Earn a degree in radiologic technology and start your career as a radiologic technologist.
Typically, a radiology technologist has two to four years of schooling that result in bachelor’s or associate’s degrees in radiology or a certificate in radiography. Radiologic technologists (or rad techs) are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and must complete continuing education credits to remain registered throughout their career. According to O*Net Online data, 63% of radiologic technologists have an associate degree.
With additional training and experience, radiologic technologists can go on to become to chief radiologic technologists, supervisors, administrators, or directors. Many hospitals may require advanced coursework or a master’s degree in health administration or business for these more advanced roles
What can you do with a degree in radiologic technology?
Equipped with a degree, radiologic techs are presented with a host of career options. Typically, they are employed in hospitals, clinics and offices, or urgent care facilities. Additionally, radiology degree holders work in imaging sales and technology repair, as well as academia and research.
Those who choose a career in radiography use various diagnostic imaging methods to administer and capture 2D and 3D images of specific parts of a patient’s body, which are later analyzed and diagnosed by a radiologist or trained physician.
Finding Accredited Radiologic Technology Programs
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is the only organization recognized by the US Department of Education for accreditation of radiologic technology degree programs. You can find the accreditation status of a program by searching the JRCERT database.
Student Guide to Majoring in Radiology
Is radiology the right major for you?
Qualities of Successful Radiographers
- Passionate about patient care and healthcare
- Proficient at math and science
- Skilled at working with patients
- Fascinated by anatomy and physiology
- Effective interpersonal skills
The Education Process
There are a few basic steps that will help high school students interested in majoring in radiologic technology:
- Consult a guidance counselor who can help you choose an ideal program.
- Practice your math and writing skills. Strong math and writing skills are necessary for college entrance exams and career success.
- Research radiology school programs, universities, and colleges.
- Compare finalists based on a variety of factors, including:
- Class size
- Student body size
- Pay close attention to application and financial aid deadlines.
- Apply online or by mail to the colleges and/or universities that are in consideration.
- When visiting college campuses or as a freshman, try to meet with the school’s radiologic technology or applied health sciences advising department.
- Discuss strategies and the coursework required for obtaining a radiology degree.
- Start the process early for better access to a wider selection of courses.
Rad techs practice diagnostic radiology, Computerized Tomography, cardiac laboratories, Mammography, Ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Nuclear Medicine, and Radiation Therapy. Jobs performing these tasks will most often be found at hospitals, doctors’ offices, or clinics. A small number of radiologic technologists will work in medical and diagnostic laboratories or outpatient care centers.
Radiology Degree Levels
Radiology certificates are ideal for working professionals seeking to gain additional expertise in other specialties of radiology like CT, MRI, or ultrasound. As an alternative to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, radiology certificates also available at the undergraduate level. It typically takes six months to a year to earn a certificate and after graduation individuals are required to obtain state and federal certification prior to beginning their career as a radiologic tech.
Radiology Associate Degree
An associate’s degree in radiology is required at a minimum to work in most healthcare facilities or hospitals as a member of a diagnostic imaging team. Similar types of radiologic technology associate’s degrees include:
- Associate Degree in Radiography
- Online Associate Degree in Radiologic Technology
- Radiology Technician Associate Degree
The actual names of radiology degrees may vary depending on the school, but the coursework is similar and graduates will be equally qualified as entry-level radiologic techs. In addition to classes like math, anatomy, and medical terminology, students gain hands-on, clinical experience with equipment operation and patient care. On average, it takes approximately two years to complete an associate degree in radiography either online or on campus and it is usually offered at most community colleges and technical schools.
Bachelor’s in Radiology
There are many accredited bachelor’s of radiology programs at most healthcare-focused colleges and universities across the country, as well as online programs. While the terminology and details may vary, degree programs may also be referred to as the following:
- Bachelor of Radiologic Technology
- Bachelor of Radiologic Sciences
- Bachelor of Applied Science
A bachelor’s degree is usually the highest level of education required in the field of radiologic technology. The curriculum equips graduates for a career as a radiologic tech and a bachelor’s degree leads to a higher salary, greater leadership roles, and management opportunities. Coursework typically focuses on the basics, including patient care, patient positioning, ethics, radiation safety and protection in addition to radiation physics, pathology, anatomy, and other advanced topics. Typically, it takes about four years to earn a bachelor’s in radiology and graduates are required to become licensed in most states prior to becoming a practicing radiologic tech.
Master’s in Radiology
A master’s degree in radiology is commonly held by radiologist assistants. A master’s degree is designed for students who currently hold a bachelor’s degree, as well as for those seeking to attain an even higher level of education and understanding of biomedical imaging and associated research methods. These candidates include advanced pre-doctoral students, residents, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members. A radiology master’s usually takes one year to complete while studying full-time and two years to complete as a part-time program.
