According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States, a little less than 12 million people have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. If you are looking for a rewarding career that that helps millions of people beat cancer, then you may enjoy working as a radiation therapist.
A radiation therapist gives patients radiation treatments for cancers and other diseases. He or she works as part of an oncology team that includes a variety of specialists such as a radiation oncologist, oncology nurse, radiation physicist, and a dosimetrist. This team works together to design and implement a treatment plan to eradicate the cancer or other disease the patient is suffering from. The specific duties of a radiation therapist are:
- Talk to the patient about his or her treatment plan
- Take x-rays of the area to pinpoint the treatment location
- Apply the radiation treatment to the affected area
- Use safety equipment to prevent overexposure of radiation
- Maintain the equipment used for treatments
- Double check machinery to verify correct dosage amount
- Monitor and report on patient progress
- Maintain patient treatment records
How To Become A Radiation Therapist – Education Requirements
Due to the specialized nature of the work, radiation therapists are required to complete a formal education and be licensed in most states. The minimum education required is a certificate which can be completed in less than year at a community or technical college. However, most employers prefer to hire people that have obtained an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. These programs take between two and four years to complete. The types of classes you can expect to take are physics, physiology, anatomy, computer science, and algebra.
After graduating from an accredited radiation therapy program, you must obtain certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). This involves meeting the minimum requirements to sit for the exam and passing the test. The certification test touches on clinical concepts, treatment planning and delivery, radiation protection, and patient care. Once you have obtained certification, you can apply for a license in your state.
With enough education and experience, you can advance to administrative or managerial positions within the industry.
Personal Qualities You Will Need To Become A Radiation Therapist
Interpersonal skills: You will be dealing with patients and professionals alike and must treat them all with patience, respect, and professionalism. Patients will be ill and nervous. It is your job to make them comfortable.
Detail oriented: Following instructions is critical for ensuring your safety and that of your patients. Additionally, you must monitor the patient’s reaction and progress and make adjustments to his or her treatment as necessary.
Physical stamina: You will be standing for long periods of time and may be called to help move patients around.
Technical skills: Working with radiation equipment requires you to be comfortable with using modern-day technology including computers and other devices.
Science and math skills: You will be mixing chemicals for the patient treatments, so you need to have outstanding math skills. You must also have a good grasp of anatomy, physiology, and biology.
Radiation Therapist Job Description
Most radiation therapists work in cancer treatment centers or similar healthcare facilities. Although they work full time, they tend to have regular schedules because treatments are planned in advance. Evening and weekend work is generally not necessary.
There is a risk of exposure to radiation. However, following safety protocols minimizes this risk. Another hazard is the risk of contracting a contagious or infection disease. Again, following safety measures like wearing gloves reduces the risk of catching the cold, flu or other communicable diseases from patients.
Salary For Radiation Therapist
The average salary for radiation therapists is $74,980. The top 10% earned $110,550 and the bottom 10% $50,950. This is specialized work with some job hazards, which may account for the high than average wages. Other benefits may be provided in addition to the monthly wage including health insurance benefits, contributions to a retirement plan, and paid vacation time.
The job market for radiation therapists is expected to grow 20% by the year 2020. This is partially due to the growing senior population. As a person grows older, the risk of developing cancer increases. More cancer cases mean an increased need for people doing this type of specialized work. People with advanced degrees and a few years of experience in the medical field have the best job prospects.