A Radiation Therapist’s Salary: Expert Insights to Understand the Numbers AND the Profession
Radiation therapists play a key role on a multidisciplinary cancer team. Given the vital work they do delivering treatment to cancer patients, what type of salary do they earn? Below, we’ll answer that question. But we’ll do a lot more than that.
With the help of the Orion HR Group, a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation analysis, we’ll include specific data on a radiation therapist’s potential income.
In addition, to help you better understand the nuances surrounding a radiation therapist’s income, we’ll provide helpful information from Julie Beaudoin, MBA, R.T. (T)(ARRT), Assistant Professor and Program Chair for the Radiation Therapy Program at Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU).
Beaudoin will also share valuable insights on why the radiation therapy profession can be a rewarding career path.
A radiation therapist’s salary: Making sense of the numbers
Larry Morgan of the Orion HR Group reports the following average radiation therapist salary information for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area as of January 2021:
- New graduate to one year of experience: $63,900 annually with data varying from $51,100 to $76,700 annually
- Five years of experience: $75,400 annually with data varying from $60,300 to $90,400 annually
- Ten years of experience: $85,000 annually with data varying from $68,000 to $102,000 annually
Remember, this is information for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Area. Many variables go into formulating reliable salary estimates. That’s why providing a single nationwide number is not the most accurate way to understand what a radiation therapist earns.
NWHSU’s Julie Beaudoin says it’s a good idea to consider these additional factors:
Don’t forget about employee benefits. Radiation therapists are rarely self-employed. They work for public entities or private healthcare corporations. That means they typically receive employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.
“These potential benefits should be factored in as you’re trying to get a sense of a radiation therapist’s overall compensation,” Beaudoin says.
Be aware that geography matters. “Anyone trying to understand what a radiation therapist makes should keep geography in mind,” says Beaudoin. “Incomes can vary widely from region to region. The cost of living on the East or West coasts, for example, can be significantly higher than the Midwest or the South. So you have to weigh factors like that with the income amount.”
Keeping the income numbers in perspective
“Income data is certainly helpful,” says Beaudoin. But she adds that you also want to keep those numbers in perspective. Here are two crucial considerations that can help you do that.
Think about the potential income in relation to the education requirements. “You’re talking about a profession requiring a two-year associate degree that can earn you an average starting salary well over $60,000. Once you start comparing this to other jobs, you realize that’s a big deal,” says Beaudoin.
In fact, BusinessInsider.com ranks radiation therapist #7 on its list of The 40 Highest-Paying Jobs You Can Get Without a Bachelor’s Degree.
Note that NWHSU offers an Associate of Science in Radiation Therapy. Students complete a 27-month program, comprising five trimesters of coursework and two trimesters of clinical internship.
Having a radiation therapy foundation creates various career paths for the future. “Becoming a radiation therapist doesn’t have to mean staying in the same kind of role your entire career,” explains Beaudoin.
For example, once you finish a radiation therapy program and then become registered as a radiation therapist, you’ve completed what The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists calls a “primary eligibility pathway.”
Should you choose, you can continue to expand your skill set through “postprimary pathways” and gain additional certifications in medical imaging procedures like the following:
- Bone densitometry
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Vascular sonography
That means the income possibilities can expand as well.
On top of that, Beaudoin says the education, training, and experience of a radiation therapist can also be a valuable foundation for pursuing a career in areas like:
- Medical device sales and training positions
- Healthcare administration (which may require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree)
- Other healthcare professions such as a physician assistant (which would require a professional degree)
- Directly related professions in radiology such as a medical dosimetrist (which would require a professional degree)
Beyond the dollars: The many benefits of becoming a radiation therapist
As you get a better sense of what a radiation therapist can earn, you should also consider a number of other important—and unique—features to this profession. According to Beaudoin, here are some of the most compelling.
Be part of a multidisciplinary cancer treatment team. Radiation therapists rarely work alone. Safety protocols and therapy best practices, explains Beaudoin, generally require therapists to work in tandem.
In addition, radiation therapists play a key part on an multidisciplinary healthcare team, working under the direction of a radiation oncologist and in conjunction with a number of other healthcare professionals, including:
- Medical dosimetrists
- Social workers
“This is definitely not an isolating kind of profession. This is a profession for people who want a team-oriented career,” Beaudoin says.
Connect with patients more deeply. As a radiation therapist, you see the same patients Monday through Friday, for anywhere from two to seven weeks.
Beaudoin says that fact alone puts radiation therapists in a unique position. “You’re often serving as a hub for the rest of the team because you’re the one who sees the patient every day.” Other team members may only see them once a week or just once at the beginning of the treatment, she says.
For a lot of radiation therapists, notes Beaudoin, it’s the day-to-day interaction with patients that becomes the driving force for why they love their job.
“You’re not just delivering treatment. You’re listening. You’re providing emotional support. You’re talking with their family members. Sometimes you’re even doing things like helping them figure out transportation to and from treatment.”
And the connections you form with patients can be profound. “When you have, say, a patient come back a year after their treatment and tell you that they’re cancer free, and they hug you and thank you for helping to save their life—that’s just the best feeling in the world.”
Have a great work schedule. Radiation therapists work at radiation therapy centers, medical offices, and clinics where cancer patients are treated. These places typically operate during daytime hours, Monday through Friday.
That means you likely won’t need to work weekends, evenings, holidays, or rotating shifts as a radiation therapist.
“A lot of other healthcare professions that involve direct patient care can have some pretty demanding schedules. Radiation therapy isn’t one of them,” she says.
Work in a steady-paced environment with manageable stress. Radiation therapists often find the pace of their job satisfying, says Beaudoin. Their work keeps them busy, focused, and productive—but not necessarily under high-stress conditions.
The roles of a radiation therapist also provide both variety and consistency, Beaudoin says. For example, your patients and the specific radiation procedures you use to treat them will vary from day to day.
Yet you can also count on each day moving quickly as you work through a predictable, well-defined schedule of appointments.
Work in a healthcare environment that fits with your preferences. “Some people want to work in healthcare and directly help patients, but they also know they’re not interested in, for instance, having to deal with things like blood or other bodily fluids.”
Those situations rarely come up as a radiation therapist, says Beaudoin.
Be an expert with cutting-edge medical technology. Beaudoin says that radiation therapy technology is continually advancing.
“This profession puts you on the front lines of cancer treatment, where you’re working with cutting-edge medical technology on a daily basis. It makes the job exciting, and there’s always something new to learn.”
Take the next step toward becoming a radiation therapist
Now that you have a better understanding of just how rewarding this profession can be, you may want to find out more. Take the next step and learn how to become a radiation therapist.
Want to talk to someone right away about becoming a radiation therapist? Contact NWHSU today!