How to Become a Radiation Therapist

  • Radiation therapists (RT) are medical professionals who administer radiation to patients with diseases like cancer(1). They usually administer radiation externally. 
  • Individuals may be required to earn a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree, ARRT certification, and state license to qualify for radiology therapist jobs(2).   
  • Candidates with radiology-related degrees may complete RT certification within one or two years.  
  • Individuals must often meet clinical experience requirements (for example, 15 credit hours) to become radiation therapists working in a clinical setting
  • Radiation therapist trainees should develop skills including radiation equipment operation, interpersonal, communication, critical thinking, and personal service. 

What Exactly Is a Radiation Therapist?

A radiation therapist (RT) is a medical professional who usually administers radiation to patients with cancer(3). Radiation may also help relieve symptoms of other diseases. 

Radiation therapists help an interdisciplinary medical team that plans and administers treatments to patients and monitors their condition. The group includes:   

  • Oncologists (doctors that treat cancer)
  • Medical physicians  
  • Oncology nurses 

How Long Does It Generally Take to Become a Radiation Therapist?

The number of years required for individuals to become certified radiation therapists depends on the educational pathway they take. 

A student may need four or five years to:

  • Complete studies
  • Gain experience 
  • Become certified
  • Enter the radiology field 

Meanwhile, aspiring radiation therapists may complete their associate’s degree and work in a support role. 

If an individual has completed an associate’s degree in radiation technology, they must complete an RT certification program. Such programs may take one or two years to complete.   

Guide to Becoming a Radiation Therapist: Qualifications, Education, Training, and Experience


Employees typically require applicants to complete a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree in radiation therapy(4)

Applicants may also qualify with a bachelor of science (B.S.) or associate of science (AS) in radiography (study of radiological imaging)(5). Individuals must then complete a 12-month certificate program (radiation therapy). 

Several employers also require candidates to complete training in a program the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) has approved(6).

The ARRT is a leading credentialing organization recognizing individuals who qualify in fields such as medical imaging(7).  

Radiation therapists usually need state licenses and national certification. After individuals pass the ARRT’s national exam for radiation therapists, they can apply for state licensure(8)

State requirements for radiation therapists vary in degrees, clinical experience, and ARRT certifications

Certified radiation therapists are often required to renew their certifications every two years(9). They must also typically complete about 20 continuing education credits.  

However, the requirements for renewing state licensure differ from state to state. 


Individuals pursuing a career as a radiation therapist may consider a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. The main options include: 

Associate’s degree in radiation therapy: Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate’s degree in RT. Some RT candidates may prefer earning an associate’s degree than earning a bachelor’s degree while working as an RT. 

An associate’s degree typically meets the minimum academic standards employers require for radiation therapy. Students learn how to utilize radiation therapy equipment and obtain hands-on knowledge via simulated medical situations(10).  

Still, several employers prefer job candidates with a bachelor’s degree

Bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy: This four-year degree takes more time to complete than an associate’s degree

However, a bachelor’s degree can also make candidates more marketable and flexible. For example, they may qualify for positions besides entry-level radiation therapist jobs.   

A bachelor’s degree program builds on the basic courses and concepts an associate’s degree program provides. Students learn advanced radiation therapy techniques and patient care(11)

Students also obtain more experience than in a two-year program. 

When individuals select a school for a bachelor’s or associate’s program, its accreditation is critical. Accredited radiation therapy programs provide officially-authorized programs. 

Notably, both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in radiation therapy require prerequisite courses for graduation. 

RTs may also obtain additional education, such as master’s degrees in radiology. Full-time students may complete a master of science (M.S.) in radiation therapy within three years.

When selecting a major or specialization for a four-year or a two-year degree, popular options include:

  • Biochemistry 
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular biology 
  • Medical technician
  • Health sciences

However, individuals must take courses that prepare them for radiation therapy, such as human anatomy.

Students interested in a career in radiation therapy ought to consider completing an ARRT-certified educational program. This process can help ensure they comprehend ARRT’s clinical concepts, protection protocols, and ethical standards

After individuals complete the program, they must take state and ARRT licensure examinations(12).


