A radiation therapist is one of many jobs that fall under the major of radiology. A Radiation therapists is a professional that work with CAT scans, X-rays and Cone beam computed tomography before the process of radiation occurs. These specialists carry out treatments created by radiation oncologists and dosimetrists. Radiation therapy is a very hands on and personal occupation. The doctors will get the same patients week after week, month after month. Doctors become close with their patients and it makes the job easier for the patient and rewarding for the professional knowing they are helping someone they’ve come to care about.
Radiation therapy falls under the medical field. In the medical field you can branch off into many different positions. There are numbers of different options for those who would like to pursue this broad field. The degrees that this field covers are typically science, mathematics, and English. A few of the major careers that are part of the medical field are doctors, nurses, physician assistant or radiation therapist.
“Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells” (Mayo Clinic). This position is very personal and doctors develop companionship with their patients (Hamilton) which is extremely important for the patients emotions and mental health. These patients would be going through a lot; dealing with cancer, getting radiation therapy as part of their treatment, and thinking about the future and what happens after. Radiation therapy is the only primary treatment for cancer.
There’s options for surgery to shrink a cancerous tumor, which is called neoadjuvant therapy. After this operation they use adjuvant therapy, another surgery, to stop the growth of any remaining cancer cells (Mayo Clinic). The main type of radiation therapy is however chemotherapy, to destroy cancer cells. A radiation therapist will most likely be doing the basics such as chemo and making sure the client is comfortable.
There are positive and negative aspects of becoming a radiation therapist. Some challenges are watching patients that you’ve worked with having to stop treatment because they are unable to tolerate the intensity of it. Some patients are just too fragile to continue and it’s heartbreaking as Kelle Reed, a radiation therapist says. Reed explains that even though these situations are hard to watch and work through there are major aspects of the job. “Working with these patients help you get a better perspective on life, you’d expect these people to act like how you’d think a dying person would act like. But their positive attitude on the situation really changes you as a person”. Reed talks about how this feeling of helping someone is the whole reason she’s working in this field. Reed has a family and is very involved in their lives, she explains that her hours are Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm. Some days varying depending on the amount of patients they have that day. “We have anywhere between 4 and 44 on a typical day”. She gets weekends and holidays off which is good because she knew she wanted a family and be involved greatly in their lives and being able to pursue a career she cares about and loves so much while being able to have kids and have a life is the best thing.
The education for a radiation therapist varies depending how high up on the scale one is aiming to reach. There’s a few different options for years that one can attend. For associate’s degree, the program consists of two years of combined academic and clinical education. After high school, it is recommended that the graduates should enroll in an undergrad degree program in radiation therapy. During this course students are to complete certain clinical requirement in order to obtain a diploma. These radiation therapists students should make sure to secure employment in jobs that are related to radiation therapy. After graduation, students are able to register with AART, which stands for American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, to complete and pass the examination to then become a certified radiation therapists (Franklin). There are choices after this for both careers and further education. If one decides to only get their associates degree, job options will be available in less than three years. Where if one decided to continue and expand on his or her education it could take about 5 years to find a steady career. A radiology therapist with a bachelor’s degree has graduated from an accredited medical school, passed a licensing examination and completed a residency of at least four years of unique postgraduate medical education in radiation safety, radiation effects on the human body and appropriate performance and interpretation of quality radiologic and medical imaging examinations (Radiological Society).
Radiation Therapy is in the medical field and therefore the salary is very decent. If one goes to college and receives their degree in radiation therapy the salary is somewhere around $80,000 as a median salary (U.S. News). Different states have different average salaries. For instance, California has the highest annual incomes with an average salary at $93,530. Washington has the second highest salary of $92,670. New York is number five for this income paying employees $90,480 (Forest). Different Geographical areas also have different income rates. Radiation therapist in the south east Mississippi reported the highest average earnings with an overall $80,310, certain clinics paying more than others (Forest). There are many different clinics in New York. A clinic in Adirondack, NY has a salary of $80,688. Another clinic is Afton, NY has a salary of $78,096, and Albany, NY has an income of $83,096 (ARRT). Another factor that reflects on the salary is the employment sector. Radiation Therapists who are employed by medical and diagnostic laboratories earn the highest salaries at $91,730. People hired to work in specialty hospitals earn $86,4000 on average. Employees of general medical and surgical hospitals have a reported average annual salary of $76,900 (Forest).
