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Major Overview: Radiation Therapy Program

Majors Overview March 27, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in radiation therapy and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education information.

Radiation Therapy Majors

Cancer patients rely on radiation therapists, who administer radiation to cancer cells, for their treatment. While applicants with an associate’s degree can expect to be accepted by some employers, therapists with bachelor’s degrees in radiation therapy have more widespread demand among employers.

Licensure is compulsory for radiation therapists in many states. Licensure is usually obtainable via certification offered by a professional association, which will award such certification to candidates after completion of an approved training program and passage of a competency exam.

A radiation therapy major is devised to teach enrolled students about treatment methods for cancer patients via the use of technology such as x-rays, among others. Students can expect to become fluent at calculating doses and operating equipment in a safe manner. Hands-on experience is typically imparted to students with the machinery employed in radiation therapy via an internship in a healthcare facility. A strong grasp of psychology, mathematics, and science is a requirement in this major.

Students become adept at working directly with patients, including evaluation of the success of a treatment plan and effective communication with medical staff and patients.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Students enrolled in the majority of radiation therapy programs are required to complete clinical observations before they can gain admittance.

Professional interest in the field is cemented by this experience. Specific coursework is also a requirement in some programs; this includes physics, chemistry, biology, and anatomy and physiology.


Coursework in a radiation therapy major covers the technology that is employed, in addition to the theories of the field. Coursework combines lecture-based and experience-based courses. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Sectional anatomy
•Ethical issues in radiation therapy
•Safety in radiation therapy
•Basic dosimetry
•Radiation oncology
•Quality assurance
•Radiation physics

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2010, nearly 19,100 individuals were employed as radiation therapists in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Most of them were employed in hospitals, while others were employed in outpatient care centers, medical labs, and physicians’ offices, among other work settings.

Job numbers are expected to grow by 4,500 over the 2012 – 2022 decade. Growth is expected to be driven by an aging population, resulting in more patients needing treatment. The job growth projection is also attributed to the expected increased use of radiation therapy owing to its increasing safety and efficacy of radiation therapy. As of May 2012, radiation therapists brought in an average annual wage of $77,560.

Continuing Education Information

In many states, licensure is mandatory for radiation therapists. Additionally, certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) may often be mandated by law and is preferred by employers.

Candidates can gain certification through completion of an approved radiation therapy program and passage of an exam covering numerous aspects of radiation therapy, including treatment and quality assurance options. Annual renewal of ARRT certification is a requirement, and re-certification through continuing education in the form of additional coursework in the field is commonly required.

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