Individuals who earn a PhD in Radiology are academic radiologists focused on competing for national research grants and funding for the study of neural imaging, diagnostics radiation therapy, radiological physics, and other pressing issues in the field of advanced radiological sciences.
Radiology Degree Types
Individuals with degrees in radiologic technology obtain a well-rounded academic and clinical education that prepares students to become successful radiographers. Employed at clinics, medical institutions, urgent care facilities, and physicians’ offices, radiologic techs are skilled at the following:
- General radiography
- Surgical radiography
- Trauma radiography
- Mobile radiography
- Pediatric radiography
- Computed tomography
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Nuclear medicine
- Radiation therapy
After earning radiologic technology degree, graduates are required to successfully pass the national certification exam from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Limited Medical Radiography
Similar to an X-Ray Technician degree or certificate, students who study Limited Medical Radiography learn to conduct X-ray exams, prep patients and explain the procedure, and position the equipment and patient according to proper safety standards. Degree or diploma holders typically go on to work in doctors’ clinics and offices.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography / Ultrasound
Typically offered as a one-year certificate for working medical professionals or as bachelor’s and associate’s degrees for undergraduates, and accredited diagnostic medical sonography degree or certificate is preferred by most employers. Also commonly referred to as an ultrasound degree, the curriculum and clinical work covers medical terminology and the interpretation of sonographic images. Most sonography degree programs are structured to address the certification exams of subspecialties like breast sonography and abdominal sonography.
Offered principally at universities, community colleges, and vocational schools, X-ray tech programs require a GED or high school education for admission. Sometimes called Basic X-Ray Machine Operator programs or Limited Scope X-ray Technician Training, students learn to operate radiologic equipment in addition to caring for patients and general office administration skills. Graduates should expect to work in hospitals, labs, outpatient centers, and doctors’ offices.
Allied Health Sciences
A bachelor’s or associate’s degree in the Allied Health Sciences is usually referred to as a degree in Applied Science in Allied Health. Although these programs encompass much more than radiography, many radiologic techs earn degrees in Allied Health because it is a well-rounded education that prepares graduates to work in a variety of health care professions such as physical therapy, nutrition, health information administration, and much more. Students of these programs may choose to emphasize certain areas of radiologic study such as sonography, CT, MRI, or general radiography.
Typically an MRI Technician Certification or MRI Technologist Certification, this program is intended for professionals with experience in diagnostic imaging who are seeking to expand their skills and marketability. One year MRI tech programs are the norm and are sometimes offered as part of a degree in Allied Health Sciences or Radiologic Technology.
Scholarships, Grants, Awards, and Fellowships
Getting a college education isn’t cheap. But as everyone knows, having a degree sets you apart from the competition, especially for those hoping to work in radiologic technology. Unlike student loans, scholarships and grants allow students to be awarded financial aid that does not need to be paid back.
In addition to general financial aid programs, those seeking degrees in radiology should consider specific radiology scholarships, awards, and grants.
Apply early for as many types of scholarships as feasible. In addition to universities and colleges, government scholarships can be attained at the federal and state level. Government scholarships are typically awarded based on financial need, while others are given for a specific field of study, past accomplishments, or volunteer work.
The process of applying for scholarships is typically the easiest form of educational funding available to a student. Although some applications are long and the review process is slow, it is definitely worth the effort to be thorough and aware of all deadlines.
Aside from some government grants awarded to high-needs students, most grants are commonly reserved for postgraduate students, funding master’s and doctorate research projects. Grants are presented by organizations who share common goals and desired outcomes of the grad student’s hypothesis, so it pays to identify and reach out to like-minded associations. Such groups may be found in academia, government, civic and nonprofit organizations, scientific and medical foundations, and professional radiology associations.
Awards for outstanding achievement in radiography can help offset the cost of a college education. Awards may also be given for personal accomplishments, extra-curricular activities, and community involvement.
Fellowships are specialty training programs provide additional clinical education. In radiology, fellowship candidates have already earned a medical degree, either an MD or a DO, fulfilled a one-year internship, and a four-year residency. Examples of radiology fellowships may include thoracic imaging, abdominal imaging, neuroradiology, and nuclear medicine among others.
- American Society of Radiologic Technologist Scholarships
- American Roentgen Ray Society Scholarships
- Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing
- Elekta Radiation Therapy Scholarship
- Jerman-Cahoon Student Scholarships
- Oliver Joel and Ellen Pell Denny Healthcare Scholarship
- AACN Continuing Professional Development Scholarships
- Siemens Clinical Advancement Scholarship
- Society of Nuclear Medicine Scholarships