that you will be helping people fight a life-threatening illness. It can also be very difficult emotionally because not every patient will have success and you may lose some during treatment. Focusing on the positive and the benefits of this treatment can help you deal with this. If you are looking for a job where you can make a difference in people’s lives, a radiation therapist is a good choice.