Very few careers pay comfortable entry-level salaries without a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Radiation therapy is one that does. While the salary of a new radiation therapist is considerably less than the average it will likely hit later, it is far higher than the mean American salary.
Radiation therapists play an important role in the treatment of cancer. Radiation therapists, also known as radiation therapy technologists, operate x-ray imaging equipment, computer tomography (CT) scans and linear accelerators to locate and treat cancerous tumors. These therapists help patients prepare for the test and monitor them during the testing procedure. Radiation therapists coordinate with other members of an oncology team to customize treatment and present findings. Personal and equipment safety is a primary concern for radiation therapists, because overexposure to radiation can have devastating effects. Radiation therapists must be licensed in the state where they operate and generally have an associate’s degree or certificate in radiation therapy, though some therapists have a bachelor’s degree. The median annual salary for radiation therapists as of January 2011 was $70,372, according to PayScale.
According to Forsyth Technical Community College, the average starting salary for a radiation therapist is between $49,000 and $52,000 per year. Pay Scale reported a January 2011 annual salary range of $48,261 to $60,647 for those therapists with less than one year of experience.
Gaining experience can quickly raise a radiation therapist’s salary. After one year of experience, the salary range for a radiation therapist increased to $50,314 to $68,256 in January 2011, according to PayScale. Radiation therapists with more than 20 years of experience earned as much as $89,240 per year.
Geographic location plays a large role in the amount of money a radiation therapist earns. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 the states with the highest average salaries for radiation therapists were South Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, New Jersey and California. The top cities for radiation therapist salaries were Philadelphia; Montgomery, Ala.; the New York City metro area; the Seattle metro area; and the Sacramento metro area.