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Medical Radiation Therapist

Job Description

Radiation therapists are specially trained to help people fight cancer. There are many different types of cancer, all of which require accurate diagnosis and treatment. One of the most common forms of cancer treatment is radiation therapy.

Radiation therapists use high energy radiation to stop cancer cells from growing and multiplying. Working with oncologists - doctors who specialize in treating cancer - they determine the best treatment plan for the patient. They administer radiation treatment.

Gamma rays, x-rays and electrons are some of the types of radiation used to treat patients. These treatments can be delivered in two ways - internally or externally. It is the therapist's responsibility to store, sterilize and prepare special applicators containing radioactive material. The therapist may also calculate treatment doses and maintain patient records that include details of equipment control settings and the patient's reactions.

Interesting Facts

  • About 50 - 60% of cancer patients are treated with radiation at some time during their disease.
  • Cancer represents as many as 200 different diseases.
  • In Nova Scotia, 5 000 new cancer cases are diagnosed each year; 2 500 die of cancer each year (800 from lung cancer alone)
  • More than 50% of cancers are preventable.

Working Conditions

Radiation therapists spend a lot of time working with radioactive materials and electronic and mechanical equipment.

The job also involves patient counseling. Since radiation therapy can be a very stressful experience for those suffering from cancer, part of the therapist's job is to provide reassurance and compassion to help reduce this stress.

There is a lot of standing, walking, lifting and moving of patients. Most full-time therapists work about 40 hours a week. They also may have evening, weekend and on-call hours.

Radiation therapists are employed in 22 cancer treatment centres located in cities across Canada. They are also employed at large hospitals that deliver radiation treatment.


$30,000- $50,000 per year.


(a) Personal Characteristics

Radiation therapists must have strong interpersonal/communication skills to deal with co-workers and patients. They should be patient and considerate and be able to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds. Good physical health, a sense of responsibility and careful work habits are required. Critical-thinking skills and some technical ability to work with and operate the radiation equipment are necessary.

(b) High School

High school courses such as science, biology, math, physics and English are required for admission to Medical Radiation therapy programs. Admission requirements for post-secondary should be checked carefully.

(c) Post Secondary

Starting in 2005, radiation therapists are required to hold at best a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. Depending on where you go to school, you may still be able to take a diploma program after January 2005. Programs include a period of supervised training in a hospital environment. The academic site for medical radiation therapy training is the Michener Institute in Ontario. Currently the Michener Institute intake from Nova Scotia is 4-6 seats per annum. The QEII in Halifax has return for service arrangements for these reserved seats at Michener.

(d) Certification

Radiation therapists must be certified by the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT). After successfully completing exams set by CAMRT, students apply to their provincial licensing body, Nova Scotia Association of Medical Radiation Therapist (NSAMRT) for professional registration as a radiation therapist.

Future Prospects

According to Job Futures, Canada's demand has increased because the growing and aging population requires more health services and new technologies have improved the ability to diagnose and treat disease. Shortages in Nova Scotia are projected over the next 5 years.

Related Jobs

  • Medical Laboratory Technologist
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Radiological Technologist (X-Ray Technologist)


What Can I do Now?

  • Explore websites
  • Read testimonials (Career Cruising)
  • Interview/job shadow a Medical Radiation Therapist in your local area
  • Have a Medical Radiation Therapist come to your class/school
  • Choose the high school subjects needed to start your path to this career. Aim to achieve high grades.
  • Volunteer in health related professions.

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