The Scoop on Radiation Therapists

Ok, Radiation Therapy doesn't sound great...I know, but let's talk it out for a second.

Radiation therapy involves the treatment of cancer (primarily) and other diseases that will respond to radiation. This is a critical step in treating patients who have this deadly, life-altering disease. Thought it is not for the faint of heart it is very necessary and even more necessary now that the population is growing. With this field expected to grow faster than the national average you can bet this is worth the read.

What in the World Does a Radiation Therapist Do?

I'll keep it real with a Radiation Therapist your job, at its core, is to bombard parts of a patient's body with radiation in order to kill cancer cells. If you're doing this kind of work you're working daily with a "linear accelerator" which is the machine that produces the radiation.

I can hear this question coming from a mile away "Won't I ALSO be bombarded with radiation?" Well, because you are working with, in essence, a controlled substance the Government HIGHLY regulates and monitors how much radiation you would come in contact with and your employer will take great pains to make sure you are not put in harm's way and to make sure they are complying with Government rules.

Many times you would be working in conjunction with other medical professionals who are treating your same patients with chemotherapy while you're doing radiation therapy. This means that you've got to be able to get along with people who are also doing a high-stress job. The job is intense because many cancer patients are VERY sick and it can be hard to see people in pain, but you are trying your best to help them and this kind of work is to be commended.

What Kind of Training Do I Need? (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Radiation Therapy is a job that you can get training for in one of three ways. First, you could go to a vocational school or training program (usually 1-2 years) that will teach you and offer a "Certificate of Radiation Therapy". If you wanted to go back to school (like if you promised Grammy you'd go back) then you could get an Associate's Degree (2 years) in Radiation Therapy or go all-the-way and get a Bachelor's Degree in Radiation Therapy. Since there are many ways to do this there are many different people who can get into this line of work.

You might also be qualified if you have completed a degree or program in Radiography and you must keep in mind that (as in Radiography) knowing more than one field in Radiation Therapy is a good thing, so get as much schooling as you can.

After you've been to school you will need to get a license in Radiation Therapy from the State Board. This usually means you're going to have to pass a written test and a "skills" exam before they award you your license. However, after you've got one you can work to your heart's content!

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

As you can imagine, most Radiation Therapists work in hospitals or cancer treatment centers. The Cancer Treatment Center is a new invention of maybe the last 10 or 15 years. This would have you (basically) in a private practice where you're only dealing with cancer patients and those are the only patients who enter your office.

If you're working at a hospital you will still be dealing with cancer patients, but you will be in an environment where you can get more schooling, take on more skills, and do more things to advance yourself. Advancement starts here: you can get licensed in more than one specialty of Radiation therapy or Radiography and do multiple services for the hospital. If you wanted to go even further you could get into management of Radiation Therapists or teaching radiation therapy. There is also room in the industry for those who do research or "dosmetrists" (folks who use complex math to calculate the right dosages of radiation.) You don't just have to sit behind a "linear accelerator" your whole career.

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Radiation Therapists Overview

Radiation Therapist Salary:$72,910
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:4 years
# Employed in US:14,850
% Who work Part Time:10%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a Radiation Therapist

  • You have many options to get training
  • You can work in a hospital or a cancer treatment center
  • The job growth is this profession is expected to be great

The Cons of being a Radiation Therapist

  • You are in contact with radiation (but it is regulated and monitored by the Government.)
  • You will work with very sick people and it may be hard to deal with that emotionally
  • The job involves a lot of manual labor making sure patients are set up properly and are comfortable

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