How do I Become a Radiation Therapy Technologist?

M. West

Educational requirements for those who would like to become a radiation therapy technologist involve three options: a one-year certification course, a two-year associate degree, or a four-year Bachelor of Science degree. In addition, many regions require you to have a license or certificate obtained by successfully completing an examination that assesses knowledge and preparedness. Having a strong physical constitution is an asset, as the job entails being on your feet for long periods. Character traits of compassion and empathy are also helpful in dealing with people who are very ill.

Radiation therapy technologists might work in a hospital radiation therapy department.
Radiation therapy technologists might work in a hospital radiation therapy department.

The educational programs to become a radiation therapy technologist involve the study of radiography, which is the science of radiological imaging. Radiation therapy curriculum courses consist of the physical and biological sciences, as well as other components of a broad liberal arts education. Central to the preparation needed to become a radiation therapy technologist, are studies in the scientific theories and procedures of radiography. Instruction in research methods are included to enhance general background knowledge and to equip the technologist for later career advancement.

Following the procurement of an associate or bachelor's degree, many regions mandate licensure. Although the requirements vary, many regions stipulate that applicants pass a test by an accrediting board that evaluates their readiness to become a radiation therapy technologist. The examination ascertains competency in areas such as radiation protection, treatment delivery, and radiation oncology. In addition to written questions, the test involves evaluating clinical skills such as dose calculations and patient-care procedures.

Besides licensure, some regions require certification by a national professional board. Certification involves completion of an accredited radiation therapy curriculum, along with demonstrating high ethical standards and passing the previously-mentioned test. The certification must be renewed every year by fulfilling continuing education mandates. These continuing education requirements consist of 24 study credits in radiation therapy, or certification in a field other than radiology.

Aside from educational and certification requirements, certain personality traits are advantageous. If you want to become a radiation therapy technologist, you must be a good communicator, as the job involves frequent patient contact and interaction with other professionals. Possessing a sound psychological constitution is needed for working with patients under stress. The ideal candidate should also be capable of accurate and conscientious record keeping.

Career advancement for experienced members of the profession might involve managing the radiation therapy department in a hospital. Other options might include teaching in a radiation therapy program or engaging in research. The specialized field of dosimetry is available to those with additional education in this area. Dosimetry involves determining radiation dosages through complex mathematics.

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