Radiation Therapy Certification and Certificate Program Information

Typically supervised by a radiation oncologist, radiation therapists use radiation therapy to assist in the treatment of cancer. Radiation therapist programs are offered through certificate programs and as associate degree programs in many community colleges and vocational schools.

Essential Information

Radiation therapy programs utilize a combination of traditional lecture-style courses and hands-on clinical experiences in order to prepare students for careers as radiation therapists. Widely available at community colleges, two-year associate's programs can prepare students for entry-level certification. While an associate's degree program will be supplemented with general education courses, another option is to pursue a year long radiation therapy certitificate after earning a degree in radiological imaging or radiograpy.

  • Program Levels in Radiation Therapy: Certificate programs. Associate's Degree.
  • Prerequisites (Certificate Programs): Graduate of a radiologic technology program or radiologic technologist registered with the ARRT. Supervised operation in a radiology department.
  • Prerequisites (Associate's Degree): Completion of all general education requirements. Personal interview. Visit to a hospital's radiation department.
  • Other Requirements: Coursework in algebra, psychology, anatomy, and radiation physics is strongly recommended.

Radiation Therapy Certificate

Radiation therapy certificate programs are most commonly designed for diagnostic radiographers looking for more specialized training. Completion of a radiation therapy certificate program, combined with a radiographic sciences degree program, prepares graduates for radiation therapy certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Students in the programs not only learn about radiation therapy procedures, but study the scientific theories underlying them. These programs emphasize the importance of maintaining accurate patient records, providing emotional support to families, using calculations to determine radiation dosage and utilizing technologically-advanced equipment to deliver radiation treatment.

Radiation therapy certificate programs combine extensive clinical experience with classroom instruction. Common coursework includes:

  • Introductory radiation therapy
  • Dosimetry
  • Patient care practices
  • Treatment planning
  • Pathology
  • Radiation physics

Associate of Science in Radiation Therapy

An associate degree program in radiation therapy prepares students for certification through the AART. Graduates are prepared to treat cancer patients under the supervision of a radiation oncologist, as well as equipped to maintain accurate patient records, determine radiation dosage through mathematical calculations and use technologically advanced equipment to deliver radiation treatment. They will also be able to observe and assess a patient's clinical progress and detect equipment malfunctions or radiation hazards.

Radiation therapy programs place a strong emphasis on emotional support for cancer patients and their families. Common coursework as part of a radiation therapy associate degree program also covers:

  • Treatment planning
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Radiation protection

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Radiation therapists work in settings such as cancer centers and hospitals. The job market for radiation therapists is expected to increase by 24% from 2012 through 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the average annual earnings of radiation therapists was $83,710 in May 2014.

Continuing Education Information

Although certificate or associate degree programs prepare students for certification through the AART, some employers may require a bachelor's degree. Students interested in additional education and academic credentials can pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in radiation therapy. Advanced education can also prepare radiation therapists for additional career opportunities in areas such as teaching, administration and medical physics.

In addition to completing an accredited radiation therapy program, candidates seeking certification by AART must also meet the organization's ethical standards and pass an examination. Certification must be renewed annually, and fulfillment of continuing education credits is required every two years. Additionally, radiation therapists must continue to comply with ARRT's ethical standards and agree to abide by its rules and regulations.

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