How to Become a Radiation Therapist


Radiation therapist helping patient

With the rise in students attending college in general, certain jobs are becoming more and more popular and in demand.

One occupation that is popular and in high demand is radiation therapist. A question you might have is how do you become a radiation therapist?

It is pretty straight forward. You must go to college and get a degree to become a radiation therapist.

Picking a major can be one of the hardest decisions. It is hard to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life.

There are so many different careers to choose from and it is hard to figure out. You need to find out what is your passion and what you’re going to be the best at.

All you can do is investigate the many different things you’re interested in doing. Then see which one will just work for you best depending on skills, passion, and other things.

Taking a career aptitude test will help you figure out occupations that may best suit you.

I currently know about three or four people that are going to school to become a radiation therapist.

That is a pretty large number of students in my life going for the same major.

If you think that you have any interest in being a radiation therapists, it is important to do the research. You need to learn as much as you can about it before you get into it.

This is a great career to go down especially if you are interested in the medical field.

Radiation therapy is something that is very important and that there will always be a job.

There are many different paths that you can go down as a radiation therapist.

I’m going to talk a little bit about the process of becoming a radiation therapist. We will also look at what you need to do to get into the school.

I’m also going to talk about the different jobs that you can get and the salaries.

What is a radiation therapist and what do they do?

A radiation therapist is going to be a health professional that works in the field of radiation oncology.

Radiation oncology is using radiation within the treatment of cancer.

You will work with radiologists to implement different treatment plans for patients.

Normally they specialize in using high doses of radiation to treat cancerous growths.

They focus on trying to shrink and remove the tumors in general and not all tumors are cancerous.

The radiation therapist is in charge of operating the machines that deliver radiation therapy.

A radiation therapist will also use a stimulator and possibly a CT scanner. They use these to gather the needed information and data for the patient. With that information, a doctor will plan each patient’s particular radiation treatment.

How do you become a radiation therapist?

There is no on the job training to become a radiation therapist.

You can complete a program that leads to an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. 

Typical entry-level education only requires an associate degree. However, having a bachelor’s degree could help you gain a higher salary.

As a radiation therapist, you are going to be required to be licensed or certified in most states.

There is a chance you may have to pass some sort of national certification exam.

This means that you should look for the schools in your area that have the best radiation programs.

Some schools don’t offer this program, so it is also important to make sure that they have that major where you want to go to college.

This career is a great because you can go to school for 2-years and then start working.

What classes do you need to take to become a radiation therapist?

Some of the classes that you can take depend on what school you were going to. They will tell you the prerequisite and general courses they require.

However, during your actual radiation therapy classes, you’ll be taking a lot of classes about procedures and the scientific theories behind them.

Often, the programs will give you experience in actual clinical settings as well.

Other classes that you might have to take include:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Algebra
  • Physics
  • Computer science
  • Research methodology

There’s not much math involved in this major. This will be good for you if you are interested in the medical field but you’re not good at math.

There is a lot of science involved so make sure that you are interested in taking 1 to 2 years of science classes.

It is important to get all the information about what you’re going to be studying in the major.

Even though the actual experience and job can be a lot different than the classes that you take.

You need to be interested in radiation therapy so make sure you like the subject.

How many years does it take to become a radiation therapist?

The minimum requirement to be a radiation therapist is an associate degree which is a two-year program.

So you can get a job as a radiation therapist after only two years of school.

However, many people will tend to get a bachelors instead.

If you have any ideas about where you want to work in the future. It would be useful for you to look up the requirements of the states and companies.

Some employers will require a four-year bachelor’s degree in order to become a radiation therapist.

If they are a very well-known hospital or workplace then they may be looking for students with a 4-year degree.

If you do end up getting your bachelors, you’ll also get to take classes like:

  • Apply radiation therapy
  • Radiation therapy physics
  • Advanced radiation biology
  • Professional issues radiation therapy
  • Patient care management

There’s also a master’s degree program and radiation therapy, but it is not required.

How do I get certified in radiation therapy?

Specifically, for radiation therapy, the requirements for accreditation is going to vary by state.

However, in general, the requirements normally include some sort of graduation from an accredited radiation therapy program.

You need to get ARRT certified.

The ARRT certification means that the student who completed an accredited radiation therapy program adheres to ethical standards and passes the certification exam.

The exam measures your knowledge that an entry-level radiation therapist should know about the daily tasks and technology.

The tests are known to be slightly challenging, yet fair.

The tests are created from experts around the country including registered technologists in the discipline that you’re interested in.

If you fail this exam three times in three years you will have to try again for eligibility to apply for certification.

The testing scores range from 1 to 99 and a score of 75 is needed to pass in general.

What is the average starting salary for a radiation therapist?

This type of job is going to have varying salaries depending on your location. Within the medical field, location can make a big difference.

The demand for therapist in each area of the country will also affect the wages. Shortage of therapist means higher salaries.

These are the types of things that you can look into if you are concerned about your overall salary.

The average salary of a radiation therapist is somewhere around $80,000 per year. You will typically start at about $55,000 per year and you go up from there.

The states that are the best paying include California, New Jersey, Oregon, Connecticut, and Washington.

Many of these are places where the cost of living is much higher in general and so the wages tend to be higher.

The demand for a radiation therapist is going to grow at least 13% within the next 10 years. This is faster than most occupations.

They believe that the demand for this is coming from the aging population.

Can I become a radiation therapist online?

A job in the medical field is going to require some clinical classes and working in the field.

Because of this radiation therapy classes are not normally available in a fully online form.

There are however many hybrid programs available.

Basically, what this means is that you would take a lot of your classes online and then go in for only the clinical and lab work.

Radiation therapy is still not available at some schools. It is unlikely that you will find very many places where a hybrid or online version is available.

Your best bet is to try to get as many online classes as you can or look for hybrid versions.

Since bachelor’s degree programs are not as popular, they are at an even smaller amount of colleges. Online classes will probably not be an option.

What are the best 4-year colleges for radiation therapy?

Look at universities that have a radiation program. You lay them all out and select one based on the pros and cons.

However, here are a few of the best colleges for radiation therapy and general throughout the country.

  • Emory University
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The Ohio State University 
  • University of Missouri 
  • St. Louis University
  • University of Vermont
  • Drexel University
  • Manhattan College
  • Texas State University 
  • Oregon Institute of Technology
  • St. Katherine University

Where does a radiation therapist work?

Most radiation therapists work full-time. You can find them working in hospitals, offices, and outpatient centers.

An outpatient center is a medical center that will not require an overnight stay. Many people go here instead of the emergency room.

The medical issue they are having needs dealt with but not in an emergency fashion.

Outpatient care is often provided at medical offices and hospitals but there are also a lot of actual outpatient centers.

This is a great place to work if you are not interested in working in a hospital. 

Is a radiation therapist a dangerous job?

There are a lot of safety procedures that are involved in being a radiation therapist. This is why most hospitals or centers are going to require you to have formal education.

You will learn a lot about these types of policies throughout your time of getting your degree.

The occupation still faces a small risk of getting exposed to different radioactive material.

A therapist must also deal with the stress of the patient getting radiation treatment which can be hard on some people.

Conclusion

Overall, being a radiation therapist can be a great job. Many people do it every single day and genuinely enjoy their job.

You can go to school for a small amount of time and make a large salary while others are in debt for jobs with smaller salaries.

You also get to help people and work with great technology every day.

It can be a tough job, so make sure that you are passionate about it and actually want to delve into this world of radiation therapy.

There are many great jobs out there, you just have to find the right one for you, and radiation therapy could be the right one.

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