CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a radiation therapist.
Is becoming a radiation therapist right for me?
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Applicants to radiation therapy certificate or degree programs must hold a high school diploma or equivalent with two years of math and two years of lab science classes.
High school students interested in pursuing a career in radiation therapy should take courses in anatomy, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. In addition to learning the material in these subject areas, students will become comfortable managing a significant course load. Paying attention to debate, drama, speech, and English classes will sharpen communication skills and further prepare students to work in the field.
During secondary school, aspiring radiation therapists should consider volunteering in a hospital or other healthcare setting to find out if they are comfortable working with seriously ill patients.
Preparation & Prerequisites
Before practising radiation therapy, entrants to the field must submit to a drug screening and criminal background check, and show proof of current immunizations. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is also required. Some schools may also request letters of recommendation.
Degree (recommended) or Certificate
Radiation therapy students may choose between certificate, Associate’s degree, and Bachelor’s degree programs. The longer the program the higher the level of study. Generally, certificate programs last a year, while Associate’s and Bachelor’s programs are two and four years long, respectively. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) issues a list of ARRT-recognized educational programs.
In addition to coursework and lab studies, students complete clinical rotations in affiliated medical settings.
While completing their radiation therapy education, prospective therapists are encouraged to secure employment or a voluntary position related to the field, which will add to their knowledge base and skill set.
Certification & Licensure
In many jurisdictions where radiation therapists must be licensed, licensure is based on passing the certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Before applying to sit for the exam, graduates should familiarize themselves with the ARRT’s Equation for Excellence, a three-part test that determines eligibility. The equation’s components are education (via an accredited program), ethics (adherence to professional standards), and examination (application process and fee). The Registry’s exam has a written component and a practical skills component. It tests knowledge of clinical concepts, radiation protection, treatment planning and delivery, and patient care and education.
To be eligible for certification / license renewal, radiation therapists must participate in continuing education offered by professional associations, such as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (www.arrt.org).
How to become a Radiation Therapist
Prospective radiation therapists wishing to practise in the U.S must complete postsecondary education in the field of radiation therapy or radiography at an accredited institution and satisfy the Radiation Therapy Didactic and Clinical Competency Requirements set forth by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). As a four-year university program typically fulfils these requirements, many students choose to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. Accredited Associate’s degree programs are also offered by some universities as well as by several community and technical colleges. Job candidates may qualify for some positions by completing a twelve-month certificate program.
Radiation therapy programs include coursework in RT procedures and the scientific theories behind them. They commonly include experiences in clinical settings and classes in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, pre-calculus, computer science, research methodology, and public speaking.
In most states, radiation therapists must be licensed. Requirements vary by state, but typically include graduation from an accredited program and certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Even in jurisdictions which do not require licensing, employers may seek out candidates who have passed the ARRT examination and earned certification.