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How To Become A Radiation Therapist

radiation therapist

A Radiation Therapist administers treatment to cancer patients. Most people, if not all, have friends or family that have been affected by cancer. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, over 1,806,590 lives were diagnosed in 2020, with over 606,520 dying from the horrible disease in the U.S. By 2040, they estimate 29.5 million new cases with 16.4 million deaths. 

Cancer remains the most prominent cause of death for many across the world. The good news is that breakthrough treatments offering radiation and chemotherapy can save many lives through modern technology. If you decide to become a Radiation Therapist, you will be a part of something big… saving lives! 

Related Article: The 40 Highest Paying Jobs With A Trade School Education

Take the next step! The Top 10 Best Radiation Therapist Schools

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What exactly does a Radiation Therapist do?

In general, Radiation Therapists are tasked with administering radiation treatments to patients with cancer and other diseases. In addition, they must determine the exact location of cancer and then explain the formulated treatment plan.

Patients must also be protected by unnecessary exposure, along with the Radiation Therapist. You will also be tasked with operating the machinery that administers the radiation to shrink or remove cancerous tumors. You will also keep an eye on your patient’s reactions and keep detailed patient records. 

How much money does a Radiation Therapist earn?

The BLS states that as of May 2020, a Radiation Therapist earned $86,850 annually, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $132,930 or more per year. 

What’s the job growth outlook for Radiation Therapists?

The expected job growth rate for radiation therapy is positive at 7% between 2019 and 2029. As people age and the diagnosis of cancer prevails in many, the need for Radiation Therapists will increase. 

What kind of work schedule can I expect as a Radiation Therapist?

Since most radiation treatments are planned ahead of time through appointments, most Radiation Therapists work a regular 40-hour week, Monday through Friday. 

How do I become a Radiation Therapist?

Generally speaking, becoming a Radiation Therapist will require some specific training, such as earning an Associate degree in the field to begin your career. Although most employers prefer an Associate (or even a Bachelor’s) degree, some entry-level jobs only require a certificate program. 

What will I learn in an RT degree program?

You will learn about radiation therapy practices, as well as: 

  • Scientific Theories & Research Methodology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Physics
  • Algebra
  • Computer Science
  • Physiology
  • And, much more!
How To Become A Radiation Therapist - fact

Should my Radiation Therapist program be accredited?

Yes, your educational program should be recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). 

How long does it take to become a Radiation Therapist?

If you earn an Associate degree in the field, it will take you two years on average.

What skills do I need to be a Radiation Therapist?

Besides the obvious technical training, you must be detail-oriented and have excellent people skills. You should also be able to lift and move patients and stand on your feet for long periods of time. And… don’t forget your compassion as you care for hurting or perhaps, terminally ill patients.  

Where does a Radiation Therapist work?

Radiation Therapists are an intricate part of the oncology team, as they work closely with physicians, other nurses, and other types of specialists. They often work in hospitals, cancer care clinics, outpatient facilities, and doctor’s offices. 

Does a Radiation Therapist need to be licensed?

Yes, in most states, a Radiation Therapist must pass a national certification exam to gain licensure.

Is working with radiation a safe job?

Of course, working in radiation comes with some occupational hazard risks; however, learning how to minimize exposure and how to be safe will be part of your training. 

Can I become a Radiation Therapist online?

Online programs in this field may be hard to find unless they are certificate programs or Bachelor’s programs designed to help you advance in your field.

Although some programs may be considered “online,” you may need to plan on some on-campus attendance for clinical lab work. Check with your program’s specifics before signing on if you are looking for a program that is primarily presented through a distance-learning option. 

What are the differences between a Radiation Therapist and a Radiologic Technologist?

As they both work in the field of radiation, they do have different job descriptions. The Radiation Therapist administers radiation to cure or decrease the cancer tumor in the body. The Radiologic Technologist will perform imaging techniques to determine the location of cancer for a proper diagnosis to be treated. 

10 BEST SCHOOLS FOR A RADIATION THERAPIST DEGREE

Washburn University 

Washburn University

(Hybrid) Certificate in Radiation Therapy

This is a professional certificate program, so candidates must possess an associate degree, minimum, before being considered for admission. Students earn the certificate in 13 months and become eligible for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification. 

