Radiation Therapy Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Radiation therapy is used in the treatment of disease, most commonly cancer. The radiation therapist may use x-rays, gamma rays or charged particles beamed at the cancerous cells, or the injection of radioisotopes internally near the cancerous tumor.

How to Select a Radiation Therapy School

Determining what level of credential is desired is the first step to choosing a radiation therapy program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a certificate in the field is the minimum educational level that must be attained for a career in the field; however, earning an associate's or bachelor's degree is often desired by employers. State licensing requirements are common but vary among states. Qualified students from accredited programs may sit for professional American Registry of Radiologic Technologists exam (www.bls.gov).

Some degree programs may have a two-step acceptance process; students must first apply to the school and complete certain prerequisite classes, and then make a formal application to the radiation therapy program. Other schools require that students hold relevant field certification like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or certified nurse assistant (CNA) certification prior to enrollment. Limited space is common, and typically it means that programs are competitive.

Some schools carry professional accreditation. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offer accreditation. These approvals ensure that curricula are in line with licensing standards and with the training and qualifications usually required by employers.

Program Overviews

Certificate in Radiation Therapy

Certificate in Radiation Therapy programs prepare students for radiation therapist careers, including for national certification. The program typically takes a little more than a year and may be intended for diagnostic radiographers who want to specialize.

Prerequisite coursework may include require radiation protection, radiation physics, psychology, anatomy and physiology. Other programs require applicants to be an AART-registered radiologic technologist or a registered nurse (RN). Courses generally focus on all aspects of radiation therapy in theory and practice, radiation oncology, ethics and patient care. Students may need to complete an observation requirement. Distance learning may be possible.

Associate's Degree in Radiation Therapy

In addition to preparing for the ARRT exam and certification, associate's degree students study general education curricula. Programs may also offer more clinical experience practicing radiation therapy than a certificate program. Classes generally include psychosocial patient care, sectional anatomy, dosimetry, advanced treatment techniques and treatment planning.

Bachelor's Degree in Radiation Therapy

Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy programs may require two years' worth of general education requirements in the liberal arts, such as English, philosophy, mathematics and history, although some schools will consider these as transfer credits. Application to the program in a student's junior year may be required. Students study the health care system, medical terminology, biology and physics before progressing on to radiation therapy-specific courses in years three and four. Coursework typically includes radiation oncology, patient care, dosimetry and professional development.

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