Radiation therapists make $86,850 per year1, primarily helping cancer patients by administering radiation treatments. Along with other members of the care team, including oncologists, oncology nurses, and medical physicists, radiation therapists work to treat cancer and other diseases treatable with radiation.
This guide explores what to expect from a radiation therapy career, including potential salary and how students can land a position after graduation.
Highest Paying Radiation Therapy Jobs
Radiation therapists work as part of a team of professionals who diagnose, treat, and monitor cancer patients and those with diseases that respond to radiation therapy. They handle many of the hands-on tasks required for a successful treatment, including:
- Explaining treatment plans and processes to patients and their family members
- Supporting patients before, during, and after treatments
- Reviewing all plans
- Tracking and recording treatments
- Maintaining equipment
- Protecting patients from unnecessary radiation exposure
- Observing patients for adverse reactions during and after treatments
Radiation therapists work with oncologists to ensure that patients receive the proper care and can offer the first line of defense against side effects or non-responsive cancers. The field requires some knowledge of the medical applications of radiation as well as knowledge of the specialized machines themselves.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the job field will grow on par with the average industry1, adding up to around 1,100 openings each year over the next decade1. Radiation therapy focuses specifically on radiation treatments, but therapists can choose several different paths in terms of employment location or focus.
Outpatient Care Center Radiation Therapist Average Annual Salary: $119,530
Radiation therapists working in general outpatient care facilities or cancer-specific treatment centers enjoy a salary of about $119,000 per year1 on average. They deliver treatments at outpatient centers, working with the care team not only at the facility but also the medical professionals involved in the patient’s primary care.
Professional Equipment and Supplies Wholesalers Radiation Therapist Average Annual Salary: $109,315
Radiation therapists can make over six figures a year representing equipment wholesalers1. Because of their knowledge of these specialized equipment pieces, they’re able to help clients troubleshoot or demonstrate features to new clients.
Radiation Therapist at Specialty Hospitals Average Annual Salary: $104,520
Specialty hospitals pay their radiation therapists over six figures per year on average1. These types of hospitals don’t include psychiatry or substance abuse, but they do focus on specific types of treatments, including cancer-specific treatment centers.
Radiation Therapist at Physician Offices Average Annual Salary: $98,470
Radiation therapists working out of physicians’ offices make just over $98,000 per year1. This field employs around 4,270 therapists per year1. Radiation therapists work with the cancer teams and primary care physicians to administer treatment.
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools Radiation Therapist Faculty Average Annual Salary: $97,290
Radiation therapists working on education teams can make over $97,000 per year1 training the next generation of therapists. These positions include two-year schools and trade schools, as well as four-year degrees for those who want to advance to higher positions in the field.
Radiation Therapist at Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories Average Annual Salary: $93,030
Medical and diagnostic labs pay radiation therapists over $93,000 per year1 to help with the diagnostic process, treatment plans, and equipment maintenance. These centers are a vital part of diagnosing and monitoring patients as they make progress in treatments.
Radiation Therapist at General Medical and Surgical Hospitals Annual Salary: $88,740
Radiation therapists working with oncology teams at general hospitals enjoy a salary of just under $89,000 per year1. These centers don’t focus solely on cancer-specific treatments, so radiation therapists may see clients from different walks of life seeking treatment through the hospital system. It employs around 10,000 positions per year1.
Chief Radiation Therapists Average Annual Salary: $91,962
Chief radiation therapists make almost $92,000 per year2 as the chief overseer of the radiation treatment center and therapists. They work with teams of therapists to administer, monitor, and follow up with patients. They oversee the workings of the treatment center and liaise as they need to with other members of the healthcare team and staff.
Popular Career Paths With a Radiation Therapy Degree
Radiation therapy requires a two-year degree or training to get into the field. Motivated radiation therapists can continue schooling to take on other positions within the same field. The following positions offer students the opportunity to specialize further within the medical field or in maintaining and understanding these complex machines.
Radiation Oncologist Average Annual Salary: $337,767
Those who continue their studies to complete an undergraduate degree and medical degree can become radiation oncologists, making multiple six-figure salaries per year3. These medical doctors oversee teams of radiation therapists, diagnose and treat patients, and treat side effects patients may have.
