Radiation therapy is a method of cancer treatment. Radiation therapy technicians, also known as radiation therapists, administer treatments to cancer patients. Radiation therapists use X-ray imaging and computer technology to determine the exact location of the tumors in the patient's body. Technicians work in conjunction with radiation oncologists and radiation physicists to formulate a treatment plan. Because of the specialized nature of their job responsibilities, the salaries of radiation therapy technicians are relatively high.
Radiation therapy technicians earned a median annual salary of $72,910 as of May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Technicians in the top 10 percent earned an average of $104,350, while the bottom 10 percent earned $47,910. Therapists can advance in their careers and increase their earnings with additional training and certification. Experienced therapy technicians have opportunities in management, research and teaching.
Radiation therapy technicians are employed across many industries. General medical and surgical hospitals employ the highest number of technicians. Technicians are also found in doctor's offices, outpatient facilities and specialty hospitals. The highest-paid radiation therapy technicians are employed in medical and diagnostic laboratories. Employers in this industry pay radiation therapists $90,720 per year on average. Radiation therapists employed in specialty hospitals earn an annual mean salary of $86,160.
Radiation therapy technicians require very specialized training and skills. Technicians earn either a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree or a certificate of completion in radiation therapy. Certificate programs usually last about 12 months. Programs focus on radiological imaging, as well as the processes and procedures of administered treatments. Therapists also learn the scientific rationale behind the treatments.
Most states require radiation therapy technicians to be licensed. To qualify for licensure as a radiation therapist, candidates must pass an exam and receive certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The BLS indicates there are 102 ARRT-accredited radiation therapy programs in the United States, as of 2009.
According to the BLS, employment of radiation therapy technicians is expected to grow by 27 percent from 2008 through 2018. The elderly population and the number of patients needing treatment have led to the demand for new radiation therapists. Growth in the occupation is projected across all industries. Technological advances in the safety and effectiveness of radiation treatments have increased the demand for this type of therapy.