The medical and allied health fields offer a wide range of career paths, which suit many different personalities. A radiation therapy career is one that suits a personality that likes to see changes occur in ill patients and spend a lot of time around the same patients.
Although only you can answer is radiation therapy a good career choice, we can provide you with the information you need about being a radiation therapist career.
Keep in mind that most learn about this career through their employment or school because they are already (or working towards being) American Registry of Radiologic Technologists-certified x-ray techs looking to specialize in medical imaging.
1. Radiation therapists work in cancer treatment facilities.
They work in hospitals, private clinics, medical clinics, oncology center, and cancer treatment facilities to administer radiation to patients with tumors and cancers.
2. They handle medical equipment of various types.
They handle various state-of-the-art radiation equipment and medical instruments on a daily basis, such as computers, x-ray, computer tomography scans, and linear accelerator machines.
A radiation therapists’ responsibilities require them to be accurate and knowledgeable. This calls for a strong science and medical background.
They set up the linear accelerator as determined by the oncologist and radiation physicist. They assist the patients so that they are positioned properly when the radiation is administered to ensure that radiation is applied in the correct dose and at the precise site.
3. They interact with the medical team.
If you are a team player and a person who enjoys dealing with people, then this job is one that needs your kind of personality. You will work with oncologists, oncology nurses, radiation physicists, dosimetrists, and other members of the medical team.
4. Radiation therapists provide support to patients.
They work under pressure, communicate clearly, explain the procedures, and answer patients’ questions.
They provide support and reassurance to patients and their families who are typically emotionally, physically, and financially stressed.
The physical condition of patients and adverse reactions, if any, are also closely monitored and recorded by the radiation therapist.
Keep in mind that you will be seeing the sickest of the sick in this career.
5. The job can be exhausting and dangerous without proper safety protocols.
It must be noted that radiation is produced from radioactive materials. Radiation can be both good and dangerous at the same time.
Radiation therapists must have mastered the safety protocol for all procedures.
There are patients that need to be lifted, and radiation therapists must be physically fit and strong to handle these responsibilities.
The job is also stressful and may require long hours and/or overtime in emergency cases.
6. Aspiring radiation therapists need to complete an accredited program.
If you want to pursue a radiation therapy career, there are over a hundred radiation therapy programs accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JCERT).
These programs vary, with some bachelor’s and associate’s degrees leading to a degree in radiation therapy.
Others choose to complete a bachelor’s degree in radiography and later undergo a certificate in radiation therapy.
7. Radiation therapists must be state-licensed.
Before radiation therapists can work in most states, they must apply and be granted a license by the state accrediting board.
Aside from the license, some states and employers require that a radiation therapist be both licensed and ARRT-certified. ARRT certification is granted to those who have completed an ARRT-accredited program, passed the ARRT certifying exam, and signified observance to the ARRT professional ethics.
8. They must undergo updating and continuing education, and even higher education.
Continuing education updates the radiation therapist on the latest approaches and innovations in the field of radiation therapy.
This is also required in the annual renewal of certification. Those who have associate’s degrees may also opt to continue or complete a bachelor’s degree for better employment opportunities.
A master’s degree in radiation therapy is typically required for supervisory positions, such as a chief radiation therapist.
If you are vying for a university job, such as a radiation therapy researcher, you’d better have a doctoral degree in radiation therapy to stand a chance.
9. The mean annual wage is $80,410 in 2012 for radiation therapist careers.
In May 2012, the BLS reported that 18,230 professionals were employed as radiation therapists and earned a mean annual wage of $80,410.
The lowest 10% earned an annual wage of $51,720; the middle 50% earned between $63,340 and $94,790; and the top 10% earned more than $113,810.
The top earning radiation therapists were those working in specialty hospitals and in the states of Connecticut, Washington, and California.
10. The outlook for this career is good and is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2020. But that statistic can be misleading.
The number of professionals in this field in 2010 was 16,900, and a 20 percent increase of that would be 3,380 more radiation therapist careers by 2020.
Radiation is being used extensively as a treatment, and more and more ways are developed to ensure its safe use.
The demand for the job will increase because of innovations in the fields of oncology and radiation therapy.
What else can I do with a career in radiation therapy?
Graduates of this program do not only find work in the forefront of cancer treatment. They also make valuable contribution as researchers to advance the science of radiation therapy.
The state hires radiation therapists in agencies that regulate safety in the use of radiation.
They can occupy administrative, technical, or management occupations. Commercial and medical companies have sales and product development positions that require radiation therapy education and experience.
With higher education, radiation therapists are hired as academicians to train would-be radiation therapists. They can also advance as clinical radiation therapists.
Radiation therapy is a demanding job: It demands skills, commitment, psychological readiness, physical stamina, interest to learn and continue learning, and willingness to collaborate with other professionals.
But at the bottom of this is the desire to improve the lives of people and become part of a healthcare team that finds a way to beat cancer.
It’s a career that has huge responsibilities. For the right person, it can also have equally great rewards.
I hope this helps you with your decision to answer the question, is radiation therapy a good career choice?