Radiation Physicist Average Annual Salary: $159,137
Radiation physicists continue their studies to a master’s or doctoral degree in physics, making $159,137 per year4. These professionals analyze and maintain the linear accelerator, the machine delivering radiation, to ensure patient safety and optimized performance. Some radiation physicists complete a bachelor’s degree and gain on-the-job training, but most will need advanced degrees.
Dosimetrist Average Annual Salary: $104,000 per year
Dosimetrists make over six figures a year5, delivering exactly the right dose of radiation to the correct part of the body. Dosimetrists typically complete a bachelor’s degree6 and an official training program to get certified. The Certified Medical Dosimetrist certification offered by the Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board (MDCB) requires a bachelor’s degree for eligibility6.
Other Career Path Choices
Students who complete a radiation therapy program can also choose to follow other career paths in related disciplines. Some students may choose to transfer to nursing assistance with a few relevant courses and residencies, for example. Others may find employment as orderlies or even in dental offices while they wait to find a position specifically in radiation therapy.
Average Salary for Radiation Therapy Graduates
The average radiation therapist makes about $86,850 per year on average. However, experience and job location can greatly affect the final salary number. Some of the top-paying states to work in radiation therapy (according to BLS1) include:
- California: $126,610
- New York: $120,470
- Oregon: $107,920
- Washington: $106,450
- Montana: $103,570
These top five states all pay more than the national average for radiation therapists.
Students can also become a Chief Radiation Therapist for a salary boost beyond the national average as well, earning an average annual salary of $91,9622. Alternately, students can continue their education in the medical field and earn well over $300,0003 as a radiation oncologist, a medical doctor specializing in radiation treatments.
How to Find a Job After You Graduate
Radiation therapy graduates can take advantage of their school’s networking and alumni facilities to help find employment after graduation. The field is expected to grow at an average pace over the next ten years1, so students should have a good chance of finding employment.
Other possibilities include taking on internships or part-time work at general hospitals that have a need for more workers. These positions could help students gain the experience they need to snag jobs in more lucrative settings, including outpatient centers.
If students already work at a healthcare facility of some sort, going back to school to train as radiation therapists could help them move up or into other departments. Students can also draw on their existing connections to find job openings. Although most radiation therapy programs are just two years, certification and a full bachelor’s degree also help a resume stand out.
Students waiting for positions to open up can also apply to be nursing assistants or orderlies at their chosen facility. This helps the staff get to know them and could lead to a position later on when one opens.
Discover More about a Career in Radiation Therapy
Q. How long does it take to become a radiation therapist?
Many training programs require just two years to become certified in the basics. A four-year degree helps resumes stand out in a sea of applicants.
Q. What certifications do radiation therapists need?
After the training program, most students must sit for an official certification exam such as a state license. Students should check their state’s individual requirements or consult with their training program for more information.
Q. Is radiation therapy a good career?
It’s one of the highest paying associate degree career paths and offers students the opportunity to make far above the national average salary with just two years of training. The field will also grow at an average pace over the next ten years1, offering students an average opportunity for employment.
Q. What are the risks of radiation therapy careers?
Training to become a radiation therapist includes all up-to-date safety features and best practices. However, working with radiation carries some risks. Students could face exposure to radioactive materials during the course of their career if machines fail or experience trouble, although this occurrence is rare when following standard safety procedures.
Q. Are there online radiation therapy degrees?
Online courses cover topics such as safety, basic machine knowledge, and the science behind radiation therapy. While students may be able to participate in hybrid programs, a combination of online and traditional instruction, radiation therapy programs require residency in labs for hands-on experience.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Radiation Therapists. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm
 PayScale. (2021). Skill Salary: Radiation Therapy. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Skill=Radiation_Therapy/Salary
 PayScale. (2021). Average Radiation Oncologist Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Radiation_Oncologist/Salary
 PayScale. (2021). Average Radiation Physicist Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Radiation_Physicist/Salary
 PayScale. 2021) Salary for Certification: Certified Medical Dosimetrist. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Certification=Certified_Medical_Dosimetrist_(CMD)/Salary
 Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board. (n.d.) Applicant Handbook. https://www.mdcb.org/sites/mdcb/files/images/Exam%20Handbook_2022.1%20Final_1.pdf