What Do Radiation Therapists Do?
Radiation therapists administer radiation therapy treatments to cancer patients using machines called linear accelerators, which precisely target the cancer cells. As part of a medical radiation oncology team, radiation therapists work with a radiation oncologist and radiation physicist to develop individual treatment plans. Radiation therapists prepare the patient, set up the machinery, operate the machinery, and monitor each radiation session closely. Radiation therapists observe patient reactions, provide nutrition recommendation, and help with nursing care. They also keep detailed records of their patients’ treatments.
Radiation therapists do a fair amount of lifting and must be able to help disabled patients get on and off treatment tables. Radiation therapists generally work 40 hours a week, and unlike workers in some other health care occupations, they typically work only during the day. Working with cancer patients can be stressful, but most radiation therapists also find it rewarding. Because they work around radioactive materials, radiation therapists take great care to ensure that they are not exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. By following standard safety procedures, radiation therapists can prevent overexposure.
To learn more about radiation therapists, go to: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm.
Where Do Radiation Therapists Work?
The majority of radiation therapists work in hospitals or cancer treatment centers. Some also work in physician’s offices and laboratories.
What Do Radiation Therapists Earn?
According to the 2019 BLS, the average salary for full time radiation therapists nationwide was $91,620, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that radiation therapists in New York also earned an average annual salary of $115,150, (entry level-$67,430, experienced- $164,490).
Supply and Demand
Between 2016 and 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the total number of radiation therapist jobs will increase by 12.8% in the U.S. and by 27.3% in New York during the same time.
The risk of cancer increases as people age, so the aging population in the U.S. is expected to cause an increase in the number of people needing treatment. In addition, early diagnoses and the development of more sophisticated and effective treatment techniques will lead to an increased demand for radiation therapists. Growth is likely to be rapid across all practice settings, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, and outpatient centers.
New York Educational Requirements
While some employers will accept applicants with an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy is often preferred.
Some radiation therapists complete either of an associate or bachelor’s degree program in radiography (which concentrates on radiological imaging) and then also complete a radiation therapy program. This training lasts a year.
The New York State Department of Health has a list of 2 year and 4 year Schools, Colleges, and Programs for radiation therapy training on their website: https://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/doctors/radiological/schlist2.htm
New York Licensure Requirements
In New York, radiation therapists are classified as a subset of radiologic technologists, and must have a license. To obtain a license, radiation therapists must graduate from an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to established ethical standards, and pass the certification examination given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), www.arrt.org.
Students seeking an education in radiation therapy should contact their college financial aid office to learn about funding and scholarship opportunities. Students may also apply for financial aid through a number of state and federal aid programs. More information is available at: www.highered.nysed.gov/postsecondary-services.html.
Education Programs in New York (subject to change)
|Erie Community College
121 Ellicott St
Buffalo, NY 14203
|Stony Brook University
School of Health Technology & Management
101 Nicolls Road
Stony Brook, NY 11794
4513 Manhattan College Parkway
Bronx, NY 10471
|Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
School of Radiation Therapy
1275 York Ave
New York, NY 10065
|Nassau Community College
1 Education Drive
Garden City, NY 11530
|Center for Allied Health Education
1401 Kings Highway
Brooklyn, NY 11229
|SUNY Upstate Medical University
750 East Adams Street
(315) 464 5540
Additional Web Links
The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology: http://www.astro.org/;
the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group: http://www.rtog.org/;
the American Society of Radiologic Technologists: www.asrt.org;
or, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), www.arrt.org.