Radiation therapists administer doses of radiation to treat cancer and other diseases in patients. Typically, they work as part of a medical team that may include a radiation oncologist, an oncology nurse, a radiation physicist and a dosimetrist among other healthcare providers.
As part of the team, they help design and implement treatment plans. Radiation treatment, which is prescribed for about half of cancer patients, works by shrinking cancerous tumors or growths and a course of treatment may take several weeks or months.
What does a radiation therapist do?
Some typical tasks radiation therapists perform can include:
- Operating and maintaining equipment to ensure safety and effectiveness.
- Discussing treatment plans with patients, answering their questions and providing emotional support.
- Performing patient X-rays to pinpoint the area requiring treatment.
- Verifying radiation dosage and delivery.
- Operating radiation equipment.
- Reviewing diagnosis and prescription.
- Monitoring the patient and keeping records of treatment.
What skills does a radiation therapist need?
Radiation therapists must be extremely detail-oriented in order to interpret and deliver the prescribed treatment accurately, and document their work. Providing treatment requires the ability to calculate and mix dosages and comfort and skill in operating complex equipment. Radiation therapists should also be in good shape as the job requires standing for long periods of time and helping to lift and move patients.
Interpersonal skills are critical to this role. Radiation therapists work closely with patients over a prolonged period of time that can be highly stressful; they should be skilled at listening to, comforting and reassuring patients. As part of a team, they need to be able to work well with different medical professionals to plan and deliver treatment and care.
Where does a radiation therapist work?
The majority of radiation therapists work in hospitals but they may also work in doctor’s offices or outpatient cancer treatment facilities.
Most radiation therapists work full time, and because radiation therapy must be scheduled in advance, they generally work a standard eight-hour shift.
What salary can a radiation technician expect to earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of radiation therapists was $74,980 in 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,950, and the top 10 percent earned more than $110,550.
Salaries can vary based on location, education, employer type and size and other factors. Check Salary.com to find out what a typical radiation therapist earns in your area.
Will there be many jobs as a radiation therapist available?
Radiation therapy is growing faster than other occupations due to an aging population, which is more likely to develop cancer, and advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Employment of radiation therapists is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, but the overall number of jobs created will be small for this highly specialized field.
Below you will find additional resources and information for those seeking to learn more about how to become a radiation therapist: