Radiation Therapy Major: Information and Requirements

Radiation therapists treat cancer in patients by administering radiation to cancer cells. While some employers will accept applicants with an associate's degree, others prefer to hire therapists with bachelor's degrees in radiation therapy.

Essential Information

Many states require that radiation therapists be licensed, usually through certification from a professional association. This requires completing an approved training program and passing a competency exam. Through a radiation therapy major, students learn about treatment methods for cancer patients using x-rays and other technology. Students learn to calculate doses and operate equipment in a safe manner. They typically gain hands-on experience with the machinery used in radiation therapy through an internship in a healthcare facility. This major involves a strong understanding of science, mathematics and psychology. Students are trained to work directly with patients, which includes learning to evaluate a treatment plan's success, and to communicate effectively with patients and medical staff.

Radiation Therapy Programs

To be admitted, students must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. While pursuing a radiation therapy major, students take courses covering the theories of the field and the technology that is employed. Students take a combination of lecture and experience-based courses, such as these:

  • Radiation oncology
  • Basic dosimetry
  • Quality assurance
  • Ethical issues in radiation therapy
  • Radiation physics
  • Sectional anatomy

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 16,600 radiation therapists were employed in 2014 (BLS, www.bls.gov). The vast majority work in hospitals, while others work in physicians' offices, medical laboratories or outpatient care centers.

From 2014-2024, employment was expected to grow rapidly and increase by about 2,300 jobs. Growth was expected as a result of the aging of the general population, which results in more patients in need of treatment. In addition, the increasing safety and efficacy of radiation therapy has caused it to be used more widely. In May 2015, radiation therapists had median annual wages of $80,220.

Continuing Education Information

Licensure is required for radiation therapists in many states. In addition, certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is often required by law and preferred by employers. Certification requires completion of an approved radiation therapy program and passing an exam covering many aspects of radiation therapy, including quality assurance and treatment options. ARRT certification must be renewed annually, and recertification commonly involves continuing education in the form of additional coursework in the field.

Students interested in radiation therapy can complete a training program that educates students in treatment of cancer patient through x-ray and technology. The program gives students a chance for hands-on experiences to prepare for a career in the field.

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