Find Your Perfect School
Did you know that the discovery of X-rays led to the development of radiation therapy to treat cancer? By 1896, the year after Wilhelm Conrad Rцntgen discovered X-rays, Emil Herman Grubbe used them to treat breast cancer!
From the 1970s until the 1980s, radiation therapy made significant improvements, including proton beam accelerators. Nowadays, more sophisticated equipment and protocols are used in radiation therapy, particularly in eliminating metastatic tumors. Such is its effectiveness that more than 50% of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment.
And this emphasizes the importance of radiation therapists in our contemporary society and beyond! Radiation therapists are the healthcare professionals who perform the tasks associated with radiation therapy, from patient preparation to equipment operation. Even doctors and nurses don’t have the skillsets for this type of specialized work.
What’s radiation therapy in the first place? This type of cancer treatment directs high-energy beams from specialized equipment to a precise part of the body. Since the high-energy beams destroy healthy and cancerous cells, radiation therapists seek to affect the least number of normal cells. The healthy cells can also repair most of the damage done.
As of 2016, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) recognized about 110 accredited programs in radiation therapy. The ten programs featured here are recognized by ARRT and accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). The latter is responsible for the accreditation of programs in radiation therapy and magnetic resonance, medical dosimetry, and radiography.
The colleges and universities with JRCERT accreditation also possess regional accreditation, particularly by an organization that the Council for Higher Education Accreditation approves, such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The importance of regional accreditation cannot be overemphasized! Students must be enrolled in regionally accredited institutions to access federal financial aid (FAFSA). Colleges and universities only accept credits for transfer from regionally accredited institutions.
Aside from regional and programmatic accreditation, the featured schools were also selected based on the following criteria:
- The program must either be 100% online or hybrid, a combination of online coursework and face-to-face externships/practicum. The majority of the featured programs are in hybrid form since radiation therapy education requires clinical training in the practical aspects of the job. The clinical training usually includes patient care and monitoring, operation of the radiation equipment, and working with others.
Most programs also have partnerships with healthcare facilities for the practicum aspect. Some allow their students to find community-based internship opportunities.
- The school must have a satisfactory track record for academic excellence and learning outcomes. Indeed, the featured colleges and universities are among the most well-known for their success in training future healthcare professionals. Their experience in online education also spans several years, if not decades, an indication of their commitment to academic excellence.
- The program has high program retention, a credentialing examination, and job placement rates, typically higher than the benchmark set by the JRCERT. These rates are an important consideration since students look forward to viable employment as registered radiation therapists.
- The faculty members must possess the appropriate credentials, including education and training in radiation therapy and related fields. Many of the schools have a dedicated page where the faculty members and their credentials are featured.
- The admissions process is easy, but the competitive application process means that the student body consists of motivated individuals. While online learning means studying at your own pace, many of these programs have small class sizes that expect students to keep up with the coursework.
- The class schedules may be synchronous or asynchronous, but these are characterized by the flexibility and convenience of online learning. Many students in these programs, after all, are working professionals who must balance their personal and professional responsibilities.
- The online learning environment must be conducive to learning in all aspects, from the platform used to the faculty members’ approach. The learning platform must be user-friendly with easy navigation controls that even non-techie students can use well, and it must enable effective interactions and discussions. Be sure to check that the technical specifications of the learning platform match yours at home, even on your mobile device.
- The program must provide satisfactory student support services that contribute to an effective and efficient learning experience. These can include technical support, access to a virtual library and professional software, and career services. Many programs even offer online lectures conducted by experts and thought leaders for student enhancement.
THE BEST ONLINE RADIATION THERAPIST SCHOOLS
The Ohio State University
: 453 W. 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210
Ohio State’s BS in Radiologic Sciences is a completion degree program offered by its Division of Radiologic Sciences. Known for its innovative approaches in radiologic sciences education, the Division designed the program as a training ground for leaders. Students prepare through intensive training to become managers or administrators in medical imaging and radiologic sciences.
