Radiation therapist
Salary Guides

Radiation Therapist Salary Guide

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry has plenty of high-paying jobs. What you may not know is that you don’t need to go to medical school or get a nursing degree to enjoy a rewarding career with above-average pay. This guide explains what it’s like to work as a radiation therapist, provides in-depth radiation therapist salary data and offers tips for getting started.

Average Radiation Therapist Salary

The average salary for a radiation therapist in a permanent position was $44.05 per hour, according to Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending March 4, 2023. If you work 40 hours per week, that’s an annual salary of $91,624, placing radiatio therapists among the highest-paid allied health professionals

However, your salary varies based on many factors, including your practice location. Some states traditionally have higher wages, with the cost of living often impacting this difference. Using salary information on Intuit Mint based on tax returns of Turbo Tax customers, the following table provides average salaries for various states.

State Average Salary Average Hourly Rate
(Based on 40-Hour Workweek)
California $113,000 $54.33
Maryland $77,000 $37.19
Illinois $75,000 $36.06
Texas $71,500 $34.38
Florida $65,000 $31.25
Oklahoma $63,500 $30.53

Source: Intuit Mint (March 2023)

Travel Radiation Therapist Salary Potential

If you’re looking for adventure and an opportunity to increase your earnings, consider accepting a travel job. Travel allied health professionals typically earn more than their staff counterpoints, and travel radiation therapist jobs follow this trend. 

Per the salary database maintained by Vivian Health, the average travel radiation therapist salary was $2,716 per week on March 9, 2023. Like staff roles, travel positions may pay more in certain states. The table below demonstrates the average salaries in different areas of the country during this same period.

State Average Weekly Travel Salary
Maryland $3,126
Washington $3,075
California $3,046
Ohio $2,977
Minnesota $2,750

Source: Vivian Health (March 9, 2023)

Radiation Therapist vs. Other Allied Health Careers

Cancer patient receiving radiation therapy from radiation therapist

According to Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending March 4, 2023, staff allied health professionals in all specialties combined earned an average of $28.95 per hour nationwide, which is 34.3% less than the average pay for radiation therapist jobs. Likewise, radiation therapists earned more in travel roles compared to the average rate of $2,370 posted for all travel allied health professionals combined.

The table below shows how radiation therapy salaries compared to the salaries of several other healthcare jobs during the first week of March 2023.

Job Title Average Hourly Perm Rate Average Weekly Travel Rate
Radiation Therapist $44.05 $2,716
Anesthesia Technician $28.95 $1,676
Cardiac Catheterization Technologist $28.66 $2,760
Interventional Radiology Technologist $30.34 $2,648
Registered Nurse $37.24 $2,395
Registered Respiratory Therapist $30.75 $2,095

Source: Vivian Health (March 9, 2023)

U.S. Employment Trends for Radiation Therapists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Texas had 1,840 radiation therapists as of May 2021, giving it the highest employment level for the profession. Although the Lone Star State had the most jobs, Rhode Island had the most radiation therapists per 1,000 employed people at 0.59/1,000. The table below indicates employment data for eight states to help you better understand how job opportunities vary by location.

State Total Number of Radiation Therapist Jobs Number of Radiation Therapists/1,000 Employed People
Texas 1,840 0.15
New York 1,110 0.13
California 950 0.06
Florida 820 0.10
Missouri 500 0.18
Connecticut 310 0.20
Rhode Island 270 0.59
Oklahoma 190 0.13

Source: BLS (May 2021)

Employment Outlook for Radiation Therapists

The BLS expects the number of jobs available for radiation therapists to increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031, or about as fast as average. Some states have higher levels of demand than others, with projected growth faster than others.

For example, the National Center for O*NET Development expects the number of radiation therapist jobs in Texas to increase by 18% between 2020 and 2030. The table below shows the employment outlook for several states.

State Expected Increase in Radiation Therapist Jobs
Texas 18%
Florida 16%
Oklahoma 15%
Oregon 10%
Pennsylvania 8%
Virginia 5%

Source: BLS (May 2021)

Tips for Increasing Your Earnings

Make the most money as a travel nurse

Although radiation therapy pays well compared to many other allied health occupations, there are a few ways to increase your earnings. Consider the following tips to boost your wages:

  • Accept travel jobs: If you divide Vivian’s weekly average salary of $2,716 for a travel radiation therapist by 40 hours, it calculates to an hourly rate of $67.90. Vivian’s hourly rate for perm positions was $44.05 during the same period, or $23.85 less per hour.
  • Get certified: Some employers pay radiation therapists more if they earn a professional certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). If your state doesn’t require the credential, consider getting it anyway.
  • Accept a promotion: Many healthcare employers seek senior radiation therapists or lead radiation therapists. Qualifying for one of these roles significantly increases your salary and strengthens your career profile.

