Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Associate|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||18,230|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.6%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||670|
- Studies range from one-year certificate programs to bachelor's degrees.
- Radiation therapists must complete an accredited radiation therapy program that consists of classroom and clinical components.
- Programs are offered by community colleges, four-year schools, and hospitals and generally require a high school diploma for admission.
What you study:
Study topics include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Medical ethics
- Radiation therapy principles
- Treatment procedures
Quickly overviews the work of a radiation therapist. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a radiation therapist, you administer critical radiation treatment primarily to cancer patients. You ensure that they receive the proper dose and placement of radiation to destroy or shrink tumors. Working closely with other members of the oncology team, you provide patients with continuity of care throughout their weeks of therapy.
Your first task is to run quality assurance on the linear accelerator that delivers the radiation beam to the tumor site. As you do every morning before seeing patients, you check that everything functions correctly. This daily operational test is crucial to patient safety.
Your first patient arrives for a 15-minute treatment. After showing her into the room, you ask how she is feeling and answer a question she has about side effects. You have been working with this patient every weekday for four weeks and have formed a relationship with her and her family. Most patients are treated daily for five to nine weeks, and getting to know them is one of the highlights of your job.
Using laser guides for alignment, you position the patient on the machine's treatment couch. The radiation beam is powerful enough to disrupt cells and must be confined as much as possible to cancerous tissue. Patient placement is extremely precise and has been defined in simulations with the oncology team.
To remain safe from radiation, you operate the machine from the control area in the next room. You take X-rays to verify the size, shape and location of the patient's tumor. Next, you use this information to make final adjustments to the couch position. The treatment itself takes less than five minutes.
After treating several more patients, you consult with other oncology team members regarding treatment plans. You also meet with a new patient to help him understand his upcoming radiation therapy. Shortly before lunch, you review treatment plans and schedule patients. You spend the afternoon seeing more patients, which includes keeping meticulous records. During your last hour on shift, you make sure that the equipment and updated schedule are ready for tomorrow.
Certifications and Licensing
Licensing of radiation therapists occurs at the state level, and regulations vary. Most states require licensure and stipulate national certification as a prerequisite. Graduates of accredited training programs can sit for the radiation therapy certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Successful candidates earn the credential R.T.(T).
Full-time versus part-time:
Most radiation therapists work regular hours on a full-time basis. Some work evenings and weekends in facilities offering treatment during those times.
Most radiation therapists work in hospitals, cancer centers, and other facilities where cancer is treated.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook – The site provides an objective snapshot of the radiation therapy profession. In clear language, it explains the major duties, qualifications, and job outlook. To deepen your understanding, also consider researching sites that represent the field.
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists – The ASRT is the primary professional association for radiation therapists and others in radiologic technology. The site has a career section that discusses professional options in a thought-provoking manner. You can get a valuable sense of the field's limitations as well as its opportunities.
- The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology – JRCERT grants accreditation to radiation therapy and other radiologic technology programs. The site lets you easily search for accredited programs in radiation therapy and related disciplines.
- American Registry of Radiologic Technologists – The ARRT credentials radiologic technologists by exam and provides the continuing education necessary to maintain registered status. The site's section for students and educators explains credentialing requirements, procedures and options.
- Health Professions Network – The HPN is a collaborative of educational and professional healthcare organizations with an emphasis on allied health fields. The site has a section for students that looks at allied health careers from several perspectives. It also includes a careers section that describes the radiologic technologist field among many others.