Applicants must comply with the following requirements to be considered for admission:
- Must have an associate of science (AS) degree in radiologic sciences or a related field
- Completed general education courses and other prerequisite courses
- With at least a 2.5 GPA on the AS degree
- Must have a certification and active registry in radiation therapy, sonography, nuclear medicine technology, or radiography from the ARRT, the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)
- Possesses good oral and written communication skills
- Submit three letters of recommendation
- Must have a computer that meets technological requirements, including stable Internet access
Ohio State being a Public Ivy means that it has a selective admission process and, thus, compliance with the abovementioned requirements isn’t a guarantee for admission. While each class varies based on the projected clinical slots, the common class size is just ten students. Applicants will be evaluated based on other measures of performance.
Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in two years or less, with full-time study being highly recommended. Credentialed faculty members lead every class with comprehensive experience in radiologic sciences. While this is a fully online program, students and faculty members are encouraged to maintain professional interactions whenever necessary.
The program balances two aspects of a leadership career in radiologic sciences. First, students increase their knowledge of radiologic sciences through more advanced studies. Second, they improve their business-related skills through management-centric coursework, including human resources and quality management in healthcare settings. The professional growth that comes with a bachelor’s degree also opens up more leadership positions that aren’t typically available for AS degree holders.
As a graduation requirement, students must submit a capstone project that demonstrates their newfound skillset. Students are encouraged to identify solutions to their respective workplace’s issues, such as improving process quality.
After graduation, students may sit for the Certified Radiology Administrator (CRA) certification exam. The CRA credential is an edge when applying for management positions since it proves your advanced knowledge and skill in imaging management.
While an Ohio State education comes at a cost, its tuition and fees are reasonable considering the exceptional quality of instruction and employment opportunities. The tuition will depend on your status as a resident or non-resident of Ohio; residents enjoy lower tuition costs than non-residents.
Scholarships may be available for online students to defray the cost of education. Students can check out the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) scholarships, including the Elekta Radiation Therapy Scholarship ($4,000) and the Royce Osborn Minority Student Scholarship ($4,000).
University of Oklahoma
: 2004 Randolph Ave. St. Paul, MN 55105
The College of Allied Health offers the web-based BS in Radiation Sciences is a fully online degree completion program. Preferred applicants have clinical experience and credentials in radiation therapy, nuclear medicine, sonography, or radiography. Working adults enrolled on a full-time basis in the program can earn the baccalaureate degree in 18 months.
This is a 61-credit hour program that awards up to 30 credit hours to students with a national entry credential and work experience in radiation science. Of the 30 credit hours, 28 credit hours will be provided by the University via the Internet, but three credit hours of electives must be completed. The latter can be earned at any regionally accredited school and in advanced imaging or management/administration.
Every semester has a specific curriculum sequence, with the 18-month program designed to start during the fall semester. However, students enrolled in the spring semester may be unable to earn the degree within the recommended 18-month duration. Part-time students with a lighter course load can complete the program in 24 months, at least.
Working professionals also find online classes convenient since they allow for self-paced study and customized graduation timelines. Students, nonetheless, are well-advised to coordinate with their academic advisors to determine the best program of study. While students can get the degree in five years, it’s an uncommon timeframe.
Applicants must meet the admissions criteria to be considered eligible for admission but aren’t guaranteed admission:
- With current and active credentials as a certified radiation therapist, registered diagnostic medical sonographer, registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer, certified nuclear medicine technologist, or registered vascular technologist
- With a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA for all college coursework; reprieve policies and academic forgiveness aren’t recognized
- One year of work experience, minimum, or five years of work experience in radiation science
- Completed at least 60 credit hours in an associate degree program, including general education requirements
Due to the selective nature of the program, applicants will be evaluated based on other aspects that may affect their academic performance. Once enrolled, students are expected to contribute to the university community and the profession, particularly in enhancing patient care.
The program is designed to provide higher education to radiation sciences professionals and, thus, contribute to their career advancement. Students learn advanced skills to become competent and compassionate professionals capable of effective leadership in the radiation sciences. The faculty members also encourage students to make active contributions to the academic process, including scholarly work.
The cost of college is a perennial concern even for students in a public research university. At UO, fortunately, the tuition per credit hour is reasonable, and both in-state and out-of-state students pay in-state tuition.
Online students also pay for lab fees, insurance, and incidentals and shoulder the costs for their personal computer and Internet access. Costs related to clinical requirements are also the student’s responsibility.
Texas State University
: Round Rock, TX 78665-8017
The BS in Radiation Therapy program is offered by the College of Health Professions at Texas State University’s Round Rock Campus. This was the first in the Lone Star State, with the first-class graduating in 2000. The program has evolved through the years to reflect the changes in radiation science education.
Accredited by the JRCERT, the program is designed according to the American Society of Radiologic Technology (ASRT) Radiation Therapy Professional Curriculum standards. This is characterized by the combination of academic coursework and clinical experiences that, in turn, prepare students for real-life scenarios in radiation therapy. Students learn the best possible way through content-heavy, structured academic coursework.
The progressive program combines several learning methods, thus, its hybrid designation. These methods include online education, face-to-face lectures, and simulation labs, including computer lab practice. Students learn professional skills through active engagement in various workstations and software systems, from treatment planning to coding, billing, and record-keeping.
Texas State also uses VERTTM in teaching students about practical skills involved in the operation of radiation therapy-related equipment. Students aren’t exposed to radiation during VERTTM training but benefit from the visual quality of the flight simulator used in operational training for linear accelerator treatment machines. The visuals include patient visualization involving CT structures and images, the same ones in real-world operations.
Students also participate in clinical rotations through widespread clinical affiliations established by Texas State. The affiliations include 26 cancer centers where students work under the supervision of clinical instructors. Here, students apply their academic lessons in a practical healthcare setting and develop their bedside manner. With their Dosimetry and Treatment Planning courses, students also apply their knowledge to develop external radiation treatments.
There’s a research component, too, delivered through a capstone course. Each student submits a manuscript crafted, reviewed, and analyzed according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists’ publication guidelines.
Every student is also provided with professional guidance in research strategies, from gathering data to critical peer review and final editing. The approved research papers are then presented during the Texas State Honors College Annual Undergraduate Research Conference.
Texas State being a public university means that its tuition costs are more affordable than most institutions. But students also have financial aid options, including federal aid and scholarships, both internal and external, like the Bobcat Online Scholarship System (BOSS). You will only complete one application form to be considered for several Texas State College and departmental scholarships.
Graduates may sit for the ARRT certification exam. But it isn’t just eligibility that makes a Texas State education so attractive – more importantly, it’s about getting a fighting chance at passing the exam with flying colors! Texas State has had a 97% average pass rate for the past five years, not to mention a 100% employment rate six months after graduation for its alumni.
Labouré College of Healthcare
: 303 Adams Street, Milton, MA 02186
(Hybrid) Associate in Radiation Therapy
Labouré College of Healthcare, a private, non-profit Catholic college, has an outstanding 129-year track record in producing the best healthcare professionals! Among them are radiation therapists who gained their world-class skillsets through the Associate in Radiation Therapy program offered by the Division of Radiation Therapy. Students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become effective entry-level radiation therapists and, in the future, become leaders.
The training combines academic discussions about radiation therapy, including its history, principles, and practices combined with clinical experiences. The outcome is for students to gain vital skillsets to deliver quality care in various healthcare settings and, thus, handle diverse patients and professionals. Students do so through general education and profession-specific coursework in the two-year program.
Among the skillsets learned to include:
- The competent ability to plan the personalized treatment of patients and set up the equipment for it
- The effective capacity to prepare patients for treatment, including positioning and immobilizing them
- The adeptness at adopting safety protocols for the protection of both patients and healthcare professionals during treatment
- The professional attitude during interactions with fellow students and instructors patients and other persons in healthcare settings. Good oral and verbal communication skills are also emphasized in problem-solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
This is a hybrid program and, thus, students take their arts and sciences courses online and in face-to-face classes. The professional courses, however, must be taken on a face-to-face basis. The hands-on clinical rotations, which are conducted in several healthcare facilities, are also face-to-face experiences.
Students become members of an oncology team that deals directly with treating cancer patients, many of whom are critically ill. Clinical exposure develops technical skills and interpersonal skills vital to job success, such as compassion. Students learn their bedside manners from the best radiation therapists, doctors, and nurses through these clinical exposures, too.
Applicants must submit for admission purposes these documents:
- Completed application and non-refundable application fee,
- High school diploma or its equivalent and official college transcripts, if any,
- Requirements specific to the program include a 1-page essay and links to two relevant YouTube videos; other requirements are completion of the Clinical Site Acknowledgement form and attendance in an information session
Keep in mind that Labouré College has corresponding private-level tuition and fees. For 2021-2022, the per-credit tuition is more than $600 for general education courses and $1,000 for professional courses. Other fees like matriculation and laboratory fees apply, while health insurance fees apply for students enrolled in at least nine credits for the semester.
Labouré offers scholarships, grants, work-study schemes, and low-interest student loans to defray the costs for students seeking financial aid.
Due to Labouré’s excellent track record in academic excellence, its graduates enjoy great value for the money through viable employment months after earning their degrees. The job placement rate for radiation therapists from Labouré is 100% 12 months after graduation. In comparison, JRCERT has a 75% job placement benchmark.
Thomas Jefferson University
: 901 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Thomas Jefferson University, an R2 private research university, offers its hybrid BS in Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences with a Radiation Therapy concentration through its College of Health Professions. The degree can also be earned as a dual concentration program wherein students enroll in radiation therapy during their sophomore year. While choosing the concentration during their freshman year is also possible, the second-year option is recommended more.
But there are no guarantees for enrollment even when you apply for the concentration. Be sure to consult with an admissions counselor and an academic advisor before applying for admission in your second year.
Students benefit from the comprehensive curriculum that emphasizes a balance between technical and interpersonal skills. The didactic component enables students to learn the principles and practices of radiation therapy and develop compassion and care for patients. The clinical experiences strengthen these skills through real-world exposures and hands-on practice as part of an oncology team.
The skills developed during the program include effective communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills on top of technical skills. The skills combination demonstrates TJU’s commitment to providing students with real-world education that contributes to their love for a lifetime of learning and professional development.
Students also benefit from the use of the VERT system during their training. The VERT system is a true-to-form replica of a linear accelerator used in real-world radiation therapy practice. Using it gives students hands-on experience in operating, controlling, and troubleshooting a linear accelerator without the risk of radiation exposure. Students learn patient positioning, 3D visualization of images, and treatment planning from beams to doses and duration.
The use of linear accelerators emitting ionizing radiation and CT scanners further strengthens the students’ technical skills. During clinical rotations, these are among the most commonly used types of equipment. The students’ early clinical experiences with these types of equipment contribute to their on-the-job success.
Graduates are more than prepared to pass the ARRT radiation therapy certification exam and receive their national certification. TJU’s credentialing examination rate over five years, from 2015 to 2019, is 92.3%, and it’s considered high by JRCERT’s 75% benchmark. The 85% program completion rate is also among the highest in the state. Yet another reason to consider TJU is its high 98.1% five-year average job placement rate.
The tuition and other fees depend on whether you’re a full-time or part-time student. Take note that TJU is a private school, and its tuition structure reflects it. Most students receive financial aid in varying amounts. Students should coordinate with the Office of Student Financial Aid regarding the best possible scholarships, grants, and other financial aid packages.