How to Become a Radiation Therapist

If you’re not already working in radiation therapy and think it sounds like an exciting career, you must meet a few requirements before you search for your first job. Review the education, certification and licensure requirements below.

Radiation Therapist Education Requirements

The first step in becoming a radiation therapist is to complete an associate or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Completing this education should take 2 to 4 years, depending on your chosen path. If you already have a degree in something other than radiation therapy, you may be able to enter the field by completing a certificate program. These programs typically last 12 to 18 months and focus on what you need to know to begin your radiation therapy career.

Although it’s possible to enter this field with an associate degree, many employers now view a bachelor’s degree as the minimum education requirement. If you have the time and money, enrolling in a 4-year program gives you as many employment opportunities as possible.

Once you complete general education requirements, courses focus on radiation therapy. It’s a math-heavy field but requires a solid education in mathematical concepts, physics and medicine.

Your program may also include courses in radiation therapy principles, oncology procedures and radiobiology. Some students find these courses difficult, but don’t let this discourage you. Many schools offer free tutoring or have teaching assistants available to help you understand challenging concepts.

Degree programs typically require students to complete a minimum number of clinical hours before graduating. Depending on where you attend school, your clinical placement may be at an academic medical center, a community hospital, an oncology practice or another healthcare facility.

Professional Certifications for Radiation Therapists

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offers professional certification in radiation therapy (R.T.(T)(ARRT)). Although not every state requires it, some states use your ARRT scores to determine if you’re eligible for a license to practice.

To obtain this certification, you must complete an associate degree or higher, demonstrate that you’re of good moral character and pass a comprehensive exam covering the principles of radiation therapy.

To keep your R.T.(R)(ARRT) credential, you must complete an annual renewal process and report your continuing education activities every 2 years. ARRT also requires certified radiation therapists to complete continuing qualification requirements every 10 years.

Licensure Requirements

As of March 2023, only the following 12 states don’t have any licensure requirements for radiation therapists:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

If you don’t live in one of these states, you may need to obtain a professional license and/or pass the ARRT certification exam before applying for a job. The requirements vary significantly from one state to the next.

For example, the Consolidated Laws of New York require radiation therapists, radiologic technologists and other healthcare professionals who apply ionizing radiation to humans to obtain a state license. Contact your state licensing body for more information about the requirements in your area.

A Day in the Life of a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapist marking face mask for radiation therapy

Once you complete the education, certification and licensure requirements, you can start working as a radiation therapist. Every day is a little different, but you should expect to perform the following duties:

  • Explain what happens during each treatment
  • Answer questions about treatment plans
  • Position patients to maximize treatment effectiveness while limiting radiation exposure as much as possible
  • Monitor patients for signs of adverse reactions
  • Calibrate and operate radiation therapy equipment
  • Add treatment notes to each patient’s medical record

The BLS estimates that 65% of all radiation therapists work in hospitals. However, if you don’t want to work in a hospital, look for jobs at outpatient care centers or private physician practices.

As a radiation therapist, you’re an important part of each patient’s care team. Therefore, collaboration is essential for success. You may have to communicate with physicians, oncology nurses, orderlies, patient care technicians and other healthcare professionals to ensure each patient is comfortable and receives the right treatment for their condition.

Radiation therapists handle cesium, cobalt and other radioactive substances, so a big part of the job is protecting yourself and your patients from excess radiation exposure. You may also work with patients with dementia and other forms of cognitive decline, making it critical to have plenty of patience. Radiation therapists must stay calm and explain things in a way that’s easy for patients to understand.

Pros and Cons of a Career in Radiation Therapy

Despite a potentially lucrative salary and advantages, a career in radiation therapy can be stressful. Many of your patients may have advanced cancers that don’t respond to treatment, causing them to die prematurely. Losing patients can be emotionally distressing.

A career in radiation therapy can also be uncomfortable physically. Because you spend most of your time standing up, the job can be hard on your back, legs and feet. You must also lift heavy equipment and help position patients for treatments, which can cause muscle or joint pain.

On the positive side, radiation therapy is a rewarding field that gives you an opportunity to help people with cancer and other serious health conditions. Patients and their family members rely on you for support when they’re worried about adverse events or struggling to accept a serious medical diagnosis.

Because you’ll most likely work for public or private healthcare facilities, you typically receive various employee benefits, such as health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, etc. Benefits help enhance your salary, even when they’re not monetary in nature.

As a radiation therapist, you may get your work schedule in advance, making it easier to schedule necessary appointments or plan your annual vacation. You may even have a Monday through Friday schedule, leaving your weekends free for personal and family time.

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