How To Become a Radiation Therapist

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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As a radiation therapist, you will be a very important part of the healthcare team. Patients will count on you to help ensure they get the treatment needed. If you want to pursue this career, you need to learn how to become a radiation therapist.

There are many things to understand about this career first. Before entering any career, you should know the job duties and expectations. Let’s look closer at the job duties of a radiation therapist and how to become one.

How To Become a Radiation Therapist

Job Duties of a Radiation Therapist

As a radiation therapist, you will work with patients suffering from cancer and other diseases. You will administer radiation treatments and fulfill the orders of a medical physicist or radiation oncologist. It’s common for radiation therapists to take X-rays, as well.

Radiation therapists will also monitor the patient and how they are responding to the treatment. They will keep records of the procedure, which can help physicians with creating a therapeutic strategy.

Some of the other common duties of a radiation therapist include:

Many other job duties may be a part of the everyday work of a radiation therapist.

How To Become a Radiation Therapist in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Finish High School

As you complete your high school years, if you’re considering a career as a radiation therapist, try to shadow someone in the field. This can help you choose the right career path for you.

A high school education will be necessary since you will need a college degree. Keeping your GPA up and scoring well on the SAT or ACT can help you get into a better program. Using the right prep course for the SAT or ACT is a good idea if you want to score higher.

Step #2 – Get Your Degree

Radiation therapists can enter this profession with an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. There are also certificate programs in radiation therapy you can get, in addition to your degree.

With the right degree and certification program, you can get the hands-on experience you need. It can help you build the right resume employers will prefer.

Some of the types of courses you can expect to study include anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, principles of oncology radiation biology, dosimetry, radiation protection, radiologic patient care, radiation therapy physics, and other medical courses.

It’s common to gain hands-on working experience as an intern with this type of degree or certification program, too. This will include patient care, developing oncology skills, and developing other skills.

Step #3 – Become Licensed

Depending on your state, you might have to become licensed as a Registered Technologist. Not all states require this license, so make sure to check with your state. Usually, you will need to get the right degree and certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists to become licensed.

Step #4 – Get Your Certification

Your certification is a vital option when it comes to finding success in this career. Radiation Therapists can earn a certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. This can ensure you have a better chance of getting a job.

The ARRT certification requires an associate degree or higher in radiologic technology. You will also need to show competency in clinical procedures and coursework. It’s also necessary to comply with any ethical standards and pass the examination. The exam will cover clinical concepts, quality assurance, and radiation protection, along with treatment planning, patient education, patient care, and treatment delivery.

Once you earn your certification, you will need to maintain it. Every two years, you will have to meet the continuing education requirement and pay the renewal fee.

Step #5 – Get Work Experience

It’s common for employers to require or at least prefer one year of radiation therapy experience. Clinician instruction and training can help you get the experience you need.

Skills Needed to be Successful as a Radiation Therapist

If you want to be a successful radiation therapist, you will want to develop the following skills:

Along with these skills, you will need good science and math skills. You will also need to be good at operation monitoring since you will be monitoring treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Radiation Therapist

How much will I make as a radiation therapist?

The average salary for a radiation therapist is about $98K per year. This can be higher or lower based on your experience, your location, and your employer. Top employers will pay more than $100K per year.

Los Angeles has the highest average salary, followed by Dallas, Chicago, Houston, and New York. Of course, with many years of experience, you can earn a higher salary.

What type of benefits do radiation therapists receive?

It’s common if you go into this career to earn many benefits. Health insurance with vision, dental, and life insurance is very common. It’s also common to gain some type of tuition or license reimbursement. A 401(k) is another common benefit, along with paid vacation time and even a wellness program.

How long will it take to become a radiation therapist?

You can get an associate degree in about two years. If you opt for a bachelor’s degree, it will take you about four years. The certification exam will only take a single day.

Once you pass the exam, you will need to submit your application. This process may take a few months. If you choose an associate degree, you can be ready to work in about three years. Those choosing to get a bachelor’s degree may need around five years.

What type of hours do radiation therapists work?

It’s common for a radiation therapist to work a normal 40-hour workweek. This type of healthcare career will only have you working during the day, too. However, in some emergency situations, you may be on call and have to work outside of normal hours. This is a bit rarer compared to other healthcare careers.

What is the work environment like for radiation therapists?

It’s common to work in a hospital, cancer treatment center, physicians’ office, or another type of medical facility. As a radiation therapist, you will be working to help patients with cancer and other diseases. You will be working with radioactive equipment and radiation. This means you will need to follow strict safety procedures.

Is the radiation therapist career growing?

Yes, it’s a growing career. The career of radiation therapists is expected to continue to grow at a rate of about 9% over the next ten years. The aging population could increase the demand.

Can a radiation therapist advance their career?

Yes. Most commonly, a radiation therapist can advance to a management position. They may still assist and treat patients, but also take on managerial responsibilities. It’s also possible to advance into teaching, research, or technical sales.

Some radiation therapists go on to become dosimetrist. This is a person responsible for calculating the radiation dosage used for cancer treatments.

Should I get a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree?

You can become a radiation therapist with either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. About 61% of radiation therapists have a bachelor’s degree, while 24% have an associate’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree, you have a better chance for advancement. You might also be more desirable to employers with a bachelor’s degree.

A very small percentage of radiation therapists do hold a master’s degree, but this is not common or necessary. However, it can lead to more advancement opportunities, especially if you want to go into teaching at any point.

If you want to become a radiation therapist, start by shadowing someone in the profession. Once you decide to go down this career path, make sure you consider all your options. Use the steps for how to become a radiation therapist in this article and you’ll be well on your way to a new and exciting career.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.