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A Career in Radiation Therapy

Working with Cancer Patients

hope-surviveIn honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, now is a good time to learn about a rewarding career as a radiation therapist.

There is so much gratification associated with radiation therapy work. Two aspects that immediately come to mind are its humanitarian dividends and high financial compensation. It’s not an easy profession and radiation therapists are expected to complete a great deal of work and perform patient procedures to a very high level of standard. They perform daily duties that can be both emotionally and physically taxing. However, considering the gravity and the importance of such a job, many find that it is a rewarding career choice.

What qualities make a great radiation therapist?

CAHE-radiation-therapyAttention to detail and a technical aptitude are characteristics needed to be a successful radiation therapist. They are required to take patient x-rays prior to radiation treatment, operate computer programs that administer the correct dose of radiation, as well as to deliver radiation treatment with various pieces of equipment. Another critical job requirement is to ensure that all equipment is working properly.

Due to the intensity of radiation treatments, there are soft skills that are vital for a radiation therapist’s success. Interpersonal teamwork and clear and accurate communications (both spoken and written) are critical for the success of the oncology team. Communications are also important for interactions with patients and their families during such a trying time. Radiation Therapists must be sympathetic, compassionate, and sensitive to each patient’s unique situation.

What are the educational requirements for radiation therapists?

Topics covered in a Radiation Therapy Program include anatomy, physiology and physics, to name a few. Most programs will also include courses in medical terminology, imaging, radiologic technology and radiation oncology. Clinical training will be the capstone of a student’s studies.

After successful completion of an accredited program and possessing a minimum of an associate degree, graduates qualify for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) national certification exam. In New York State, radiation therapists receive their license after passing this national registry.

How is the job outlook for radiation therapy?

According to the US Department of Labor:

• The national mean annual wage for a licensed radiation therapist is $84,980. In the New York tri-state area it’s $101,480.
• Due somewhat to the aging US populations, the job outlook for radiation therapy is expected to grow faster than average at a rate of 14% from 2014 to 2024. Approximately 60% of cancer patients will require radiation at some point in their disease.
• About one-half of the jobs for radiation therapy are in hospitals. There is also a demand for work in physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, and in higher education.

Below are links to more Department of Labor data on occupations in radiation therapy:

Radiation Therapist Occupational Employment Statistics

Radiation Therapist Occupational Outlook Handbook

As an important member of the oncology team, this is a career that’s a good fit for many medical students. Look at CAHE’s Radiation Therapy Program to learn more.

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Visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation website to learn what you can do for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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