: 1700 SW College Ave. Topeka, KS 66621
(Hybrid) Radiation Therapy, Certificate
The Department of Allied Health’s School of Applied Studies offers a post-professional certificate program in radiation therapy. This is a 13-month program that results in registry eligibility under ARRT guidelines upon completion.
Applicants must possess the following qualifications to be considered for admission:
- Hold an associate degree (minimal) from an accredited radiologic technology program;
- Hold a registered radiation therapist designation
- Have a cumulative GPA of 2.5
- Completed the prerequisite coursework, including human physiology and anatomy, math, English, and radiation physics
Every applicant will be evaluated based on the abovementioned qualifications and other aspects. If you don’t meet one of these requirements, but you’re in the process of compliance, you may be considered for admission. However, you must meet all requirements for full acceptance before the program’s start date.
The program consists of 40 credits, with students earning it during the 13 months, starting either in late June or early July. The classes end the following year in July.
This is a hybrid program wherein students and instructors conduct academic lessons online and engage in clinical education face-to-face. The latter is done at radiation therapy centers identified by the university, and it’s an unpaid internship experience for students. Some didactic courses combine clinical exposure, too, usually in conjunction with a presentation, a report, or a project.
The didactic courses have weekly synchronous classes, including Monday virtual meetings (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST) where attendance is required. The clinical days and hours vary depending on the semester, and students must schedule accordingly. There’s also an on-campus orientation session that all students must attend; travel and incidental costs are the student’s responsibility.
Students, however, can maintain a good studies-life balance since classroom and clinical hours have a 40-hour per week limit. The 40-hour per week limit mimics the working hours of an employed radiation therapist.
The ultimate learning outcome is for its students to acquire the skillsets vital in providing the best patient care through competent technical skills and professional conduct. Students are then encouraged to complete the program, pass the national certification exam, and become competent registered radiation therapists.
Technical competence in Washburn standards includes accurate patient positioning for treatment delivery, effective evaluation of patient images, and coordination with the oncology team for proper treatment. Students also develop their interpersonal, communication, and critical thinking skills in preparation for a high-pressure environment.
Online students receive the best possible support to ensure their academic and clinical success. The Information Technology Services provides account-related general issues, including setting up the account and using Office 365. The Online Education Support answers the students’ questions about Desire2Learn and other modules. The academic support services include tutoring and a writing center as well as advising and counseling.
Washburn has the most affordable radiation therapy certificate program, too, under $400 per credit rate. Financial aid, including FAFSA and scholarships, brings down the cost even more.
Yes, a Washburn education is well worth the cost! The program’s annual completion rate is nearly 88%, while its credentialing examination rate is more than 95% over five years. Plus, its five-year average job placement rate is nearly 90%, and it’s way better than JRCERT’s 75% benchmark.
St. Catherine University
: 2004 Randolph Ave. St. Paul, MN 55105
The BS in Radiation Therapy degree completion program is offered at the School of Radiation Therapy of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health. Students gain technical competency in a wide range of treatment procedures, including external and internal beam radiation therapy and the proper techniques for equipment operation. The hybrid program combines didactic courses and clinical experiences as well as reflections for professional development.
The 12-month program involves earning 40 credits for a major and three start dates – fall, spring, and summer. Students meet during weekdays at the St. Paul campus for the professional courses. The conduct of other courses is done during evenings and weekends as well as through an online platform.
St. Catherine’s tuition is affordable considering its private Catholic university status. Students pay a little over $500 per credit, but most College for Adults students are the recipients of financial aid. The cost of a bachelor’s degree at St. Catherine is well worth it considering its high average five-year credentialing exam rate (89%) and job placement rate (88%).
Students must pick one of two tracks:
- The accelerated degree completion track for individuals with radiologic technologist certification and with either an associate or bachelor’s degree in the field; or
- The track for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field unrelated to radiation sciences or radiologic technology
However, applicants must complete the prerequisite non-major courses that they haven’t completed yet at the College for Adults. These courses are offered online for part-time students. After completion, students can start the 12-month program’s major courses in radiation therapy.
The courses include human anatomy and physiology, ethics, biomedical ethics, and statistical analysis. You must earn a C+ grade at least in each course and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 minimum.
The major courses that comprise the 40 credits include oncology principles, radiation therapy physics, dosimetry and treatment planning, and radiobiology. There are three courses in clinical practicum with a total of 10 credits. Students must also complete the writing requirements, including a course in Principles of Oncology II and Global Search for Justice.
The admission requirements reflect the competitive nature of the program. Applicants must: (For the accelerated completion degree track)
- Have earned an associate or a bachelor’s degree in radiation sciences or related field with a cumulative 2.7 GPA at least
- Have current and active ARRT certification and in good standing
- Have completed the prerequisite courses
- Possess personal traits necessary for academic and professional success, such as physical and mental stamina, emotional stability, and a strong sense of professional maturity and personal responsibility
Regardless of track, students must complete 1,180 hours of clinical experience in St. Catherine’s affiliated sites. The Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, Hennepin County Medical Center, and Park-Nicollet Frauenshuh Cancer Center are examples.
Educational advancement is possible at St. Catherine’s University after completion of the BS in Radiation Therapy program. The university offers outstanding healthcare-centric graduate programs like Master of Public Health and Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.
: 4939 Coconut Creek Parkway, Coconut Creek, Florida 33063
The hybrid nature of the two-year AS in Radiation Therapy program at Broward College results from prerequisite and general education courses being taken online whenever available. These are non-major courses without the RAT prefix.
All didactic courses, including lectures and laboratory courses, are conducted at the Coconut Creek campus. These are face-to-face, classroom-based courses. The clinical courses are conducted in healthcare facilities, including cancer centers in Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach. Travel time must be expected as students perform their clinical courses in up to four different facilities during the program’s entirety.
The combination of didactic courses and clinical rotations contributes to Broward’s stellar success in its radiation therapy program! The average five-year rates are the highest – 93.67% credentialing exam rate and 97.22% job placement rate. Indeed, Broward’s reputation for academic rigor works to its students’ advantage in the competitive job market.
Students develop pertinent skills in preparation for career success. The job-related skills include:
- Competent and compassionate patient care
- Maintenance of patient records and adherence to patient privacy laws
- Adoption of effective radiation safety techniques and treatment plans
- Identification and administration of radiation therapy in coordination with an oncology team
- Proper use of imaging equipment and related machinery
This is a limited-access program, so acceptance into Broward College isn’t synonymous with acceptance into the program. The specific criteria for program admission are at least a “C” in all prerequisite coursework and a 2.0 overall GPA.
Applicants can also accelerate their progress in the program through various means. These include credit by exam, prior learning assessment, and industry certifications evaluated before approval.
The major courses include radiation physics, radiation therapy, medical imaging, patient care, imaging anatomy, and radiation oncology. The coursework comprises 77 credit hours.
Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology
: 5669 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd. Atlanta, GA 30342
The AS in Radiation Therapy program at Cambridge takes two years of full-time study to complete. This is offered in both in-classroom and online delivery so students can earn the degree from their homes. The hybrid approach contributes to a more inclusive college experience since students enjoy face-to-face interactions, too.
While there are general education courses, the curriculum emphasizes the didactic courses and clinical experiences vital in a radiation therapy program. Students, after all, must learn all they can about the principles and practices of radiation therapy in two years! After completion, their intensive training has prepared them to pass the ARRT national certification exam, preferably after the first try, and succeed in the workplace.
The Atlanta-based hybrid program provides its students with convenient access to campus amenities, including libraries, computer labs, and covered parking. Students also have job placement services, where the college has established partnerships with local healthcare facilities. The career guidance services are complemented by the mentoring services where instructors leverage their experience in encouraging students toward life success.
Students also get useful hands-on learning opportunities through clinical externships in affiliated healthcare institutions, including cancer treatment centers. Here, their technology lessons and training in the classroom are strengthened with real-life experiences.
The didactic coursework includes healthcare-focused subjects including:
- Radiation therapy physics and equipment operation
- Treatment planning with an oncology team
- Anatomy and physiology
- Patient care
- Medical terminology
- Health Science
Students earn a minimum of 89 credits upon completion of the program. The retention rate is at 89%, meaning the majority of students complete the program.
Becoming a registered radiation therapist has its share of challenges because of the extensive coursework and clinical rotations. But the rewards of a well-paying, satisfying job make these challenges fade into the distance!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What’s the education and training necessary to become a Radiation Therapist?
Aspiring radiation therapists have three education options – a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Each option has its pros and cons, including cost, duration, and employment prospects, so it’s a good idea to consider them first. While a certificate may suffice for entry-level jobs, for example, it’s typically a better idea to earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree for career advancement.
Online certificate programs are usually post-professional programs where applicants already have education and training in an allied health profession. For example, X-ray technicians and radiological technicians are welcome to enroll in these programs for career advancement purposes. These programs can be completed between 12 and 18 months and include didactic classes and clinical rotations.
Online associates of science in radiation therapy programs require a longer time commitment, usually two years of full-time study. Students must earn 60 credit hours of didactic classwork and practicums in selected healthcare settings, such as hospitals and diagnostic clinics. Most, if not all, of these two-year programs allow graduates to transfer their credits earned toward a four-year bachelor’s degree through articulation agreements.
Graduates of accredited online associates of science in radiation therapy programs are eligible to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) national certification exam. Earning the radiologic technologist certification is required to secure a license from your state’s accrediting boards.
Online bachelor’s of science in radiation therapy programs have more stringent admission criteria due to the more advanced study requirements. Most are degree completion programs, too, where applicants must have an associate’s degree in radiation therapy and other related fields like radiologic technology and diagnostic medical sonography. Some programs welcome applicants with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated area of study, provided that the prerequisite coursework has been completed.
These four-year programs typically prefer applicants who are already certified and licensed radiation therapists, radiologic technologists, or nuclear medicine technologists. Such preference is understandable, considering that the typical curriculum has a heavy science and technology focus.
While each program has a specific curriculum, the common courses for radiation therapists include the following:
- Patient cover includes discussions on vital signs, infection control, emergency procedures, and basic pharmacology.
- Radiation physics, which covers radiation and its applications in the medical field.
- Oncology is about the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancers, including radiation therapy.
- Dosimetry and treatment planning are the heart of radiation therapy because they focus on planning patient-specific cancer treatment.
- Sectional anatomy is a more specialized course on human anatomy since students must understand the human body in a 3D context.
Other courses may include anatomy and physiology, medical imaging, and radiation safety protocols. Most, if not all, programs have a sequential curriculum since each course builds on the prior courses.
Master’s degree programs in radiation therapy are also available. These include a master’s in radiation therapy, radiologist assistant, radiologic sciences, and medical dosimetry. These graduate programs are intended for individuals interested in leadership positions and aspiring instructors in the field. The completion time is usually two years, but there are one-year accelerated programs.
Radiation therapists must be licensed (on top of securing the ARRT certification) in most parts of the US. The certification exam covers radiation oncology, including clinical concepts, treatment planning, delivery, quality assurance, and patient care and education. Employers may also require additional certification in basic life support and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
While education, certification, and licensure are vital aspects for radiation therapists, these are just half of the overall picture. Radiation therapists must also possess the following traits to succeed in their job:
- Attention to detail is a must since precision is a crucial part of the job. The exact amount and duration of radiation and the precise point of treatment must be determined and followed. Otherwise, the consequences can be life-threatening instead of life-saving.
- Interpersonal skills are also a must since radiation therapists work with oncology teams and patients. The ability to communicate with different people is vital, too. Making patients who are likely experiencing physical and emotional stress comfortable is appreciated.
- Physical stamina and emotional balance are also necessary among radiation therapists. Being on your feet, as well as lifting and moving patients, can take a toll on your body. In cancer wards, being in high-stress situations demands a sense of well-being to avoid being sucked under.
What’s next after becoming a radiation therapist? Perhaps you may want to consider becoming a medical dosimetrist, a healthcare professional who calculates the right radiation dose for cancer treatment! Other career advancement options, which require more years of study, are oncology nurses, medical physicists, and radiation oncologists.
What are the roles and responsibilities of Radiation Therapists?
The typical duties of radiation therapists in healthcare settings include:
- Work with the members of the oncology team in determining a patient-specific treatment plan
- Explain to the patient and the family the treatment plan, as well as answer relevant questions
- Determine the precise point on the patient’s body where the radiation therapy will be directed
- Adopt safety measures to protect the patient and other staff members from unnecessary radiation
- Operate including calibration and troubleshooting of the equipment
- Monitor the patient for adverse reactions during and after the treatment session
- Keep detailed patient records
What’s the work environment like for Radiation Therapists?
Their common workplaces are hospitals, physicians’ offices, and outpatient centers. Most work in hospitals since these healthcare facilities have the largest cancer treatment centers.
The work schedule isn’t as demanding as those of nurses and doctors who can work at odd hours and often be on call. Radiation therapists follow a regular work schedule, either on a part-time or full-time basis. This is because the treatment sessions are scheduled in advance.
What are the hazards Radiation Therapists face in their job?
As previously mentioned, radiation therapists work with patients in lifting, turning, and moving them for their treatments. Being on their feet nearly throughout their shift is a common occurrence, and thus, physical stamina and proper gear are a must.
The risk of injuries from these physical activities can be low to moderate, so appropriate safety measures must be adopted. The typical injuries include muscle soreness, even sprains, on the back, arms, and legs. Stretching exercises combined with proper lifting positions are recommended to reduce the risk of injuries.
Since radiation therapists work with radiation, there’s always the risk of exposure to radioactive materials and radiation. Said risk is present despite compliance with safety procedures, such as being in a different room during radiation therapy. The risk may come in getting to the patient’s side too quickly to provide post-treatment assistance. Other safety procedures include wearing personal protective equipment like special clothes.
What’s the typical wage for a Radiation Therapist?
In May 2022, the median yearly wage for radiation therapists was $89,530 (BLS). Keep in mind that median wage is the middle ground, so to speak, meaning that half earned more and half earned less of said amount. Radiation therapists earned between $65,760 (lowest 10%) and $133,260 (highest 10%) per year as of May 2022.
Radiation therapists who worked at outpatient care centers earned the highest annual wage ($115,750), followed by physicians’ offices ($88,700) and hospitals ($88,040).
The job outlook is 2% (2022-2032), meaning aspiring radiation therapists can look forward to a dynamic job market. The percentage increase in employment is due to the increased incidence of cancer in the aging population and the number of elderly. The advancements in radiation therapy techniques also contribute to the increased demand for this type of cancer treatment and the healthcare professionals administering it.
Emphasis must be made on the essential difference between radiation therapists and radiologic technologists. While both types of healthcare workers deal with radiation equipment, their jobs are different. These differences mean that their education and training are also different in many aspects.
On the one hand, radiation therapists use radiation equipment in the treatment of patients with cancer. On the other hand, radiologic technologists use radiation equipment, including x-ray machines, to perform imaging studies to diagnose illnesses and injuries. However, radiologic technologists can earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy to improve their skills.
Is it hard to become a Radiation Therapist?
Becoming a radiation therapist can be challenging, but it is achievable. It requires completing a two-year associate’s degree program, passing a certification exam, and obtaining a state license. It also involves much study and dedication… as with any profession.