Radiation Therapists

2017 Median Pay $80,570 per year 
$38.73 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 19,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 2,400

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Radiation Therapists Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Radiation Therapists Do

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

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radiation therapists

duties of Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment

  • Protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation

  • Determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment

  • Calibrate and operate the machine to treat the patient with radiation

  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment

  • Keep detailed records of treatment

Radiation therapists operate machines, such as linear accelerators, to deliver concentrated radiation therapy to the region of a patient’s tumor. Radiation treatment can shrink or remove cancers and tumors.

Radiation therapists are part of the oncology teams that treat patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:

  • Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in radiation therapy

  • Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer

  • Medical physicists help in planning of radiation treatments, develop better and safer radiation therapies, and check that radiation output is accurate

Work Environment for Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists held about 19,100 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of radiation therapists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 64%

Offices of physicians: 21%

Self-employed workers: 6%

Outpatient care centers: 5%

Radiation therapists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. Because they work with radiation and radioactive material, radiation therapists must follow safety procedures to make sure that they are not exposed to a potentially harmful amount of radiation. These procedures usually require therapists to stand in a different room while the patient undergoes radiation procedures.

Injuries and illnesses

Since radiation therapists administer radiation treatments over many years they should take precautions to limit exposure and be aware of the risks involved.

Work Schedules

Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist

Most radiation therapists complete programs that lead to an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be licensed or certified in most states. Requirements vary by state, but often include passing a national certification exam.


Employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. However, candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a certificate program.

Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. These programs often include experience in a clinical setting and courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology. In 2016, there were about 110 accredited educational programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow exact instructions and input exact measurements to make sure the patient is exposed to the correct amount of radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Radiation therapists work closely with patients. It is important that therapists be comfortable interacting with people who may be going through physical and emotional stress.

Physical stamina. Radiation therapists must be able to be on their feet for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Radiation therapists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment, so they must be comfortable operating those devices.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary by state, but typically include graduation from an accredited radiation therapy program and ARRT certification.

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the certification exam. The exam covers radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts in radiation oncology, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education. A list of accredited programs is available from ARRT.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.


With additional education and certification, therapists can become medical dosimetrists. Dosimetrists are responsible for calculating the correct dose of radiation that is used in the treatment of cancer patients.

salaries for Radiation Therapists

The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $80,570 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,530, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,020.


In May 2017, the median annual wages for radiation therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $81,850

Outpatient care centers: $78,180

Offices of physicians: $77,550

Most radiation therapists work full time. Radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

Job Outlook for radiation therapists

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. The incidence of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population may increase demand for radiation therapists. Continued advancements in the detection of cancer and the development of more sophisticated treatment techniques may also lead to greater demand for radiation therapy.

Job Prospects

Candidates can expect competition for most radiation therapist positions. Jobseekers with prior work experience in patient care positions and more education, such as related allied health certifications or a relevant bachelor’s degree, should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Radiation Therapists, 2016-2026

Employment, 2016: 19,100

Projected Employment, 2026: 21,500

Change, 2016-2026: +13%, +2,400

Careers Related to radiation therapists

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists

Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, also called diagnostic imaging workers, operate special imaging equipment to create images or to conduct tests. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes.

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.

Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

Dental HygienistsAssociate's degree$74,070
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular TechnologistsAssociate's degree$65,620
Nuclear Medicine TechnologistsAssociate's degree$75,660
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies$27,510
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides$46,920
Radiologic and MRI TechnologistsAssociate's degree$60,070
Registered NursesBachelor's degree$70,000
Respiratory TherapistsAssociate's degree$59,710


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiation Therapists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm