Careers Paths

The Path to Becoming a Radiation Therapist (Plus Pay and Frequently Asked Questions)

A patient’s medical care team must include a radiation therapist. Patients with illnesses and diseases including cancer and tumors are treated by these specialists. A career as a radiation therapist could be appealing to you if you’re seeking employment in the medical industry.

This post examines what radiation therapists do, the process of becoming one, and the abilities these experts apply.

What is the role of a radiation therapist?

Medical specialists known as radiation therapists are experts in giving radiation treatments to patients with cancer and other disorders. Radiation therapists run and maintain linear accelerators, which are the tools used for the operation, under the direction of a medical physicist or radiation oncologist. Radiation therapists take X-rays to identify the precise area of the body of the patient that requires radiation treatment. Also, radiation therapists keep meticulous notes of the operation, which doctors can use to develop future therapeutic plans, and continuously track the patient’s reaction to the radiation therapy.

The following are additional tasks and obligations carried out by radiation therapists:

  • Giving patients and their families explanations of treatment plans and responding to their inquiries about it
  • Observing safety protocols to prevent patients from receiving excessive radiation exposure
  • Making sure the equipment is safe by inspecting it
  • Examining computer programs to ensure that the device produces the right amount of radiation
  • Using X-rays to locate therapy areas
  • Adjusting the linear accelerator
  • Ensuring accurate radiation dosages
  • Keeping an eye on patients to make sure they don’t react poorly to the radiation treatment
  • Keeping complete records of therapy

Average income

The pay for radiation therapists varies depending on their experience, where they work, and whether they are employed by a hospital, cancer center, or another type of medical facility. Working in specialist facilities tends to pay better for radiation therapists.

  • Weekly wage in the United States: $1,367
  • Some people earn between $200 and $3,300 a week.

Getting into the radiation therapy field

These are some fundamental actions you can do to train as a radiation therapist:

1. Completing high school.

Applying to an associate degree or radiation treatment program requires a high school diploma. You’ll be better prepared for the next stage of your study if you take courses in science and mathematics like anatomy, chemistry, and physics.

2. Engaging in industry work.

Try volunteering with the American Cancer Society, in a neighborhood hospital, or at a cancer center after or while in high school. You can learn on the job in a healthcare environment and determine whether you appreciate working with patients who are occasionally seriously ill.

3. Finish a bachelor’s or associate’s degree

Radiation therapists with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree are typically preferred by employers. Take into account signing up for a radiation treatment education course. The training you receive in radiation therapy courses will allow you to care for and operate radiological apparatus as well as diagnose and treat cancer patients.

These degree programs might offer courses in radiologic patient care, anatomy, and physiology, dose calculations, radiation therapy physics, concepts of cancer radiation biology, dosimetry, medical terminology, and radiation protection. The radiation therapy department of a hospital is another place where you can gain practical experience. There, you can learn about oncology techniques, patient psychology, patient care, and emergency procedures.

Consider finishing a radiation treatment certificate program in combination to your degree if you’d like to improve your employment prospects.

4. Get a license

You must get licensed and register as a technician in most American states (R.T.). Although each state has its own requirements for licensure, many obtain both an ACRRT certification and a degree from a recognized college. Once you get your license, you can start working with patients and gain practical experience.

5. Get certifications

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is an organization that awards credentials to those who work in radiation treatment and imaging. Its main objective is to support professional development for those involved in radiotherapy and medical imaging. Obtaining this certification demonstrates to companies that you are capable of carrying out all responsibilities related to the position of a radiation therapist.

Get a radiologic technology associate’s degree or higher before applying for the ARRT certification. Together with demonstrating competence in courses and clinical procedures, it’s critical to follow the ARRT’s ethical guidelines. Take the ARRT test after fulfilling these requirements.

This examination covers subjects like clinical concepts, quality assurance and radiation protection, treatment planning and execution, and patient education. You can finish a second ARRT program to get certified in a specific area, like densitometry, sonography, mammography, or a variety of other radiation therapy subspecialties.

6. Acquire professional experience

Several employers favor applicants who have at least a year of experience in radiation therapy. Try to acquire as many abilities as necessary for this job while pursuing your school. You can use this to build the skills necessary for entry-level positions. Also, you might look for career chances in technical sales, research, or education.

7. Keep your certification current

There is a two-year expiration date on the ARRT accreditation. Perform a continuing education course in order to renew your certificate. You can fulfill the requirements for continuing education during your career to maintain the status of your certificates. You can update your credentials either through the ARRT website or by mail.

8. Submitting job applications.

Seek work as a radiation therapist in hospitals, cancer treatment centers, and other medical establishments. Never forget to update your CV with any new abilities, successes, or educational pursuits.

9. Continued education.

To maintain your ARRT certification, you must enroll in continuing education classes or go to industry seminars and conferences. At the time of your license renewal every two years, you can show documentation of your continuing education hours.

Criteria for radiation therapists

To become certified and submit a job application, radiation therapists must finish a recognized school program and obtain either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree.


Radiation therapists are required to hold a minimum of an associate’s degree in radiography sciences or a related field that emphasizes effective communication and mathematical reasoning. Radiation therapists must continue their studies in a program approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) after receiving their degree. These courses, which continue for about a year, cover topics including physiology, anatomy, patient care, computer science, and more. They also contain clinical practice.

Radiation therapists have to undertake a specified number of hours of continuing education every two years in order to maintain their certification. They can include lectures, conferences, study modules, online or classroom courses, etc. Using the ARRT website, you can look for possibilities for continuing education.


The clinical component of their degree or educational program is where radiation therapists receive the majority of their fundamental training. Students must conduct practicums or internships as part of many degrees. Entry-level radiation therapists might receive on-the-job training to become familiar with their processes and equipment in some clinics and cancer clinics.


Radiation therapists are required to hold both a state-issued license and an ARRT certification. Although specific criteria differ by jurisdiction, qualifications commonly include:

Radiation Therapy Certification by the ARRT

The completion of a recognized radiation therapy curriculum and a minimum of an associate degree are prerequisites for membership in the ARRT. The association’s ethics guidelines must also be studied, and they must pass an exam covering issues like patient care, clinical principles, safety, and treatment planning and delivery

Basic life support (BLS) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification

There are CPR and BLS classes available that run anything from an hour to a half-day from institutions like the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

Radiation therapists may need to obtain a permit or license to use radiation equipment according to their state of residence. The only need can be to show documentation of their ARRT certification or pass an additional state test.

Prior to employment, many radiation therapists are required to pass a drug test and background investigation.


Many radiation therapists are sympathetic and considerate people. They frequently like interacting with patients as well as a team of medical professionals and have excellent interpersonal abilities. Radiation therapists require the following abilities to succeed:

Interpersonal abilities

The members of the cancer treatment team should work closely together with radiation therapists. Also, they should be approachable and consoling when dealing with families and tending to patients who are dealing with difficult circumstances.

Observation of details

Radiation therapists must be attentive, pay great attention to instructions, and give patients the appropriate dose of radiation. Errors and poor administration can expose both the therapist and the patient to harmful levels of radiation. They must also notice whether patients are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, discomfort, or unfavorable reactions.


Treatment plans must be explained to patients as well as their loved ones by radiation therapists in simple, understandable words. Also, they ought to be good listeners, especially when patients are voicing their concerns or asking inquiries.


Radiation therapists should be able to help patients, especially those who have disabilities, sit up or down or walk about because they spend the majority of their time on their feet.

Technical expertise

Radiation therapists need to feel at ease using sophisticated tools and computer software.

Working conditions for radiation therapists

Radiation therapists are employed at cancer treatment facilities and hospitals along with physicians and nurses. When patients arrange their cancer treatments during working hours, they often work full-time at those times.

Radiation therapists are usually on their feet throughout the day and may need to assist in lifting or moving patients. People must be aware of the dangers of working near radiation and take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure.

How to Become a Certified Radiation Therapist

Cancer patients receive radiation therapy using machines that are operated by radiation therapists. Before applying for work at hospitals or clinics, these professionals must complete a specific training course. Many choose to become certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) to increase their job prospects. Finding out about pertinent credentials can be helpful for you if you’re thinking about working as a radiation therapist.

Why is certification crucial for radiation therapists?

A radiation therapist certification gives radiation therapists the instruction and information they need to accurately deliver radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be trained to use cutting-edge machinery and equipment. They might increase their employment options and income possibilities with a certification. The majority of states mandate that radiation therapists hold an ARRT certification.

Radiation therapy certification courses instruct students on how to effectively deliver cancer treatments, keep thorough records, and track patients’ health and development. Additionally, these courses teach students how to connect and communicate with patients to facilitate an easy and comfortable healing process.

The majority of radiation therapy programs aid students in getting ready to pass state licensing tests. Moreover, certifications can assist radiation therapists get ready to pursue bachelor’s or master’s degrees in radiography sciences, which can help professionals improve their careers. Programs for certification in radiation treatment often cover:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Principles and applications of radiation treatment
  • Technological imaging
  • Physics
  • The science of cancer, often known as oncology, and the dosage
  • Using modern methods, like linear accelerators, to give patients radiation

How to become certified as a radiation therapist

The stages you can undertake to become a certified radiation therapist are as follows:

1. Finish high school.

The majority of states mandate that radiation therapists finish a training course and obtain certification in accordance with ARRT guidelines. Consider obtaining a high school diploma or the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) equivalent because finishing high school is also necessary to qualify for the ARRT certification. You could enroll in the following courses in high school to lay a solid foundation:

  • Physiology
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Anatomy
  • Introduction to Healthcare

2. Get a radiation therapy degree.

Consider obtaining a radiation therapy associate’s degree or a degree in a comparable discipline from a course of study that satisfies the standards of the ARRT. Radiation therapists can become certified without having a degree in radiologic sciences, but it provides them with a lot of the groundwork for doing so. A Bachelor of Science in radiation treatment may require up to four years to complete, whereas an associate degree normally requires two years.

Programs for education in radiation treatment combine classroom instruction with hands-on training in cancer centers or hospitals. The ARRT provides a list of institutions, health organizations, and community colleges that offer these courses. These programs might include instructing you on how to operate X-ray and computed tomography (CT) equipment, how to adjust them, and how to acquire cross-sectional images, in addition to radiation treatment and physics courses. A radiation treatment education curriculum might also cover the following subjects:

  • Dosing
  • Patient care
  • Treatment Preparation
  • Radiotherapy techniques
  • The study of disease is known as pathology.

3. Submit a certification application

After completing your radiation therapy school program, you should consider submitting an application for certification within three years. To prove you care about the security and well-being of your patients, you must also satisfy the ARRT’s ethical criteria in addition to the academic requirements. For more information about the organization’s ethical standards, including its moral code, rules of ethics, and procedure for reviewing those standards, read them. The ARRT certification application includes detailed questions about ethics that candidates must be able to respond to.

You must pass the ARRT test in order to become a certified radiation therapist. It can take up to four hours to finish the computer-based radiation therapy exam, which has 200 questions. Multiple-choice, sorted lists, and movies are just a few of the test question formats. The exam may cover issues like radiation safety, treatment protocols, and patient care. After passing the radiation therapy certification test, you are given your initial score right away. You get your final grade four weeks later. The exam can be taken three times in a three-year period.

4. Pass more tests.

You might need to complete a background check, and a drug test, and provide documentation of your immunizations before applying for work as a registered radiation therapist. Moreover, you could be required to obtain certifications in CPR or basic life support. A state license may also be required before you can operate as a radiation therapist, so make sure to confirm this with your state board.

Together with ARRT certification, many states also demand licensure. On the website of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ARST), you can look out for the requirements in your state. You may also have to apply for and complete the required exam if your state has licensing requirements. Focus on constructing a resume that lists all of your pertinent education, abilities, experiences, and certifications after passing any required examinations and tests.


You can pay a fee and submit an application to take the licensing exam if you’ve satisfied the ARRT requirements. You can arrange to take the examination at a location and time that suit you once the ARRT has approved your application. The exam can be scheduled and passed within a year of applying.

Every year, radiation therapists must renew their certification and pay a fee. They can do this online with the ARRT. The final day of the month of the individual’s birth is the date of certification renewal. In addition, they might need to follow ARRT Standards of Ethics and Rules and Regulations, keep their certification and registration in a related field current, finish their Continuing Qualifications Requirements (CQR) every ten years, and finish the requirements for continuing education every other year.

Frequently Asked Questions about Radiation Therapists

  • What is the training period to become a radiation therapist?

In around three years, if you opt for an associate’s degree, you might be prepared to enter the workforce. Nonetheless, it can take you around five years to become a qualified radiation therapist if you intend to earn a bachelor’s degree.

An average bachelor’s degree takes four years to finish, compared to two years for an associate degree. Also, the certification exam just takes a single day to complete; but, you must first apply and prepare for it, which could take months.

  • How much time do radiation therapists typically work?

The normal workweek for radiation therapists is forty hours. In contrast to various other healthcare professions, radiation therapists typically work daylight hours. Yet, some businesses demand that radiation therapists be available on call due to emergencies. They might offer services in certain circumstances outside of their regular working hours.

  • What is a radiation therapist’s working environment like?

The majority of therapists work in clinics, hospitals, and cancer treatment facilities. A 40-hour work week is usual for those who assist cancer patients and lift or turn people who are incapacitated.

Radiation therapists follow safety protocols since they deal with radioactive and radiation materials, so they can avoid being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Typically, during these procedures, therapists must remain in a separate room from the patient while they get radiation therapy.

  • What options do radiation therapists have for career advancement?

Those who have been practicing as radiation therapists for a while may rise to oversee radiation therapy programs at healthcare organizations and hospitals. Managers frequently carry out their managerial duties while providing care and assistance to patients.

Teaching, technical sales, and research are further career prospects. A radiation therapist may qualify as a dosimetrist, a specialist who determines the appropriate dose of radiation to employ in the treatment of cancer patients, with extra certification and education.

  • What are the employment prospects and pay for a radiation therapist?

Radiation therapist employment is anticipated to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Around 800 job opportunities every year result from this. The need for radiation therapists can rise as a result of ongoing developments in cancer detection and the creation of more sophisticated treatment methods.

Radiation therapists make an average of $124,323 annually. Radiation therapists’ pay is influenced by their location, level of experience, and employment. Radiation therapists who work in hospitals make slightly less money than those who work in doctor’s offices and health care laboratories. Radiation therapists can make a lot more money than the national median in some regions.

  • What qualities or abilities are necessary for radiation therapists to excel at work?

You could be able to achieve your goal of becoming a radiation therapist by having specific personality qualities, such as:

  • Critical thinking: Radiation therapists are adept at evaluating the medical problem they are dealing with and then developing rational strategies and remedies given the available tools.
    • Patient care: Radiation therapists frequently interact directly with patients receiving treatment, thus being adept at constantly gauging patient happiness and comfort is beneficial.
    • Science, math, and medical knowledge: A radiation therapist diagnoses and treats patients with a firm foundation in mathematical ideas, physics, medicine, and dentistry.
    • Radiation therapists closely watch radiation treatments to ensure both the patient’s safety and the effectiveness of the operation.
    • Effective communication is essential for radiation therapists to exchange information and respond to inquiries from patients and other healthcare experts.
    • Detail-oriented: To ensure that they expose the patient to the proper amount of radiation, radiation therapists are skilled at adhering to precise instructions and entering precise measurements.
    • Interpersonal skills: Radiation therapists frequently feel at ease communicating with others who might be under mental or physical strain because of their intimate working relationships with patients.
    • Radiation therapists must have the physical strength to stand for extended periods, raise patients who require assistance, and move patients.

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