How To Become A Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists typically attend a certified radiation therapy program which can take up to 2 years to complete and then earn a certification before they get started. Some states require licensing as well.

radiation therapists helping patient

Becoming a radiation therapist means you will be working in the medical field, usually within a cancer treatment team. Your impact on people will be huge, and you will need some great people skills and a lot of compassion to do this job.

Sometimes also called a therapeutic radiographer or radiotherapist, it is part of the allied health professionals category which offers many great opportunities.

This career can be started in less than 2 years and can result in a solid job with great benefits and salary packages.

Key Takeaways

  • Becoming a radiation therapist requires formal training, an associate’s degree, and clinical rotations.
  • Licensure and certification are necessary before practicing as a radiation therapist, and ARRT certifies and registers radiation therapy professionals in the US.
  • The median pay is $82,790 annually and the growth through 2031 is expected to be 6%.

In this article we will break down everything you need to know about becoming a radiation therapist and what to expect when you do.

What Does a Radiation Therapist Do?

Radiation therapists play a crucial role in cancer treatment by administering radiation therapy to patients.

They work alongside oncologists and other healthcare professionals to provide targeted radiation treatments that help destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

One of the most important responsibilities of a radiation therapist is ensuring that patients receive accurate and safe doses of radiation during their treatments. This requires a thorough understanding of how different types of radiation interact with the body and how to properly use equipment like linear accelerators, which are used to deliver high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation.

Radiation therapists must also carefully monitor patient progress throughout treatment and adjust dosage as needed based on changes in tumors or overall health.

Radiation therapists typically work in hospitals, clinics, or cancer centers, where they may see dozens of patients each day.

The work environment can be fast-paced and emotionally challenging at times, but it also offers opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment as you help people fight against cancer.

If you have a passion for science, enjoy working with people, and want to make a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer, then becoming a radiation therapist may be an excellent career choice for you.

If you would like to explore other healthcare career opportunities you can check out our guides on becoming a respiratory therapist or sleep technologist.

How To Become A Radiation Therapist

This field recommends individuals to have at least an associate degree in radiation therapy from an accredited institution. Some people to get started with a certificate, but may have other science experience.

A bachelor’s degree (which can take four years to complete) may be required by some employers.

Below are the recommended steps to becoming a certified respiratory therapist.

High School Diploma or GED

A high school diploma or GED is required.

Attend An Accredited Program

Most accredited programs are 2-4 years. Community colleges are a great choice, but it is important to make sure the program is accredited. You will also need to do clinical rotations to gain hands-on-experience.

Certifications

Once you complete a training program you can then sit for the ARRT exam. Passing this exam will allow you to receive your Registered Radiologic Technologist R.T. (R) certification. Improve your opportunities by obtaining additional certifications.

Licensing

Roughly 75% of all states require Radiation Technologists to be licensed.

Attend An Accredited Radiation Therapy Program

The first step to become a radiation therapist is to find a reputable radiation therapy program. 

Once you select a school to attend you will complete a mix of classes and clinical experience.

Expectations at the end of the program would include:

  • Be able to demonstrate your competency in radiation treatment and planning as well as patient care.
  • Show your ability to analyze information like simulation or port films and determine a course of action for the patient.
  • Prove your ability to use radiation therapy equipment like a linear accelerator properly.
  • Demonstrate your ability to work as a team player and to be able to take responsibility for actions and accept feedback.
  • Utilize proper verbal and written skills to properly communicate details with staff and patients.
  • Ability to pass the AART certification exam.
radiation therapist at work
image credit: Wikipedia

Radiation Therapist Certifications

Most employers look at the ARRT certification as a deciding factor on whether to hire someone. So this i the recommended path for aspiring technologists.

ARRT offers a variety of credentials that are medically related, but the one you need for this career is the Radiation Therapy certification.

Radiation Therapist State Licensing Requirements 

Approximately 75% of all states require licensing to work in radiologic technology. This is in addition to a certification.

Many states will use your ARRT exam scores to determine licensing eligibility, but may have other requirements you need to meet as well.

You can learn more about each states licensing requirements for radiation technologists here.

Radiation Therapist Salary Information

Radiation therapists have a pretty good salary range. Those with experience and a higher level of education will typically earn more. Technologists in metro areas also make considerably more than the rural areas.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for respiratory therapists was $70,540 as of May 2022.

The top paying states include:

  • California
  • New York
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Massachusetts

These states all show wages of approximately $100K or more.

Lowest 10%
Median
Highest 90%

Radiation Therapist Job Outlook 

With an aging population and advancements in technology, the growth for this career is pretty good. While some of the openings are new jobs, there are some openings due to workers retiring or changing careers.

The demand for sterile processing technicians is pretty good with an expected 6% growth through 2031 as noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pursue Continuing Education and Professional Development

Some radiation technologists have noted concerns about lack of opportunity to grow. They often they will land a job but where do you go from there?

Within the industry there are additional certifications you can get that might help you take on more responsibility and earn a higher salary.

Some of these include:

  • Radiography
  • Tomography
  • Cardiac Interventional Technology
  • Mammography
  • Magnetic Resonance Technology
  • Vascular Interventional Technology
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Sonography

So, become a registered radiologic technologist first, then further your career by adding on some of the additional credentials.

Is Radiation Technology The Right Career For You?

So, how to know if this is the career for you?

There is no way to know for sure until you are out there doing it, but below are a few questions to ask yourself before you get started!

  • Are you OK working in a fast paced, sometimes overwhelming environment?
  • Can you communicate well with all types of people (doctors, patients, coworkers, etc.)
  • Does the thought of working nights, holidays, or weekends bother you?
  • Do you have the time and finances to get through the education needed?
  • Will you dedicate time for ongoing education to further your opportunities?

Some current and aspiring techs have noted concerns with being around radiation on their own health. But, this study shows there is minimal risk to workers if safety recommendations are adhered to.

Resources

Below are a few additional resources and links to articles to help you learn more about this career.

  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)