Radiation Therapy Certification and Certificate Program Information
Learn about certificate and degree programs in radiation therapy. Get details about educational prerequisites and common coursework, and find out how to get certified in this field.
Typically supervised by a radiation oncologist, radiation therapists use radiation therapy to assist in the treatment of cancer. Associate's programs in this field are widely available at community colleges and vocational schools, and they can prepare students for entry-level certification. Another way to become a certified radiation therapist is to pursue a radiation therapy certificate after earning a degree in radiological imaging or radiography. These programs are designed for professional diagnostic radiographers.
Both certificate and associate's programs in radiation therapy include traditional lecture-style courses and hands-on clinical experiences. Beyond core radiation therapy coursework, associate's programs also include general education classes.
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. Typically one year in length, 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.
Prior to beginning most radiation therapy certificate programs, students must have graduated from a radiologic technology program or be a radiologic technologist registered with the ARRT. Prior college credits in subjects such as algebra, psychology, anatomy and radiation physics are often recommended. Supervised observation in a radiation therapy department is also required in many cases.
Radiation therapy certificate programs combine extensive clinical experience with classroom instruction. Common coursework includes:
- Introductory radiation therapy
- Patient care practices
- Treatment planning
- 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.
Many schools require students complete all of their general education requirements before entering the radiation therapy program. Some schools also require students complete a personal interview and a hospital visit to a radiation therapy department before admission. Additional admission requirements may include courses in areas such as anatomy and computer applications.
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
- Radiation protection
- Radiation biology
- Medical imaging
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Radiation therapists work in settings such as cancer centers and hospitals. The job market for radiation therapists was expected to increase by 20% from 2010 through 2020, 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 $80,410 in May 2012.
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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