How to become a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists design, plan and administer radiation treatment to cancer patients, and provide related care to patients in conjunction with radiation oncologists or other medical specialists.

Personal requirements of a Radiation Therapist

  • Interest and ability in science
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to work neatly and accurately
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Aptitude for working with computers
  • Patient and empathetic towards others
  • Supportive and professional approach when treating cancer patients

Education & Training for a Radiation Therapist

To become a radiation therapist you have to study radiation therapy at university. To get into these courses you need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. A number of universities in Australia offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in radiation therapy. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists may perform the following tasks:

  • provide explanations and information to patients about radiation therapy treatment, its possible side effects and self-care procedures
  • coordinate the various activities that make up the patient’s treatment and care plan
  • use simulators, CT scanners and other medical imaging equipment to identify and define the anatomy to be treated and those to be avoided
  • devise a treatment plan that will deliver the optimum radiation dose to the target anatomy and minimise dose to unaffected anatomy
  • calculate the treatment machine settings, associated equipment and computer verification systems to deliver the radiation dose as prescribed by the radiation oncologist
  • administer the radiation treatment and record the delivered dosage into patients’ record sheets
  • monitor and assess the patient’s wellbeing before, during and after the treatment, taking particular note of side effects of treatment
  • participate in research and development activities and clinical trials
  • supervise and train students allocated from universities in the practical aspects of radiation therapy
  • commit to the Continuing Professional Development Program (which is mandatory for registration).

Working conditions for a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists work in hospitals and/or radiation oncology centres. They work in teams that include radiation oncologists, nurses, medical physicists, engineers and technicians, data managers and administrative staff. They are involved in the day-to-day treatment of cancer patients.

Employment Opportunities for a Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapy treatment centres can be found in major cities and rural locations. The career structure for radiation therapists allows for professional development and promotion in technical, research and managerial areas. Factors that influence demand for this occupation include government funding and health policy, advances in medicine and technology, ageing of the population and the incidence of cancer.

Additional Information
Depending on the length of the university course, some graduates are required to complete a year of clinical practice in an accredited radiation oncology department. Those completing a four-year degree with the necessary clinical component are not required to undertake this additional year. Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia before practising as a radiation therapist in any state or territory of Australia. For full details, see the Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia’s website. You must obtain a licence to operate radiation equipment from the appropriate state or territory authority.
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