Radiation therapists administer radiation treatment to cancer patients. They operate a wide variety of machines, which generate x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams and other types of radiation. Working with a physician who specializes in cancer treatment, they plan and give radiation treatments. After explaining the procedure to the patient, radiation therapists position the patient and equipment, give the treatments and monitor the patient's condition during radiation treatments. Most radiation therapists work in hospitals or independent cancer treatment centers.
Dosimetrists are specialized radiation therapists who calculate the doses of radiation used for radiation treatments. They use computers to calculate the best beam angle, size and distance to the patient that will treat the cancer with the fewest side effects. Dosimetrists work under the direction of physicians in large hospitals or for treatment planning services that may serve several smaller hospitals.
Radiation therapists need a strong background in math, physical and biological sciences including Chemistry and Math. English or completion of ESL is also a pre-requisite. Radiation therapists must also have the ability to work with people who are often gravely ill and emotionally upset. They must complete a two-year and three month training program that is offered at community colleges, universities and some hospitals, and lead to an AS Degree or Award of Achievement. They must also pass a written examination in order to be licensed by the California Department of Health Services. Many employers also require radiation therapists to become Registered Radiation Therapy Technologists. This involves passing a certification examination given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Dosimetrists require a strong background in math, computer science and additional experience and training.
Links to Additional Career Information
American Society of Radiologic Technologists (800) 444-2778 www.asrt.org
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (651) 687-0048 www.arrt.org