How To Become A Radiation Therapist
A radiation therapist is a person that administers radiation remedies to patients to treat diseases like cancer. It is not the same as a radiation technician. A radiation technician maintains the machines used in the medical treatments. To enter a career as a radiation therapist, you must complete education and training, which can be acquired in a number of ways including participating in a two-year hospital program or entering a formal education program at a junior, vocational, technical or 4-year college. There are also graduate radiation therapy degrees at select post-baccalaureate schools.
Typically, radiation therapy education programs include classroom work and supervised clinical training. Classroom work aims to provide students with a broad foundation of knowledge on top of which they can build a rewarding career in the field. It also introduces students to a variety of topics so they can decide if they would like to specialize in a particular subject. The courses you can expect to take include health education, anatomy, patient care, mathematics, medical ethics, clinical radiation, radiation physics, radiation protection, radiobiology, pathology, oncology, medical imaging, brachytherapy, and clinical dosimetry. To be effective in this field you must possess a number of character traits including compassion for others, an interest in and/or aptitude for math and science, ability to understand mechanical processes, and be detail oriented.
It is important to graduate from an accredited program. Accreditation implies that students gain knowledge and skills that meet or exceed industry standards. In addition to enjoying preferential treatment by employers, graduation from an accredited program is required to earn professional licenses and certifications. To find these programs, visit the JRCERT (Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology) website. A list of schools offering radiation therapy programs that have been accredited by the appropriate agency can be generated based on subject and state.
Employers prefer to hire people who have a certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). This requires studying for and passing an exam. Only those who have graduated from an accredited educational program are allowed to take the exam. It is offered several times per year in different locations and is usually administered via computer. Passing the exam awards the title Registered Radiation Therapist to the test-taker. Some states require radiation therapists to obtain state licensing in order to practice. It is best to contact the appropriate licensing agency in your area for more information.
Hospital-based radiation programs are available in most provinces in Canada except for Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick. Those in the United Kingdom that want to enter a career as a radiation therapist must complete a mandatory three-year program. Schools in the UK also offer master’s degrees in this field. To get the most out of your education, you should take time to consider your goals and then choose the course of study that helps you achieve them.