Students completing a radiation therapy program may complete the required clinical hours at the hospital. Individuals need a good work ethic and outstanding time management skills. 

After completing their degree program, radiation therapists must obtain the required licenses or certifications based on applicable state requirements. 

To obtain ARRT certification, therapists must pass an exam focusing on topics including:

  • Quality assurance
  • Radiation protection 
  • Treatment planning
  • Clinical concepts in oncology 
  • Delivery 
  • Overall patient care 

RTs may also pursue other certifications, including basic life support (BLS) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Cardiopulmonary refers to the heart and lungs. 

There are some ways by which individuals can search for training information on a state’s website(13). They can do the following: 

Search by field of study: Individuals can find available programs and the schools that offer such programs. They can use keywords such as “radiation” and “radiation therapy.” 

Search by training provider: Individuals can locate schools by name, location, and type of schools. 

Individuals should contact schools they are interested in to learn about available classes, tuition and fees, and prerequisite coursework.

Clinical Experience 

Students completing a radiation therapy program are usually required to meet particular clinical requirements to secure a diploma. 

For example, students may be required to complete at least 15 credit hours working as registered radiation therapists within a clinical setting

In addition, students should consider radiation therapy-related employment. This process can provide a broader knowledge base. 

They can also experience opportunities to develop the skill sets required for future employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, employers often prefer candidates with a minimum of one year of radiation therapy experience. Clinical instruction and training can help develop skills that several employees value. 

Furthermore, individuals can pursue advancement opportunities in technical sales, research, and teaching. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations


Most states in the U.S. often have licensing laws covering the practice of radiologic technology. In such states, individuals must become ARRT-certified and registered before securing a state license(14)

However, earning an ARRT credential does not guarantee that an individual can work in a particular state. Hence, they may still have to apply for state licensure. States may consider ARRT credentials when making licensing decisions. 


Individuals pursuing an RT career may seek certification in radiation therapy.  

Some states require a certificate for radiation therapy to use equipment like X-ray machines.  

Candidates must pass ARRT certification exams. Then a state’s department of public health issues certifications through branches like the radiologic health branch. 

The RT certification process varies from state to state. However, here is how it generally works(15)

Step 1: An applicant must complete an accredited therapy program to become ARRT-certified. 

Step 2: Applicants must pass the ARRT certification examination to ensure competency.  

Step 3: Await ARRT’s ethics committee to investigate various issues

They include felonies, misdemeanors, drug and alcohol violations, and school honor code violations. 

Step 4: Individuals must annually register their RT certification with ARRT

They qualify by paying fees and meeting continuing education requirements

Step 5: Renew state certification.

In some states like California, renewing the ARRT certification automatically renews the state’s RT certification. 

More information regarding states’ RT certification programs is available through the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Career InfoNet Website. 


Individuals can qualify for ARRT certification and registration by meeting the organization’s education, ethics, and examination requirements.

ARRT credentials certify that an individual is qualified to practice within their profession.  

The primary responsibility of an RT and registered radiologist assistant (RRA) is to provide high-level patient care. Obtaining certification and registration with ARRT requires individuals to earn and maintain the professional credential. 

RTs and RRAs must renew their certification and registration with ARRT yearly. This process helps update information such as one’s permanent address. 

In addition, yearly renewal reminds ARRT-certified individuals to adhere to standards, including:  

  • ARRT rules and regulations
  • RRT standards of ethics

How to Renew 

Renewing ARRT registration is a simple process. Individuals should visit, log in to an online account, and follow the step-by-step instructions. It is worth noting that individuals can only conduct renewals online. 

After one completes the renewal process, ARRT will update its records.

If One Does Not Renew 

Individuals can only use ARRT credentials if they comply with all ARRT requirements. 

Supposed one misses their annual renewal and wishes to regain their ARRT credentials. They must reinstate and pay an extra fee. 

Career Opportunities and Job Outlook

Individuals launching or changing their careers may wonder whether working as a radiation therapist is a good job. Here are a few things to consider.   

