Radiation Therapy vs Respiratory Therapy: Career ROI

If you want to enter the healthcare field, one option is to pursue a therapy career. Cancer is a prevalent disease that has consumed 5.5% of the US population. If you want to help treat patients with this chronic disease, you may work in Radiation Therapy. Its main goal is to shrink tumors, mediate symptoms, and eventually kill cancer cells.

On the other hand, if you want to delve more into pulmonary care, where you want to help patients suffering from pulmonary disorders, it’s worth pursuing a Respiratory Therapy career. Take a look at both fields and decide which one is a better match. 

The Path to Becoming a Radiation Therapist

Radiation Therapy uses high-energy or high-powered X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink many types of tumors. It entails a series of predetermined treatments over a period of time.

Radiation therapists are highly trained individuals, but a four-year bachelor’s degree isn’t a requirement in this profession. To pursue this trade career, an associate degree or a vocational or technical program is sufficient.

That said, your employer may require radiation therapists to hold specific credentials. Relevant practical and clinical experience is typically a must. Because companies often value applicants with specialized training, prioritize earning your Radiation Therapy academic training and credentials from accredited, top-ranked institutions.

Radiation therapists operate and maintain the radiological equipment. They find jobs in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient clinics. In most states, radiation therapists must be certified or licensed. They must earn credentials from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), which certifies and registers technologists.

Career Options in Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapists enjoy a high-demand occupation in the healthcare industry. It is, in fact, one of the most lucrative trade jobs!

Alternatively, Radiation Therapy can lead to these jobs, as long as you possess a solid background in Mathematics, Physics, Medicine, or Dentistry or pursue advanced training, obtain formal education, and pass specific national examinations to meet the requirements of the practice.

  • Radiation Oncologist
  • Health Administrator
  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Radiation Physicist

Radiation Therapy is a good fit if:

  • You possess the necessary technical skills to operate the radiation machinery. 
  • You want to acquire techniques for sharpening your attention to detail.
  • You possess strong interpersonal abilities.
  • You have no problems adhering to care guidelines and safety protocols.

Radiation Therapy is NOT a good fit if:

  • You don’t have enough physical stamina to assist patients physically.
  • You have difficulty paying close attention to detail.
  • You are not a fan of math and the sciences.
  • Patient care isn’t your strong suit.

Let’s Explore: Radiation Therapy vs Respiratory Therapy

Radiation Therapy Respiratory Therapy
Average Salaries$89,530$70,540
Job Growth (2022-2032)2% (400 openings annually)13% (16,700 openings annually)
Common Jobs/Roles– Radiation oncologist therapist
– Radiation Therapy technologist
– Chief radiation therapist
– Radiation monitoring
– Critical care specialist
– Pulmonary function technologist
– Respiratory care specialist
Work Settings– Hospitals
– Doctors’ offices
– Clinics
– Outpatient centers
– Universities
– Nursing homes
– Hospitals
– Cardiopulmonary diagnostic labs
– Home health agencies
– Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation center
Equipment Used/Operated– Cobalt 60-units
– Brachytherapy units
– Linear accelerators
– Caesium-137 therapy units
– Nebulizers
– Oxygen cylinders
– Suction canisters
– Ventilators
– Nasal Cannula
– CPAP Oxygen concentrators

The Path to Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

An allied health specialization, Respiratory Therapy involves the diagnosis, treatment, and maintenance of a patient’s breathing. Exercise suggestions, progress tracking, and breathing assessments are its major components.

A certified professional with training in treating patients with heart and lung conditions is called a Respiratory Care Practitioner (RCP), sometimes referred to as a Respiratory Therapist. An RCP may treat patients of all ages.

To be considered for a career in the industry, you have to, at the very least, obtain an associate degree in this field from an accredited institution! Practitioners are expected to be skilled in both therapeutic techniques that support pulmonary health maintenance and the diagnostic assessment of lung function. Respiratory therapists are also expected to have sufficient background in Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy, and Physiology.

Respiratory Therapy is a medical trade career that requires completing a vocational program. However, additional degrees are highly encouraged to boost your credentials. Pursuing higher degrees like a bachelor’s or master’s leads to higher-earning prospects and career progress.

Except Alaska, all states require respiratory therapists to hold a license to practice. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the primary certifying body for respiratory therapists.

Career Options for Respiratory Therapists

About 81% of respiratory therapists are employed by hospitals. They also work in cardiac diagnostic labs, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation clinics, nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and home health agencies.

With Respiratory Therapy training, you also qualify for these job titles:

  • Critical care specialist
  • Pulmonary function technologist

Respiratory Therapy is a good fit if:

  • You work well under pressure. 
  • You are passionate about learning technology and medical tools.
  • You don’t mind studying science courses.

Respiratory Therapy is NOT a good fit if:

  • You don’t want to apply for certifications.
  • You are passive about educating others. This role requires you to educate patients and families about lung diseases and breathing disorders.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation basics and advanced aren’t of interest to you.

Final Word

Both Radiation Therapy and Respiratory Therapy are great career pathways to pursue. It’s a matter of choosing which one that will match your skills and knowledge.

Respiratory and Radiation Therapies share common grounds, providing healthcare and medical assistance to patients. They are similar to Radiography and Sonography professionals who operate medical equipment or machines for purposes of diagnosis and treatment.