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Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapist

As we march on in the battle against cancer, the medical field at large still relies on two major processes to treat patients suffering from the ailment: chemotherapy and radiation. Chemotherapy involves intravenously or orally treating a patient with a mix of chemicals designed to kill off (cancer) cells. Radiation targets specific clumps of cells with high energy x-rays, killing them off or reducing them in size. A radiation therapist is responsible for administering radiation treatments to cancer patients. They must be able to precisely handle and orient the machine, and follow proper procedures to ensure treatment is documented and effective.

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree Required: Associate’s Degree

Top Skills: Patient Interaction, Comfortable with Machinery, Detailed Focus

Average Starting Salary: over $50,000/year

Job Description

When a patient comes in for a radiation treatment, they will be taken to the radiation room. The radiation therapist, who has already cleaned, examined, and tested the machines and necessary equipment, will help position the patient. The therapist will protect both the patient and him/herself from harmful x-ray exposure, use an x-ray machine to locate the exact mass needing treatment, then operate the radiation machine to treat the patient. Their job may be repetitive at times, but it is vital that they follow every step of the process correctly for each patient, making adjustments for every individual. Radiation therapy prolongs and saves lives on a regular basis, and the skilled therapists are partly to thank.

Education

Radiation therapists must obtain an associate’s degree in radiation therapy. Some employers accept a 12-month certificate, and others prefer a bachelor’s degree, but an associate’s is standard. The two-year program will teach students about human anatomy and biology, the science behind radiation treatments, and the proper procedures for administering said treatments.

High school students with a strong background in math, science, and technology will have an easier time with the required coursework, but it is possible to succeed as a radiation therapist so long as you are diligent with your studies.

Licensing/Certification

Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed, though the requirements for obtaining said license vary. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) awards certification to students who complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the certification exam. The certificate is a common prerequisite for licensing.

Job Outlook: Excellent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 20% increase in radiation therapy employment between 2010 and 2020. As of 2010, the median income for a radiation therapist was approx. $75,000/year, with the top 10% of workers earning over $100,000 .

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