Patients with cancer receive radiation therapy to treat their disease. The radiation therapist may use charged particles beamed, x-rays, or gamma rays at the cancerous cells, or injecting radioisotopes internally near the cancerous tumor. In this article, we will take a close look at radiation therapy programs offered in the United States.
How to Choose a Radiation Therapy School
The first step to selecting a radiation therapy program is determining the desired level of credential. To pursue a career in radiation therapy, the minimum level of education that students must attain is a certificate in radiation therapy according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics; however, obtaining a bachelor or associate degree is typically desired by employers. Students must meet state licensing requirements that vary from state to state. Students who receive qualification from an accredited program could take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists examination (www.bls.gov). Admission to some degree programs requires candidates to go through a two-stage acceptance process. After students have completed a requisite number of classes at the school, they can apply formally for admission to the radiation therapy program. Certified nurse assistant (CNA) certification or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification is mandatory for admission to some schools. These are competitive programs, and the seats are limited in number. Some schools are accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), thereby ensuring that coursework adheres to licensing requirements and training and knowledge required by employers.
Radiation Therapy Certificate
Students enrolled in a certificate, in Radiation Therapy program, are prepared for careers in radiation therapy including national certification. The program usually takes just over a year and is best suited for diagnostic radiographers seeking specialization. Students may be required to take preparatory courses in subject areas such as physiology, anatomy, psychology, radiation physics, and radiation protection. Other programs restrict admission to registered nurses (RN) and AART-registered radiologic technologists. Coursework includes topics such as patient care, ethics, radiation oncology, and theory and practice of radiation therapy. An observation requirement may also have to be fulfilled by students. Those interested may also enroll in distance education courses.
Radiation Therapy Associate Degree
Apart from preparation for certification and the ARRT exam, an associate degree program assists students with general education coursework. This program offers more hands on experience in radiation therapy practice in clinical settings than a certificate course. Coursework includes focus areas such as treatment planning, advanced treatment techniques, dosimetry, sectional anatomy, and psychosocial patient care.
Radiation Therapy Bachelor Degree
Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy programs will require two years of general education requirements in liberal arts, including history, mathematics, philosophy, and English, although several colleges and universities could consider these as transfer credits. Students may be required to submit an application to the program during their junior year. Before students can progress on to radiation therapy-specific courses during their third or fourth year, they need to study physics, biology, medical terminology, and the health care system. Coursework generally covers professional development, dosimetry, patient care, and radiation oncology.