Field of Study: Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy programs prepare people to treat tumors in cancer patients. Students learn to operate machines and comfort patients. They learn to keep records and help put together treatment plans.
Radiologic technology uses x-rays to diagnose and treat injuries and diseases. You may have experienced one type of this field, radiography, by getting an x-ray. Perhaps you were daunted by the large machinery, or the instructions to hold your breath while an image of your teeth or arm bone was being taken.
If that was the case, imagine how intimidating those machines might seem to a cancer patient whose life may depend on x-rays. Those same high energy rays that can produce images of bones are also used to break down cancer cells. This process is called radiation therapy.
It isn't hard to see how this program of study combines technological know-how with compassion in a rewarding way. Yet there is currently a nationwide shortage of radiation therapists. As a radiation therapist, you would operate sophisticated radiation equipment. At the same time, you would be monitoring both a patient's physical and psychological conditions.
As a student in this program, you would learn about the principles of radiation science and how those principles apply to cancer treatment. Because radiation therapists often help put together a treatment plan for patients, you would also learn to calculate effective dosages. These are just a couple of things that radiation therapy programs teach you.
Many schools in the U.S. offer programs in radiation therapy. You can earn a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. A certificate or an associate degree typically takes one to three years of full-time study after high school. A bachelor's degree generally takes four years. The length of study depends on whether or not you already have experience in radiography.
You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.
- General Math
- Basic Computer
- General Computer Applications
- Community Health
- Safety and First Aid
- Healthcare Occupations
- Medical Lab Technology
- Healthcare Sciences Work Experience
- Anatomy and Physiology
Some programs require you to take pre-professional or general education courses before applying. These programs may admit you before you have finished these courses, but might want to see proof that you have started them or plan to start them soon. These prerequisite courses usually include some combination of the following:
Anatomy and Physiology
American College Testing (ACT) or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)
Clinical observation ("shadowing") in the radiologic sciences field
Letters of recommendation
Typical course work
This program typically includes courses in the following subjects:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Atomic Physics
- Clinical Dosimetry and Treatment Planning
- Computer Theory
- Data Collection
- Medical Law and Ethics
- Oncologic Pathology
- Patient Care: Communication and Management
- Physics: Introductory Principles
- Physics: Technical Applications
- Radiation Biology
- Radiation Oncology Procedures and Techniques
- Radiation Physics
- Radiation Protection
- Radiographic Imaging
- Tumor Localization
Bachelor's degree candidates may also need to complete an independent research project on radiation therapy.
Things to know
Some states require you to have a license before practicing. Passing the national certification exam given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists is usually one of the steps to getting your license. Certification also shows employers your skills and knowledge in this program.
Radiation therapy programs require you to wear a radiation detection badge. These badges monitor your exposure to radiation and make sure it stays under the lower radiation exposure limit.
If you are pregnant, or become pregnant while in this program, you are usually required to declare this to the program director. The program can then issue you a fetal radiation monitor and a lead apron to ensure that the embryo is not exposed to excessive, if any, radiation.
Fees in addition to tuition in this program include allied health insurance, uniform and shoes, radiation monitoring, and registry applications.
Similar fields of study
- Cancer and Oncology Biology
- Health and Medical Physics
- Medical Imaging Technology
- Medical Secretarial Studies
- Nuclear Medical Technology
Careers you may qualify for
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
Schools that offer program
Click on the school name to see a list of their programs related to this field of study.
- St. Louis Park
, Located in Metro
Argosy University/Twin Cities - Eagan , Located in Metro
Century College - White Bear Lake , Located in Metro
Concordia University, St. Paul , Located in Metro
Dunwoody College of Technology - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
Lake Superior College - Duluth , Located in Northeast
Mayo Clinic - Mayo School of Health Sciences - Rochester , Located in Southeast
Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical - Red Wing , Located in Southeast
Minnesota State College - Southeast Technical - Winona , Located in Southeast
Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Detroit Lakes , Located in Northwest
Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Fergus Falls , Located in Northwest
Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Moorhead , Located in Northwest
Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Online - Perham , Located in Northwest
Minnesota State Community and Technical College - Wadena , Located in Northwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Canby , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Granite Falls , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Jackson , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Pipestone , Located in Southwest
Minnesota West Community and Technical College - Worthington , Located in Southwest
Normandale Community College - Bloomington , Located in Metro
Northland Community and Technical College - East Grand Forks , Located in Northwest
Northland Community and Technical College - Thief River Falls , Located in Northwest
Presentation College - Fairmont , Located in Southwest
Rice Memorial Hospital School of Radiologic Technology - Willmar , Located in Central
Ridgewater College - Hutchinson , Located in Central
Ridgewater College - Willmar , Located in Central
Riverland Community College - Albert Lea , Located in Southeast
Riverland Community College - Austin , Located in Southeast
Riverland Community College - Owatonna , Located in Southeast
Rochester Community and Technical College , Located in Southeast
St. Catherine University - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
St. Catherine University - St. Paul , Located in Metro
St. Cloud Hospital School of Radiologic Technology , Located in Central
St. Cloud State University , Located in Central
Veterans Affairs Medical Center, School of Radiologic Technology - Minneapolis , Located in Metro