Radiation Therapist Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a radiation therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Radiation therapists work in hospitals, laboratories, cancer treatment centers and doctor's offices. If you're thinking about a career in this field, you will need to complete a degree program, in which you will study subjects like anatomy, medical terminology, radiation therapy physics, dose calculations and radiation protection.

Essential Information

Radiation therapists treat cancer patients using focused radiation therapies. They must also maintain safety, keep accurate patient records and work closely with patients to provide support and answer questions. A radiation therapy associate's degree or bachelor's degree is typically required to work as a radiation therapist. In addition to courses in anatomy and radiation therapy physics, students gain hands-on training working with patients. These professionals usually need state licensure as well, which requires earning certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy
Other Requirements State licensure and ARRT certification; requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14%
Median Salary (2015)* $80,220 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Radiation Therapist Education Requirements

Employers generally prefer radiation therapists with an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. A bachelor's or associate's degree in radiography can also lead to a radiation therapist job if that person goes on to complete a radiation therapy certificate program in addition to their degree. Radiation therapy programs prepare graduates to maintain and operate radiological equipment, as well as treat and assess cancer patients.

Potential courses in these degree programs include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, radiation therapy physics, principles of oncology, radiologic patient care, dose calculations, radiation biology, radiation protection and dosimetry. Students also commonly receive hands-on experience working at an internship with a hospital radiation therapy department, where they are equipped with patient psychology, patient care, emergency procedures and oncology skills. Certification is gained through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification exam, which covers treatment planning, radiation protection, dosimetry calculations and more.

Career Information

Working with radiologists and oncologists, radiation therapists treat cancer patients using linear accelerators to target cancer cells with high-energy x-rays. Radiation therapists must also work with patients to explain treatment plans and answer any questions, which can be an emotional task at times. They also maintain detailed records of treatments, including radiation dosages, treatment areas and patient reactions.

Radiation therapists are employed primarily in hospitals. Additional employment settings may include medical and diagnostic laboratories, doctor's offices and cancer treatment centers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that between 2014 and 2024, employment for radiation therapists is expected to increase by 14%, which is much faster than average (www.bls.gov). Median annual earnings in May 2015 were $80,220, according to the BLS.

Radiation therapists treat cancer patients with radiation therapy and maintain patient records, while answering patient questions and giving information about treatments. They need to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree, through which they will gain hands-on experience. State licensure and certification are also necessary.

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