Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are part of the radiation oncology team. They help treat people with cancer and other serious illnesses. Education requirements are an associate’s degree and clinical training or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. You also need certification from the American Registry of Radiation Technologists.


What is a radiation therapist?

A radiation therapist is a healthcare provider who works in radiation oncology (radiation therapy). They’re members of teams led by radiation oncologists that provide treatment for cancer and other serious diseases.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What does a radiation therapist do?

Radiation therapists help ensure people receiving radiation therapy understand the process and are as comfortable as possible during treatment. For example, a radiation therapist will:

  • Help with treatment planning to make sure the right amount of radiation targets the right spot.
  • Ensure people receiving treatment are protected from unnecessary radiation.
  • Operate the machines that deliver radiation therapy.
  • Monitor the well-being of people receiving treatment.
  • Respond to any unusual reactions to treatment by passing information to the radiation oncologist or other team members.
  • Maintain detailed treatment records.

Where do radiation therapists work?

Most radiation therapists work in hospitals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but you may also work in a physician’s office or outpatient treatment center.


How do you become a radiation therapist?

To become a radiation therapist, you’ll need to:

  • Obtain an associate’s degree and required clinical training with a radiation oncology team or complete a four-year degree in radiation therapy and obtain a bachelor’s degree.
  • Complete the certification program offered by the American Registry of Radiation Technologists (ARRT).
  • Obtain a state license to become a registered technologist.

How many years does it take to become a radiation therapist?

That depends on your degree and how long it takes for you to prepare for and pass your ARRT licensing examination. The licensing examination itself takes one day, but you may need weeks or months to prepare for it. You’ll need to take the examination within three years after you receive your degree.

Additional Common Questions

What‘s the difference between a radiation oncologist and a radiation therapist?

A radiation oncologist is a medical practitioner who oversees all aspects of radiation therapy. They lead the radiation oncology team, which includes radiation therapists. The education requirements are different: Radiation oncologists need four years of college, four years of medical school, a year of training in surgery or internal medicine and then four years of training (residency) in radiation oncology.


Do radiation therapists use needles in their work?

They may, but not to do things like give injections. When radiation therapists are preparing someone for treatment, they may use tiny needles to make tattoos that mark the treatment area.

What’s the hardest part of being a radiation therapist?

Radiation therapy is a rewarding career, but it can be challenging:

  • Radiation therapy requires intense and consistent attention to detail —from simulation through treatment — to avoid making a mistake that could affect someone’s cancer treatment.
  • They’re responsible for maintaining and operating the machines that deliver radiation.
  • People receiving radiation therapy often are anxious about having cancer or another serious illness. They may be scared to go through treatment. Showing compassion and empathy is a big part of a radiation therapist’s job.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Radiation therapists play an essential role in providing radiation therapy. The job requires constant attention to detail. At the same time, radiation therapists provide information and often offer emotional support to people receiving treatment.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/02/2024.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Cancer Answer Line 866.223.8100