Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Job Outlook: 9% (Faster than average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Radiation Therapists Do About this section

Radiation therapists
Radiation therapists are part of the oncology teams that treat patients with cancer.

Radiation therapists administer doses of radiation to patients who have cancer or other serious diseases.

Duties

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation
  • Determine the location of tumors to ensure correct positioning of patients for administering each treatment
  • Calibrate and operate the machine to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
  • Keep detailed records of treatment

Radiation therapists operate machines, such as linear accelerators, to deliver concentrated radiation therapy to the region of a patient’s tumor. Radiation treatment may shrink or eliminate cancers and tumors.

Radiation therapists are part of the oncology teams that treat patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:

  • Medical dosimetrists calculate the correct dose of radiation for cancer treatment
  • Medical physicists help in planning radiation treatments, develop better and safer radiation therapies, and check that radiation output is accurate
  • Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in radiation therapy

Work Environment About this section

Radiation therapists
Radiation therapists work in hospitals, offices of physicians, and outpatient centers.

Radiation therapists held about 17,700 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of radiation therapists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 65%
Offices of physicians 24
Outpatient care centers 6

Radiation therapists stand for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients.

Injuries and illnesses

Because radiation therapists work with radiation and radioactive materials, they should be aware of the risks involved and must follow safety procedures. These procedures require therapists to be in a different room while administering radiation to a patient and to wear a film badge dosimeter to track their exposure.

Work Schedules

Most radiation therapists work full time. They have a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist About this section

Radiation therapists
Radiation therapists must be licensed or certified in most states.

Radiation therapists typically need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed or certified, which often includes passing a national certification exam.

Education

Employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in a healthcare and related field, such as radiation therapy, or in science technologies or biology. However, candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a certificate program.

Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. These programs often include experience in a clinical setting and courses such as human anatomy and physiology, physics, and algebra. A list of accredited radiation therapy programs is available from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

Important Qualities

Compassion. Radiation therapists work with patients who are suffering from cancer or another serious disease. They must display empathy while helping patients through the experience.

Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow precise instructions and input exact measurements to make sure the patient is exposed to the correct amount of radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Radiation therapists work closely with patients over multiple weeks and must be able to explain the treatment. Radiation therapists also must work well with other members of the oncology team to effectively coordinate care.

Technical skills. Radiation therapists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment, so they must be comfortable operating those devices.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary by state but may include graduating from an accredited radiation therapy program and passing an exam or earning certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must earn an associate’s or higher degree from an approved radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the certification exam. The exam covers topics such as radiation protection, treatment planning, and patient care and education.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.

Advancement

With additional education and certification, therapists may become medical dosimetrists. Dosimetrists are responsible for calculating the correct dose of radiation that is used in the treatment of cancer patients.

Pay About this section

Radiation Therapists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Radiation therapists

$82,790

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$81,270

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $82,790 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $128,550.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for radiation therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $121,140
Offices of physicians 82,540
Hospitals; state, local, and private 81,050

Most radiation therapists work full time. They have a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

Job Outlook About this section

Radiation Therapists

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

12%

Radiation therapists

9%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,100 openings for radiation therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

The incidence of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population may increase demand for radiation therapists. Continued advancements in the detection of cancer and the development of more sophisticated treatment techniques may also lead to greater demand for radiation therapy.

Employment projections data for radiation therapists, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Radiation therapists

29-1124 17,700 19,300 9 1,600 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about radiation therapists, visit

American Society of Radiologic Technologists

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

For a list of accredited programs in radiation therapy, visit

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology

O*NET

Radiation Therapists

Video