The program uses a hybrid method with online classes and in-person clinical experiences, meaning working professionals are welcome. The classes are synchronized so students and faculty can learn and interact in real-time. Weekly virtual meetings with compulsory attendance are also part of student life. 

The clinical is conducted in an affiliated radiation therapy center where students get hands-on experience in patient interactions and equipment operations. These are unpaid internships that can last from Monday through Friday, and students must plan accordingly. 

There are 40 credits in the program, and the coursework has a heavy emphasis on radiation therapy. Therapeutic Radiobiology, Radiation Therapy Physics, Oncology, Simulation & Treatment Procedures are among the course titles. 

Online students enjoy a wide range of student support services that their on-campus counterparts also enjoy. These are intended to promote academic success among students, including information technology services, online education support, and a writing center. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Chemistry 
  • Legal Studies 

Jumpstart your career as a radiation therapist with a certificate from Washburn University! Earning it in just 13 months is icing on the cake. 


Community College of Allegheny County

Community College of Allegheny County

(On-campus) Certificate in Radiation Technology 

CCAC’s Certificate in Radiation Technology program has a selective admissions process that ensures only the best students are accepted. The number of students admitted depends on factors like the availability of clinical sites. 

Candidates must possess the following minimum credentials to be considered: 

  • With an associate degree from a JRCERT-accredited school in diagnostic radiography; and  
  • With an ARRT certification in diagnostic radiography TR(R) with an 80% or better score or with said certification and current employment for at least one year 

When accepted, students must complete the academic requirements for 36 credits. Radiation Physics and Protection, Radiation Oncology, and Radiation Therapy Technology are among the course titles. Students are required to earn satisfactory grades to stay in the program and earn the certificate. 

Students obtain a wide range of clinical skills relevant to radiation therapy, including safety-related equipment operations and effective patient interactions. Critical thinking and communication skills are necessary in the profession, so these are also encouraged in the program. 

Graduates are eligible to take the ARRT Radiation Therapy certification exam. CCAC has a good track record in it, thanks to the intensive training for its students. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Paralegal
  • Multimedia and Gaming 

Earn the promotion you’ve been hoping for with a certificate in radiation therapy from CACC! See if fits your career plans.


Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College

(On-campus) AAS in Healthcare Specialist  with a concentration in Radiation Therapy

This is a six-semester program where students must comply with courses’ academic and clinical requirements in the 70-credit curriculum. Ivy Tech has a selective admission policy with students admitted into the Healthcare Support program first while completing the prerequisite courses. Afterward, students make a separate application into the Radiation Therapy concentration program. 

Only a limited number of learners are accepted for the annual cohort. Candidates must also pass the rigorous TEAS exam before being considered. 

Once accepted, students must undergo a physical exam, drug testing, and a criminal background check at their own expense. These are compulsory requirements considering the nature of the work of radiation therapists. 

Students are provided with completion guides detailed in eight-week terms. Academic advisors are ready to guide the best courses to take for every semester. 

Ivy Tech’s challenging academic coursework includes radiation physics, pathology and treatment principles, and radiation biology and safety. Patient care and professional ethics are also emphasized since radiation therapists must work with patients and other healthcare professionals. 

Clinical experience includes hands-on learning about various machinery like Virtual Linear Accelerator (VERT). Students also get experiential learning opportunities for patient treatment planning via their clinical rotations. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Design Technology 
  • Entrepreneurship 

Earn the Ivy Tech AAS in Healthcare Specialist with a Concentration in Radiation Therapy degree and watch your career shoot up soon! 


Florida State College at Jacksonville 

Florida State College at Jacksonville

(On-campus) AS in Radiation Therapy 

Students in the AS in Radiation Therapy program prepare not just for passing the ARRT National Registry certification exam but also for a successful career. Theirs is a career filled with a positive impact on patients undergoing cancer treatment and well-paying jobs in various settings. 

The 77-credit program has a comprehensive list of radiation therapy-focused courses that ensure students develop technical skills. Courses in medical terminology, patient care, radiation biology and safety, radiation and radiographic physics, and oncology establish trade-specific skills. Courses in information technology and microcomputer applications for business widen the students’ horizons. 

