Some 1,274 first-year students enrolled in radiation therapy programs nationwide in the fall of 2003, 23 percent more than 2002 and 57 percent more than 2001.
The numbers come from the American Society of Radiologic Technologists' (ASRT) latest count of enrollees.
Both radiography and nuclear medicine experienced a slight gain of first-year enrollees -- 14,965 students entered radiography programs, while 1,612 students entered nuclear medicine programs in 2003, up 9 percent and 17 percent from 2002, respectively.
ASRT said that, if enrollment, attrition and retention trends remain stable, there could be an additional 7,200 ASRT-registered radiation therapists and 10,800 more ASRT-registered nuclear medicine technologists in the U.S. workforce by 2010.
That growth rate would adequately meet the projections of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, the ASRT study also revealed that the number of technologists entering radiography will not be sufficient to fill the BLS projection of 75,000 more job openings in 2010 than in 2000.
"This is a concern for the profession," said Sal Martino, Ph.D., ASRT executive vice president and chief academic officer. "If radiography programs could admit more students, the country might not be facing a potential shortfall of radiographers by 2010."
Martino and other professionals in the field have cited that the unavailability of faculty may be contributing to the problem - a problem that may continue for five to seven years until more educators are recruited.
Complete results of the survey will be posted early in 2004 in the "Professional Development" Section of the ASRT's Web site, www.asrt.org.