Radiation therapy is a hard field with lots to learn and lots to know. In order to learn all about this field, college needs to be the first step. While attending college other related majors will pop up and could quite possibly have a greater influence on one who is attending college for a different major. Some related majors to radiation therapy is; radiologic technician, magnetic resonance imaging technologists, radiologic and MRI technologists, and cardiac imaging (SUNY Broome). There are many option for one attending college, plans may change immensely. Some colleges that offer radiologic technology are SUNY Broome Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, and Hudson Valley Community College. SUNY Broome is a two year school that an individual can attend to start their process of becoming a radiologic technician. In this two year school the classes usually consists of biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, physics and medical terminology. Within this major of radiologic technician is where radiation therapy can be practiced. The same goes for Mohawk Valley Community College, same type of classes, all based around medical and science, and radiation therapy is a sideline major (MVCC). There are multiple other schools in New York that offer this major; such as oneonta, Alfred, Hudson valley and buffalo. There are also colleges that skip the radiologic tech part and major in just the practice of radiation therapy, these colleges are located more towards the city and are manhattan college and memorial Sloan Kettering’s school of radiation therapy.
The job demand for a radiation therapist is pretty high. The United States has one of the highest cancer rates in the world. About every 450 out of 100,000 people will developers cancer annually. In 2016, new diagnoses surpassed 1.6 million and about 600,000 people were diagnosed with cancer. Also in 2010, nation expenditures for cancer reached $125 billion, and this is expected to increase $156 billion by 2020 (Pariona). Just 10 years difference and the number rose $156 billion. Cancer rates are so high in the United States because of unhealthy lifestyle choices (Pariona). People in the United States tend to be more obese and drink more alcohol than other countries. There’s no way of knowing how to prevent someone from getting cancer but losing weight, staying physically active and eating healthy is a start (Pariona). Kentucky is the state with the highest cancer percentages. With an overage of 511 people out of 100,000 developing the disease every year (Pariona). New York is number three with 484 out of 100,000 people coming face to face with cancer. “Cancer is one of the most common chronic diseases here and the second leading cause of death” (Pariona). The most common type of cancer is prostate, followed by lung, breast and colorectal (Pariona). People are always being diagnosed somewhere with cancer so the job as a radiation therapist is always in demand. “Employment of radiation therapists is projected to grow thirteen percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations” (Labor Statistics).
Most cancer patients are elder citizens so as the population grows old the job market will open up and the demand for therapists will increase. Employers look for workers with prior experience in patient care positions, bachelors degree, and people with the best job opportunities (Labor Statistics). Radiologic technology has always been an interest of mine but just recently I decided to go in a bit of a different direction and look into radiation therapy and I like my findings very much. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the rest of my life but I knew whatever I did I needed to do something that would help people and make a difference. I think this job is the perfect choice for me considering it’s in my opinion one of the sadness sicknesses someone can develope. I’m hoping to attend Mohawk Valley Community College for radiologic technology and branch off into radiation therapy. After I complete this course I would like to attend another college to get bachelor’s degree. There’s an amazing medical school in Syracuse named Upstate Medical University. I am excited to start college and work on getting to where I want to be in this career. I feel as if this career will help me be a better person and have more respect for myself and other people around me.
I can be very emotional and get attached to many things easily so I fully expect to care for my patients and grow a relationship with them. Which will be a great thing to have but not everyone makes it through and therapy doesn’t help everyone so sometimes growing close to a patient will hurt me, but knowing I was the one who tried to save that person’s life and gave him or her even just a few more months will make me feel like I’m making a difference in the world. In conclusion, being a radiation therapist is a good choice as a career and there are many options for education. The job opportunities are growing, there will always be jobs in the medical field and for this specific major there will be endless opportunities to learn and grow as a person and a professional. I am very excited to attend college and and begin the process of helping individuals and their families.