Radiation therapy programs are available in various facilities, from vocational schools, colleges and universities to hospitals and cancer centers. In order to become a radiation therapist, there are two ways you can pursue your career: get a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy or get an associate’s degree. Employers will prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
Once you own an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, you can receive certification as a radiation therapist. Several hospitals provide certification programs, but candidates have to take a test before getting admitted into the program.
Another way to become a radiation therapist is to get a degree in radiography and then get certification.
Different Radiation Therapy Programs
Associate’s degree programs offer students basic information in the radiation therapy field; students have a general education curriculum and classes focus on treatment planning, advanced treatment techniques, sectional anatomy, psychosocial patient care and dosimetry. Clinical experience is also provided and it is usually better than the one provided by a certificate program.
Bachelor’s degree programs last 4 years: during the first and the second year, students learn about the health care system, they study biology and physics and they get familiarized with medical terminology, then, during the last two years they learn the specifics of radiation therapy. If you are interested in applying to this program, you may have to do it during your junior year. Classes focus on: professional development, oncology, radiation, patient care and dosimetry.
Certificate radiation therapy programs are designed to prepare students for their future careers and their national certification exam. This program is only about one year long and it is an excellent option for diagnostic radiographers who want to pursue higher education and specialize as radiation therapists. The program teaches students about all aspects of radiation therapy, including oncology, ethics and patient care. It includes both theoretical and practical sessions. You may have to have studied anatomy, physiology, psychology, radiation physics and radiation protection or be a RN (registered nurse) or a radiologic technologist registered with the ARRT (American Registry of Radiation Technologists). You may have to complete an observation requirement and you have the possibility to opt for distant learning.
Radiation Therapy Online Programs
Completing an online program in radiation therapy is an option, but it is not enough since you also need to have significant clinical experience. Online programs are preferred by busy students who want to get certification or get a degree in radiation therapy. Programs that provide online study opportunities should have ARRT’s accreditation, otherwise their graduates will not qualify for getting certification. Look for programs that are provided by accredited institutions; accreditation should come from agencies that have CHEA (the Council for Higher Education Accreditation) or USDE’s (the United States Department of Education) approval. Online programs should also offer the possibility to transfer your credits from one school to another.
Some of the responsibilities that radiation therapy programs are preparing you for are: developing treatment plans- in collaboration with physicians who specialize in radiation therapy and technicians who can estimate the right dosage, informing patients about treatment and answering questions, properly positioning patients and the linear accelerator- being in charge of the procedure in a protected room, monitoring patients and keeping records, and preventing exposure to radiation by following the standard safety procedures.