How to Become a Radiation Planning Therapist

Learn how to become a radiation planning therapist. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in radiation therapy. View article »

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  • 0:02 Radiation Planning Therapist
  • 0:35 Career Requirements
  • 1:27 Step 1: Complete a…
  • 2:30 Step 2: Obtain Licensure
  • 3:23 Step 3: Gain Work Experience
  • 3:56 Step 4: Maintain Certification

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Video Transcript

Radiation Planning Therapist

So, you think you might like to become a radiation planning therapist? As part of an oncology team, radiation therapists operate equipment that provides radiation treatments to cancer patients in treatment centers and similar healthcare facilities. They're responsible for answering patient questions and explaining treatment plans, carefully monitoring patients during treatment, keeping records, and ensuring that the machines are working properly. Safety procedures must be followed to ensure the therapist's safety when working around radiation.

Career Requirements

So, what are the career requirements?

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's degree
Degree Field Radiation therapy
Licensure and Certification Most states require licensure
Experience Most employers prefer someone with previous experience
Key Skills Strong interpersonal skills; stamina; attention to detail; science and math skills; critical thinking; active listening skills; familiarity with image processing software and medical software, electronic medical record software, and radiation dose calculation software; comfortable using large technological equipment; CPR and Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification
Salary $80,220 (median salary for radiation therapists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job postings by employers (September 2012), O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Complete a Degree Program

Certificate programs in radiation therapy are available and take about a year to complete. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that many employers prefer applicants who possess either an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. Coursework for degree programs includes radiation physics, fundamentals of radiation therapy, radiation oncology, treatment planning, and sectional anatomy. Clinical rotations and internships are also important components of these programs. Students work under the direct supervision of an experienced professional and gain experience in a clinical facility.

Success Tip

Develop strong people and communication skills. Because radiation planning therapists work closely with patients, the ability to be friendly and compassionate is highly regarded. Students may want to take advantage of clinical experiences and internships to develop interpersonal and communication skills that are needed to succeed in this profession.

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Step 2: Obtain Licensure and Certification

Most states require that radiation planning therapists obtain licensure and become a Registered Technologist (R.T.). While requirements vary by state, the typical path to obtaining a state license involves graduating from an accredited program and being certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

ARRT certification is a multi-step process. To meet the educational requirement, students must demonstrate competency in clinical procedures and didactic coursework. They must comply with the ethical standards outlined by the ARRT. Also, they must pass an exam that covers topics such as radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Many employers prefer candidates with previous radiation therapy experience. Students may want to take advantage of clinical training and instruction to develop skills valued by many employers. Radiation therapists may seek advancement opportunities in research, technical sales, or teaching. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for radiation therapists is expected to increase by 20% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average of all other jobs.

Step 4: Maintain Certification

AART certification must be renewed every two years by completing continuing education requirements. This can be accomplished by either earning 24 continuing education credits or passing a preliminary or post-primary exam in a new discipline they have not tested for previously.

Earn a degree, get licensed, gain work experience, and maintain certification are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as a radiation planning therapist.

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