Individuals considering a career as a radiation therapist ought to be aware of the common roles, responsibilities, and working conditions.

Roles and Responsibilities

Radiation therapists are medical professionals specializing in the administration of radiation treatments for patients with diseases such as cancer. 

The roles and responsibilities of radiation therapists may include:

Operating X-Rays

Individuals like medical physicists and radiation oncologists instruct radiation therapists to take X-rays. The objective is to determine the exact portion of the patient’s body requiring treatment.   

Radiation therapists operate and maintain equipment known as “linear accelerators” required for radiation therapy procedures. Such equipment causes particles to travel in a straight line. 

Patient Monitoring

Radiation therapists monitor patients during radiation treatments and maintain detailed records of the procedures. Physicians can use such records to produce therapeutic strategies in the future.   

Other Responsibilities 

Other duties and responsibilities of radiation therapists include: 

  • Explaining treatment plans to a patient and family members 
  • Following safety procedures to safeguard patients from radiation overexposure
  • Examining computer programs to ensure machines will generate the proper radiation dosage
  • Answering patients’ questions about radiation treatment
  • Inspecting machines to ensure safety

Working Conditions 

Radiation therapists work in locations such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, and cancer treatment centers. Local health regulations require such facilities to be clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated.  

Radiation therapists typically work a minimum of 40 hours per week(16)

Therapists do a significant amount of lifting. For example, they help disabled patients get on and off treatment tables. Radiation therapists spend much of their workday on their feet instead of sitting at a desk all day. 

Generally, healthcare workers usually work during the day. Since radiation therapy emergencies can occur anytime, RT therapists’ employers may require workers to be on call and work outside regular hours. 

Although most radiation therapists often find working with cancer patients stressful, they also view the experience as rewarding. 

Radiation therapists are required to work around radioactive materials. Hence, they must follow safety procedures to ensure medical machines do not expose them to dangerous radiation levels.

Standard safety procedures can help prevent overexposure to radioactive materials. For example, therapists may stay in a separate room while conducting radiation treatment on a patient. 

Wages and Benefits


In May 2021, the national median salary for radiation therapies was nearly $82,800(17). The median point indicates where half the workers earn more while half earn less.  

However, the median wages differ based on various factors, including employee’s education, experience, certifications, and state of residence. 

During the past decade, the demand for radiation therapists has increased steadily, while experts project significant job growth during the next decade(18)


Benefits for radiation therapists may include medical, dental, vision, and life insurance. 

Workers may also receive sick leave, vacation, and retirement plans. Meanwhile, employers may offer other benefits, including tuition reimbursement for continuing education and performance bonuses. 

Career Opportunities

Radiation therapists use specialized procedures and technology. They typically work as a member of a radiation oncology team under the guidance of radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, and other specialized healthcare providers(19)

Job Outlook 

As the U.S.’s general population and elderly population grow, the number of individuals requiring medical treatment will also increase. This situation will likely increase the demand for radiation therapists.  

In addition, radiation therapy continues to advance and treat more types of cancer. As a result, physicians may prescribe radiation therapy more often. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that from 2020 to 2030, the job growth rate for radiation therapists would increase by 9%(20). This particular rate is as fast as the average growth rate for various professions.  

Career Planning and Advancement  

Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming an RT should take particular classes, including physics, biology, algebra, precalculus, speech, writing, and computer science(21). Such courses teach essential concepts like scientific theories.  

High schoolers may also consider introductory courses for healthcare careers. 

Career Advancement

Experienced RTs can advance to management positions in radiation therapy programs. Therapists can work in healthcare facilities like treatment centers, while managers often continue treating patients.  

Therapists can become dosimetrists through additional training and certification. Dosimetrists help ensure radiation treatment promotes the most lethal radiation dose producing the fewest side effects to a patient’s healthy organs(22)

What Is Radiation Therapy? 

Radiation therapy is a type of medical treatment. It is typically a cancer treatment that kills cancer cells by using beams of intense energy, according to Mayo Clinic(23). Applications typically include X-rays and other types of energy, including protons. 

Protons are stable particles in atoms. 