Transferable skills, such as communication and critical thinking skills, are a must in healthcare settings, too, and these are developed through general education courses. Students must earn satisfactory grades in humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and English composition to advance in major courses. 

The reduction, if not the eradication, of pathology in healthcare settings is also an integral part of the curriculum. Students must practice safe and effective pathology habits early on. 

FSCJ only accepts new cohorts on even-numbered years and during the fall term. The admission requirements consists of a high school diploma or equivalent and official college transcripts, if applicable. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Criminal Justice 
  • Education 

Do you want to be a successful radiation therapist? Start achieving your dream by enrolling in FSCJ’s AS in Radiation Therapy program now! 


Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology 

Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology

(Hybrid) AS in Radiation Therapy 

The two-year AS in Radiation Therapy program has a hybrid format with classroom settings and an online platform. On the other hand, students can then enjoy a good balance between personal and professional obligations and academic responsibilities. 

Students prepare for a career as professional radiation therapists in hospitals and cancer treatment facilities. This is also offered in multiple campuses, including Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia. 

Graduates can take the ARRT National Registry certification exam, with Cambridge College being known for its high passing rate. The associate degree and certification are acceptable credentials for entry-level work in radiation therapy. 

The curriculum emphasizes the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that students will need during their professional lives. The coursework includes health science, anatomy and physiology, radiation therapy physics, and treatment planning. Patient care being an integral part of the work, students also develop their communication skills and compassion for patients. 

Students have easy access to the campuses’ facilities, including libraries and covered parking. Every campus also has job placement services where students can establish job networks early. Students also complete clinical rotations in local healthcare facilities with their experiences, including equipment operation. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Computer Networking 
  • Health Information Management

Cambridge Health’s AS in Radiation Therapy degree program is among the best, and it’s the reason why you should consider earning it! 


Galveston College 

Galveston College

(On-campus) AAS in Radiation Therapy 

GC’s AAS in Radiation Therapy program is in its 43rd year – the oldest of its kind in the State of Texas – and it continues to be the best! Students agree that it provides the best value education considering its affordable cost – about $5,000 including fees and books for its entirety – and quality instruction. 

Students can earn the degree in 21 months if the prescribed sequence of courses is followed. The five semesters in the program are divided into academic studies and hands-on clinical work. The curriculum itself follows JRCERT and ASRT standards, meaning graduates can sit for the certification exam. 

Retention means earning at least 80% in all courses. The courses include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, radiation biology and safety, and patient care. These are ever-evolving courses, too, since GC integrates new technologies and treatment procedures into its curriculum. 

Students get hands-on training through unpaid clinical rotations. Their primary responsibility is in assisting registered radiation therapists in tomotherapy, brachytherapy, and cyberknife procedures, among other forms of radiation therapy. Graduates have professional-level clinical competencies due to their academic and clinical training. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Nursing 
  • Healthcare Management 

Get more information about GC’s AAS in Radiation Therapy degree now! You may find that it’s a great fit for your personal needs and career goals. 


Saint Louis University 

Saint Louis University

(On-campus) BS in Radiation Therapy 

SLU’s BS in Radiation Therapy is among the highest-ranked country for its excellent curriculum that combines rigorous coursework and hands-on training. The science-based curriculum has an interdisciplinary focus where collaborations across healthcare disciplines are emphasized, and it’s the same approach in healthcare settings. 

Students gain real-world skills with the guidance of experienced faculty members with above-par professional credentials. SLU maintains small classes so that students can get more mentorship from the faculty, too. 

Undergraduates aren’t limited in their personal growth to their academics, as rigorous and useful as the courses may be. SLU provides numerous research opportunities for undergraduates, and the research papers can be presented and published. 

Students must also undergo 1,200 hours of clinical internship at several local healthcare facilities. These settings range from community hospitals to state-of-the-art research facilities where radiation therapy treatments are studied and administered. The diversity of settings encourages students to adapt to changing structures, protocols, and people effectively. 

SLU offers two curriculum tracks – a pre-physician assistant and a pre-med track. All graduates, however, are eligible to sit for the ARRT national certification exam.  

