What Education Is Required For a Radiation Therapist?

Radiation therapists are part of a team that specializes in the administration of radiation to cancer patients. They are trained to set up and operate a machine called linear accelerator.

Their therapeutic equipment is used to deliver radiation in the correct dose and precise cancer site, with the objective of shrinking it.

But they are more than button-pushers. This career requires patient care responsibilities and an extensive education about radiation and its impact.

Well look at radiation therapist education requirements in the United States, training and credentials in this article. First, lets look at what a radiation therapist does.

Prerequisites first!

Before you can start with the formal training program, the following will be required:

  • A high school diploma or its equivalent
  • 2 years of math and laboratory science
  • Pass a drug test
  • Prepare your immunization record
  • No criminal record; pass background check
  • Certification that you have undergone cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training
  • Complete the radiation therapy program

Radiation therapy degrees

There are more than a hundred radiation therapy programs accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

Colleges offer these programs in various ways and levels of study. The following are the levels of study that can possibly be offered in your area.

Associate’s degree programs take 2 years to complete if the student studies full-time. Bachelor’s degree programs take from 32 months to 4 years to complete.

Most associate degree programs admit high school graduates who have completed prerequisite courses in composition, anatomy and physiology, general mathematics, and computer literacy. The whole curriculum has 75-85 credit or semester hours, which is spread through 3-4 semester terms per year.

Freshman year consists of general education courses. The succeeding years are focused on radiation therapy coursework, internship and clinical instruction, and electives.

In general, the programs contain coursework in human anatomy, physiology, biology, microbiology, physics, algebra, pre-calculus, ethical and legal issues, computer science, research, public speaking, and writing.

Students will also have significant hours of clinical education to allow them to experience the actual work environment.

Certification after x-ray school

If you have an associate’s degree in radiography and want to become a radiation therapist, it takes about 1 year to go through an American Registry of Radiologic Technologists-accredited radiation therapy certificate program.

This program is open for those who have completed a degree in medical imaging such as radiologic technology and wish to specialize in a career in radiation therapy.

Prepare for certification by the ARRT

ARRT certification is required by some states prior to issuance of a license.

Take note that a graduate cannot become eligible for certification if the program completed was not accredited by ARRT.

The requirements for getting certified as a radiation therapist have undergone several changes in the recent years.

Those who have completed a radiation therapy educational program as of December 31, 2012 must undertake ARRT certification within 5 years from program completion.

However, graduates of radiation therapy educational programs effective January 1, 2013, have only 3 years to comply with the eligibility requirements for the ARRT certification.

Beginning January 1, 2014, a new set of competency requirements will be adopted by the ARRT and this will be integrated in the Radiation Therapy Didactic and Clinical Competency Requirements which the graduate must meet.

These are the minimum professional requirements set for the ARRT certification candidates.

A candidate has 3 chances or attempts to pass the certification exam.

These 3 attempts must be completed within the 3-year period that a graduate must become eligible and certified.

The designation of Registered Technologist (RT) is conferred to a certified radiation therapist. This credential must be renewed every 2 years.

Obtain a license

Thirty three states require radiation therapists to obtain a license before they can start working.

The exact requirements may vary from state to state, but most licensing boards require the ARRT certification.

Employers, too, feel more assured of the radiation therapists’ didactic and clinical competence with the ARRT certification.

So even in states where the certification may not be required, it will still be an advantage.

Develop basic skills

Assess your spelling, grammar, overall writing and verbal skills. If those areas need improvement, enroll in short online courses or ask a capable person to tutor you.

Brush up on typing skills and be familiar with word processors, spreadsheets, emailing, and researching medical databases and the Internet. These skills will come handy when you do reports, communicate, and interact with the medical team and patients.

Continue learning and updating

Earning continuing education units is necessary for certification renewal. It is also essential in the profession to ensure that the radiation therapist is competent in delivering the treatment and observing safety protocols, and apprised of the latest regulations, trends, and innovations.

Observe the ethical standards of the profession

The radiation therapy profession is very strict in the observance of the ARRT Rules of Ethics.

It requires the highest character from all RT candidates. In fact, it is advised that prior to enrolling to any radiation therapy program, it is a wise decision to predetermine your eligibility.

Your background must not be tarnished with felony or misdemeanor, criminal acts, and other forms of conduct inconsistent with the ARRT code of ethics.

Career prospects for radiation therapists

In 2010, there were 16,900 professionals working in the field of radiation therapy.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this number is predicted to increase at an estimated rate of 20 percent in 2020.

The mean annual wage in May 2012 for this occupational group was recorded at $80,410.

Is radiation therapy a good career choice for you?

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases afflicting mankind globally.

In the US, it remains as the second leading cause of death, second only to heart disease.

Approximately fifty percent of all patients diagnosed with cancer undergo radiation therapy as a form of curative or palliative treatment.

Radiation therapy is responsible for depriving cancer cells of their potential to divide and spread to other organs.

The therapy has contributed to increased survival, relief from cancer symptoms, and decrease in cancer treatment side effects.

With these current statistics and projections, the field of radiation therapy definitely has room for you to work on a solid education and develop the other requisites.

I hope this article has helped you with radiation therapist education requirements.