Radiation Therapy Technician Education Requirements

Aug 14, 2019

Radiation therapy technicians operate machines that administer radiation to patients suffering from cancer or other diseases, targeting tumors in order to halt their growth. Find out more about what radiation therapy technologists do, what education is required, and salary and career info by reading on.

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Radiation Therapy Technologist Education Requirements

To find work as a radiation therapy technologist or technician and treat patients through radiation, one generally needs an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. Certificate programs in radiation therapy are sometimes also an option. Both associate's and bachelor's programs will combine general education with dedicated study towards the major subject area, with programs that may be completed in 2 and 4 years, respectively. Certificate programs are often additive, and may require that an associate's degree in another area, such as radiologic technology, is already held. Radiation therapy degree programs are likely to include courses such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Essentials of patient care
  • Dosimetry
  • Radiology
  • Clinical radiation oncology

Internship and/or practicum experiences are common among programs, regardless of degree level, for the purposes of providing on-the-job education and training. Online programs in radiation therapy are also available, but will likely still require hands-on experiences at affiliated clinics nearby. Many radiation therapy programs are designed so that students receive certification after completion.

Radiation Therapy Technologist Certification and Licensure

Certification for radiation therapy technologists is done primarily through the American Registry for Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In order to be certified by the ARRT as a registered technologist in radiation therapy RT(T), an individual must hold an associate's degree or higher in the relevant field, meet the organization's ethical requirements, and pass a certification exam. After obtaining the certification, one must maintain membership with ARRT annually, meet continuing education requirements biannually, and complete what are called 'continuing qualifications' every 10 years, to ensure that all certified technologists are up to date with advances in medical technology.

In most states, licensure is required to operate radiological equipment, including that which radiation therapy technicians use. Some states make use of ARRT's certification exams for licensing purposes, while others have their own unique testing methods. Applicants for licensure must also meet eligibility requirements, which may vary from state to state. Maintaining certification may be required to stay licensed in some states. Be sure to check the laws in your state to ensure you can meet eligibility before beginning any educational programs.

What Are the Duties and Skills of a Radiation Therapy Technologist?

Radiation therapy technologists, also called radiation therapy technicians or just radiation therapists, are allied health professionals who work in medical and clinical settings such as hospitals, administering radiation treatments to patients in highly targeted ways. They work closely with doctors, such as oncologists, as well as nurses, and may occasionally interact with medical equipment technicians, who help to ensure their machines are operating as expected. Radiation therapists also frequently see and interact with patients, primarily while performing dosing procedures.

Radiation therapy technologists need to possess some skill with technology, as they use complex and expensive machines, such as linear accelerators, in their work. They must also be able to move and lift patients, including patients with disabilities who may not be able to move themselves, throughout the process. The most important thing for radiation therapy technologists to be aware of is safety, as accidental exposure to radiation can be extremely dangerous. Radiation therapists may deliver doses of radiation numerous times a day, and should also be aware of the dangers of cumulative exposure to low doses of radiation over the course of a career.

Radiation Therapy Technologist Salary and Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), radiation therapists had a median annual salary of $82,330 as of May 2018. The field of radiation therapy offers strong career prospects, with the BLS predicting 13% growth over the 10 year period from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the national average. The need for radiation therapy technologists is primarily driven by the increasing elderly population and technological advancements in the detection and treatment of cancer.

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