The admission criteria result in selective acceptance. Candidates must demonstrate solid academic performance as evidenced in their GPA and standardized test scores.

Programs Offered: 

  • Aerospace Engineering 
  • American Studies 

Progress faster in your career by earning SLU’s BS in Radiation Therapy degree


Texas State University 

Texas State University

(On-campus) BS in Radiation Therapy 

TSU grants the BS in Radiation Therapy degree to students who have completed at least semester credit hours. This is a JRCERT-accredited program with a professional curriculum designed following ASRT standards. 

Students are accepted into the program during their freshman and sophomore years spent on general education courses during their junior year. The average completion time inclusive of the academic coursework and clinical practicum is 2½ years. 

The academic component consists of major courses designed as a preparation for the demanding work in radiation therapy. Students acquire technical skills, including planning, administering, and recording prescribed radiation therapy plans. These skills are developed through trade-specific courses like radiation physics, radiation oncology, radiologic science, and medical imaging. 

The clinical practicum is conducted in affiliated local healthcare facilities like hospitals and cancer clinics. The experiences here are built on prior courses like clinical simulation laboratory and directed clinical learning. 

As a result of the intensive training, graduates are well-prepared for the job’s demands, including its technical, physical, and psychological aspects. Graduates can then become qualified to sit for the national certification exam and, once registered, for entry-level jobs. Since their academic credential is a bachelor’s degree, career advancement may happen sooner. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Applied Sociology 
  • Engineering Technology 

Getting ahead in your career as a radiation therapist can start with a BS in Radiation Therapy from TSU! See where this degree will take you. 


University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

 (Hybrid) BS in Radiation Therapy 

Facilitated by the School of Health Professions, the BS in Radiation Therapy program has rigorous coursework that requires compulsory attendance in all scheduled activities. Students, particularly working students, must make appropriate arrangements since the program cannot make accommodations otherwise. 

Students undergo six semesters of full-time coursework; summer semesters also require a full-time commitment. Student support services are available for struggling students, including by-request tutoring and academic and career advising. Faculty members are known to take a professional interest in their students’ success, too. Students must read the Student Handbook for more information about the policies and procedures in the program. 

Attendance in all academic and clinical courses is a must. Students must attend three days of classes and two days in a clinical setting every week during the first year. Then in the second year, it’s three days in the clinic and two days in the classroom. Classes may also be conducted online with advance notifications. The clinical sites can be as far as 50 miles from the campus, so reliable transportation is recommended. 

There’s a prescribed course sequence that students must follow. A minimum “C”  grade in all subjects and courses is required for a student to advance to the next semester. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Medical Dosimetry 
  • Diagnostic Imaging 

MD Anderson’s BS in Radiation Therapy degree program is nationally recognized for its excellent instruction and, thus, it may well be your best choice! 


The Ohio State University 

The Ohio State University 

(Online) AS to BS Completion Degree in Radiologic Sciences and Therapy 

Do you already have a certification in radiation therapy, radiography, sonography, or nuclear medicine technology but do you want to advance your career? Then you must consider OSU’s AS to BS Completion Degree in Radiologic Sciences and Therapy!  Since career advancement is in your sights, your training will focus more on the management side. The coursework includes classes on management principles and practices in human resources and quality management in healthcare settings. 

Graduates are eligible to sit – and have higher chances of passing, too – for the Certified Radiology Administrator’s (CRA) certification exam. The credential is valuable in being hired for management positions in the field of radiation therapy since it’s proof of your professional competency.  

With an associate degree, the degree completion program can be completed in two years or less. Students gain technical skills through academic coursework and clinical experiences, including a capstone project. The project usually involves the implementation of effective and efficient quality improvement strategies in your current workplace. 

There are three tracks to choose from – radiation therapy, sonography, and radiography. Students in all tracks receive individualized attention, thanks to small class sizes between 10 and 20 students, from experienced faculty.  Clinical fieldwork for all tracks occurs in many of Ohio’s prestigious facilities. 

Programs Offered: 

  • Respiratory Therapy 
  • Athletic Training 

Advance your career by earning the BS in Radiologic Sciences and Therapy degree from the prestigious OSU! 

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor