Did you know that if you become a radiation therapist, you may have the potential to be part of one of the highest paying medical careers with an associates degree. Before jumping on a bandwagon and becoming a radiation therapist, you should learn more about this field in medicine before you complete a program.
An RT administers radiation (in therapeutic doses) to a patient. This is done to treat diseases such as cancer. The therapy is administered with a linear accelerator, which administers xrays at cancer cells. The high energy xrays shrink or remove the cancer.
Because these linear accelerators are large pieces of equipment, RTs work in cancer treatment centers and hospitals.
- Maintain medical records
- Explain and educate patient about treatment plan
- Ensure safety from overexposure of radiation
- Operate machines that administer the therapy
- Monitor patient for unusual reactions
A RT does not work alone. He/she works with an oncology team, which is composed of physicians; nurses; physicists, who calibrate the machines; and dosimetrists, who calculate radiation dosages.
Radiation therapists are part of a small network. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that there were 16,900 currently employed in this position.
Their statistics also indicate that by 2020 there will be a projected need of 20,300 radiation therapists. That is 3,400 more jobs in 10 years.
Future growth is limited for radiation technologists working in the field, but it is possible to advance into teaching, becoming a dosimetrist, equipment sales, or research.
In 2010, the median salary was $74,980. Eighty percent earned between $50,950 and $110,550. In terms of return on investment, this career offers a lot, but you would need to weigh the fact that jobs may not be available in the future.
You would need an associates degree at a minimum for this career. Many radiation therapists complete a medical imaging program one in radiography, nuclear medicine technology, sonography, or magnetic resonance imaging.
This provides a foundation and provides additional job skills before completing a program in radiation therapy.
Courses include scientific theories behind the therapy, along with human anatomy, physiology, physics.
After graduation, you would need to become certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. This involves taking an exam that illustrates you know about oncology, treatment planning and delivery, along with providing patient care and education.
You may also need to register with your state and get a license. Check with your state health department.
A radiation therapist must be detail orientated and use exact dosage requirements. If not, patients can be under- or over-exposed to radiation, which can result in a treatment that is not therapeutic or provides too much therapy.
Working with patients requires excellent interpersonal skills. You will deal with patients on an on-going basis while they are receiving treatment and many patients will be going through physical and emotional stress.
A solid understanding of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry will be needed. You will be mixing radioactive chemicals for therapy.
Also, RTs need to be comfortable working with large machines, so technical skills are essential.
I hope this information about what it takes to become a radiation therapist has been helpful.