Radiation therapists need to complete formal education programs. Most programs lead to a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists must be licensed in most states; requirements vary by state.
Although candidates may qualify by completing a 12-month certificate program, employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate’s or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. In addition, these programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology.
In most states, radiation therapists must have a license. Requirements vary by state. To be licensed, radiation therapists must usually graduate from an accredited radiation therapy program and be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the ARRT certification exam. The exam covers radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts in radiation oncology, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education.
Detail oriented. Radiation therapists must follow exact instructions and input exact measurements to make sure the patient is neither underexposed nor overexposed to the radiation.
Interpersonal skills. Radiation therapists work closely with patients. Because radiation therapists see their patients on a recurring basis, it is important that they be comfortable interacting with people who may be going through difficult physical and emotional stress.
Science and mathematical skills. Radiation therapists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences. They may also need to mix the right dose of chemicals used in imaging procedures.
Stamina. Radiation therapists must be able to be on their feet for long periods and be able to lift and move patients who need assistance.
Technical skills. Radiation therapists work with computers and large pieces of technological equipment, so they must be comfortable operating those devices.
Experienced radiation therapists may advance to manage radiation therapy programs in treatment centers or other healthcare facilities. Managers generally continue to treat patients while taking on management responsibilities. Other advancement opportunities include teaching, technical sales, and research. With additional training and certification, therapists also can become dosimetrists.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition