Radiation therapists administer doses of radiation to patients who have cancer or other serious diseases.


Radiation therapists typically do the following:

  • Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
  • Protect the patients and themselves from improper exposure to radiation
  • Determine the location of tumors to ensure correct positioning of patients for administering each treatment
  • Calibrate and operate the machine to treat the patient with radiation
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
  • Keep detailed records of treatment

Radiation therapists operate machines, such as linear accelerators, to deliver concentrated radiation therapy to the region of a patient’s tumor. Radiation treatment may shrink or eliminate cancers and tumors.

Radiation therapists are part of the oncology teams that treat patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:

  • Medical dosimetrists calculate the correct dose of radiation for cancer treatment
  • Medical physicists help in planning radiation treatments, develop better and safer radiation therapies, and check that radiation output is accurate
  • Oncology nurses specialize in caring for patients with cancer
  • Radiation oncologists are physicians who specialize in radiation therapy
Work Environment

Radiation therapists held about 16,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of radiation therapists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private             65%
Offices of physicians 25
Outpatient care centers 5

Radiation therapists stand for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients.

Injuries and illnesses

Because radiation therapists work with radiation and radioactive materials, they should be aware of the risks involved and must follow safety procedures. These procedures require therapists to be in a different room while administering radiation to a patient and to wear a film badge dosimeter to track their exposure.

Work Schedules

Most radiation therapists work full time. They have a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

Education and Training

Radiation therapists typically need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Most states require radiation therapists to be licensed or certified, which often includes passing a national certification exam.


Employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in a healthcare and related field, such as radiation therapy, or in science technologies or biology. However, candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a certificate program.

Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. These programs often include experience in a clinical setting and courses such as human anatomy and physiology, physics, and algebra. A list of accredited radiation therapy programs is available from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed or certified. Requirements vary by state but may include graduating from an accredited radiation therapy program and passing an exam or earning certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

To become ARRT certified, an applicant must earn an associate’s or higher degree from an approved radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the certification exam. The exam covers topics such as radiation protection, treatment planning, and patient care and education.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS) certification.


With additional education and certification, therapists may become medical dosimetrists. Dosimetrists are responsible for calculating the correct dose of radiation that is used in the treatment of cancer patients.

Personality and Interests

Radiation therapists typically have an interest in the Building, Helping and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Helping or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a radiation therapist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Radiation therapists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow exact instructions and input exact measurements to make sure the patient is exposed to the correct amount of radiation.

Interpersonal skills. Radiation therapists work closely with patients. It is important that therapists be comfortable interacting with people who may be going through physical and emotional stress.

Physical stamina. Radiation therapists must be able to be on their feet for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Technical skills. Radiation therapists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment, so they must be comfortable operating those devices.


The median annual wage for radiation therapists was $82,790 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,030, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $128,550.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for radiation therapists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $121,140
Offices of physicians 82,540
Hospitals; state, local, and private                81,050

Most radiation therapists work full time. They have a regular work schedule because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance.

Job Outlook

Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 800 openings for radiation therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


The incidence of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population may increase demand for radiation therapists. Continued advancements in the detection of cancer and the development of more sophisticated treatment techniques may also lead to greater demand for radiation therapy.

For More Information

For more information about radiation therapists, visit

American Society of Radiologic Technologists

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

For a list of accredited programs in radiation therapy, visit

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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