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Radiation therapist salary & career outlook

Radiation therapy works in concert with other aggressive treatments to give patients targeted treatment, relief and hope for the future. Radiation therapists use their training to provide patients with the highest level of care available, using x-ray machines, linear accelerators and other clinical radiation equipment.

Successful radiation therapists must be precise, detail-oriented and technically minded. As is the case with most careers in the health care field, empathy and a comfortable bedside manner can go a long way to complement the technical skills taught in radiation therapy schools and potentially make you one of the top members of your field.

How much do radiation therapists make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that radiation therapists earned median annual wages of $81,740 in 2013, with the bottom 10 percent of earners taking home $53,010 or less and the top 10 percent earning $114,900 or more the same year. The BLS also notes mean wages from specific industries with the highest levels of employment in the career:

  1. General medical and surgical hospitals: $79,050
  2. Offices of physicians: $86,920
  3. Outpatient care centers: $85,860
  4. Specialty hospitals, except psychiatric and substance abuse facilities: $90,490
  5. Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $82,760

Geography can make a big difference in pay as well, and the BLS also lists average annual salary figures for metropolitan areas across the U.S. Matching those figures with the September 2014 Cost of Living Index produced by the Center for Community and Economic Research can reveal some high-value locations for radiation therapy jobs that might otherwise fly under the radar:

  1. Jackson, Mississippi: $76,970 mean annual salary; state ranked 1st in affordability
  2. Louisville, Kentucky: $81,840 mean annual salary; state ranked 8th in affordability
  3. Tulsa, Oklahoma: $78,080 mean annual salary; state ranked 7th in affordability

The highest-paying states overall for radiation therapists — Connecticut and Washington — reported 2013 statewide mean wages of $105,120 and $101,440 respectively but also ranked fairly low on the COLI affordability scale.

Career outlook for radiation therapists

Thanks in part to an aging population and an increased interest in preventative procedures, careers for radiation therapists are projected to see robust employment growth between 2012 and 2022. Opportunities for radiation therapist jobs are expected to increase 24 percent nationally, according to the BLS, leading to around 4,500 new jobs in the field. Candidates with some experience or formal training in radiation science or management concepts are likely to have the best prospects for advancement.

Certain states are expected to see even better job prospects for radiation therapists between 2012 and 2022. The areas with the best job possibilities include:

  1. Arizona: 36.0% projected growth
  2. Arkansas: 31.7% projected growth
  3. Puerto Rico: 31.3% projected growth
  4. Texas: 30.1% projected growth
  5. Colorado: 28.2% projected growth

Training at radiation therapist schools

A thorough technical education is important in most high-tech careers, and radiation therapy is no different. Employers tend to hire radiation therapists with at least a two-year degree, according to data collected by the Occupational Information Network, with a reported 88 percent of the field holding an associate degree or higher in 2013.

Training programs consist of practical training in the operation and maintenance of radiation equipment plus coursework in human anatomy and physiology, research methodology, math, and science. Some schools also offer online health degrees that can help prepare students for careers in radiation therapy. In order to become licensed, aspiring radiation therapists must graduate from a program that has been certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and pass a certification exam.

Sources:

Cost of Living Data Series: Third Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development,
http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

Radiation Therapists, Occupational Information Network,
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1124.00

Long Term Occupational Projections for Radiation Therapists, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Radiation Therapists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291124.htm

Radiation Therapists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Radiation-therapists.htm