Radiation therapy typically refers to external beam radiation therapy. In this type of radiation, a machine outside the body emits high-energy beams and aims the beams at a precise portion of the body. 

Meanwhile, certain types of radiation therapy are placed inside a patient’s body. 


1. How much time does it take to become a radiation therapist?

Individuals can complete an associate’s degree in two years and a bachelor’s degree in four years.  Earning an RT certificate can take months, including application, preparation, and test-taking. 

Becoming a certified RT with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree may take an extra year.  

2. What is the standard work schedule for radiation therapists? 

RTs typically work 40 hours per week (full-time) and usually during the day. However, employers may require them to be on call and provide services before or after regular working hours. 

3. What skills or traits do RTs need to become successful therapists? 

Particular personality skills and traits may help individuals become an improved therapist, including:  

  • Communication skills: RTs must communicate effectively with medical patients and medical professionals.
  • Customer and personal service skills: RTs usually work with patients undergoing treatments. They must constantly monitor patient comfort and satisfaction.
  • Physical stamina: RTs must be capable of standing for long periods and lifting and moving patients needing assistance. 
  • Interpersonal skills: RTs work closely with patients. Hence, they should be comfortable interacting with people experiencing physical and emotional stress. 
  • Operation monitoring: RTs must monitor radiation treatments closely to ensure patients’ safety and procedures’ success.
  • Science, math, and medical knowledge: RTs must have a good background in math, physics, medicine, and dentistry, including types of illnesses that radiation therapy treats.
  • Detail-oriented: RTs must be skilled at following precise instructions and inputting precise measurements to expose patients to the proper amount of radiation.
  • Technical skills: RTs must learn how to use equipment like X-ray machines.
  • Critical thinking skills: RTs evaluate patients’ medical conditions. Hence, they should make logical approaches and solutions based on existing resources.  

4. What are the typical working conditions of a radiation therapist?

An RT’s typical workweek is 40 hours of assisting patients with cancer and turning or lifting disabled patients.

They must also adhere to various safety procedures to ensure they do not experience exposure to harmful radiation levels. Therapists are usually required to remain in a different room while patients undergo radiation therapy.

5. What is the job outlook for radiation therapists?

Experts project that the growth rate for radiation therapists will be about 9% from 2020 to 2030(24). Factors like an aging population in American society maintain a high demand for RTs. 

In addition, the risk of cancer may increase as people age, although more research is needed. Therefore, further advanced treatment methods may also increase the demand for RTs. 

6. What are advancement opportunities for radiation therapists?

Radiation therapists with many years of industry experience may advance to manage RT programs in healthcare facilities such as hospitals. Other advancement opportunities include teaching, researching, and performing technical sales. These occupations also allow individuals to improve their skills in research methodology.   

RTs may also become a dosimetrist by completing additional training.


Becoming a radiation therapist involves education, training, certification and licensure, registration, and clinical experience.   

RT requirements like educational requirements may differ from state to state. For instance, renewing ARRT certification may automatically renew a state’s RT certification. 

RT candidates can either complete a four-year bachelor of science (B.S.) degree or a two-year associate of science (A.S.) before earning ARRT certification and state license for RT.   

Radiation therapist candidates should develop communication, interpersonal, personal service, critical thinking, and radiation equipment operation skills. 

The U.S. BLS projected that radiation therapy’s job growth rate will increase by 9% from 2020 to 2030(25)

  1. Becoming a Radiation Therapist
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Radiation Therapists in California
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Ibid.
  7. Welcome to ARRT
  8. Radiation Therapist Careers
  9. Ibid. 
  10. Radiation Therapist: Educational Requirements & Careers
  11. Ibid.
  12. Becoming a Radiation Therapist
  13. Radiation Therapists in California
  14. Radiation therapy
  15. Radiation Therapists in California
  16. Ibid. 
  17. Radiation therapists
  18. Becoming a Radiation Therapist
  19. Radiation Therapist Careers
  20. Radiation Therapists
  21. Radiation Therapists in California
  22. Medical Dosimetrist
  23. Radiation therapy
  24. Radiation Therapists
  25. Ibid.
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