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Working As a Radiation Therapy Technician

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $47,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Radiation Therapy Technician Do

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

Duties

Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Follow safety procedures to protect the patient and themselves from overexposure to radiation
  • Examine machines to make sure they are safe and working properly
  • X ray the patient to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
  • Check computer programs to make sure the machine will give the correct dose of radiation to the appropriate area of the patient's body
  • 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 called linear accelerators, which are used to deliver radiation therapy. These machines direct high-energy x rays at specific cancer cells in a patient's body, shrinking or removing them. 

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

  • Radiation oncologists, physicians who specialize in radiation therapy
  • Oncology nurses, registered nurses who specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Medical physicists, physicists who help in planning of radiation treatments and help to develop better and safer radiation therapies

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How To Become A Radiation Therapy Technician

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.

Education

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 12-month 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 2014, there were about 120 accredited educational programs recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

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 American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification.

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the ARRT 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.

Advancement

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.

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Top Skills for A Radiation Therapy Technician

  1. Treatment Planning System
  2. Aria
  3. Patient Care
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Gained experience with the Eclipse Treatment Planning system.
  • Administer the radiation treatment using Cobolt-60, VARIAN, ELEKTA, & SIEMENS Treatment Machines.
  • Enhanced patient care policies and procedures by participating in medical conferences.
  • Honed my existing skills in conducting IMRT and SBRT treatments.
  • Evaluate all MV, KV and CBCT images to manipulate patient position to ensure millimeter precision in treatment procedures.

Radiation Therapy Technician Demographics

Gender

Female

56.3%

Male

33.8%

Unknown

9.9%
Ethnicity

White

64.9%

Hispanic or Latino

12.9%

Black or African American

12.6%

Asian

5.5%

Unknown

4.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.0%

Urdu

20.0%

Hindi

20.0%

Vietnamese

20.0%
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Radiation Therapy Technician Education

Schools

Florida International University

13.3%

Broward College

10.0%

Purdue University

6.7%

Laboure College

6.7%

Wayne State University

6.7%

Community College of Denver

6.7%

State University of New York Upstate Medical University

6.7%

Brookhaven College

3.3%

Southern Connecticut State University

3.3%

Amarillo College

3.3%

National American University-Zona Rosa

3.3%

Casper College

3.3%

Florence-Darlington Technical College

3.3%

Florida State College at Jacksonville

3.3%

University of Texas at Arlington

3.3%

Saint Joseph's College of Maine

3.3%

Santa Fe Community College

3.3%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

3.3%

William Paterson University of New Jersey

3.3%

Lake Land College

3.3%
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Majors

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

27.3%

Medical Technician

22.7%

Nursing

7.6%

Public Health

6.1%

Business

4.5%

Health Sciences And Services

3.0%

Health Education

3.0%

Biology

3.0%

Biomedical Engineering

3.0%

Medical Assisting Services

3.0%

Health Care Administration

3.0%

Management

1.5%

Psychology

1.5%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.5%

Writing

1.5%

Social Sciences

1.5%

Finance

1.5%

Veterinary Science

1.5%

Elementary Education

1.5%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.5%
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Degrees

Associate

33.3%

Bachelors

27.8%

Other

15.3%

Certificate

12.5%

Masters

8.3%

Diploma

1.4%

Doctorate

1.4%
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