Typically, a radiology technologist (or rad tech) has two to four years of schooling leading to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology. Rad techs may also earn specialized certificates in areas such as CT or MRI. Radiologic technologists may seek certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In most states, licensees must complete continuing education to remain registered and/or licensed throughout their career. According to O*Net Online data, 63% of radiologic technologists have an associate degree, while 24% hold a post-secondary certificate.
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. Medical imaging professionals are most commonly employed in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and urgent care facilities. Rad tech degree holders may also work in such areas as imaging sales and technology repair as well as in 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 analyzed by a radiologist or trained physician who uses these images to make diagnoses and treatment decisions.
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 students interested in majoring in radiologic technology:
- Consult a guidance counselor or college advisor 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 radiologic technology programs.
- Compare finalists based on a variety of factors, including:
- Class size
- Student body size
- Pay close attention to application and financial aid deadlines.
- Apply to the colleges and/or universities that are in consideration.
- When visiting college campuses, try to meet with the school’s radiologic technology or applied health sciences advising department.
- Discuss strategies and the coursework required for obtaining a radiologic technology degree.
- Start the process early for better access to a wider selection of courses.
Rad techs produce images and assist in the delivery of treatments using computerized tomography (CT), cardiac laboratories, mammography, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, and radiation therapy. Technologists performing these tasks will most often be found at hospitals, doctors’ offices, and clinics. A smaller number of radiologic technologists work in medical and diagnostic laboratories or outpatient care centers.
Radiology Degree Levels
Radiologic Technology Certificate
Radiologic technology certificates, or radiology certificates, are ideal for working professionals seeking to gain additional expertise in specialties in medical imaging like CT, MRI, or ultrasound. As an alternative to earning a second degree for those who are already working in radiologic technology, these certificates are often available at the undergraduate level. It typically takes six months to a year to earn a certificate. After graduation, individuals may be required to obtain state or other certification to practice in the new modality. RT certificates can also be useful for people with no prior experience in the field, often in conjunction with an associate’s degree. Read more on our Radiologic Technology Certificate degree page.
Radiology Associate Degree
An associate’s degree in radiologic technology is the minimum requirement to work in most healthcare facilities or hospitals as a member of a diagnostic imaging team. 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 radiologic technology degree programs may vary depending on the school, but the coursework is similar and graduates will typically be qualified for work as entry-level radiologic techs after meeting state certification or licensing requirements. 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. Associate’s degree programs in radiologic technology are offered at many community colleges and technical schools. You can find out more about associate’s degrees in RT on our Associate’s Degree in Radiology page.
Bachelor’s in Radiology
There are many accredited bachelor’s degree programs in radiologic technology. While the terminology and details may vary, common names for these programs include:
- Bachelor of Radiologic Technology
- Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences
- Bachelor of Applied Science
A bachelor’s degree can lead to a higher salary, greater opportunities to assume 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 radiologic technology and graduates are required to become licensed in most states prior to becoming a practicing radiologic tech. A growing number of schools are offering transfer programs that allow those who already completed an associate’s degree in medical imaging to earn an online bachelor’s degree in radiologic science. To learn more, read our Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology page.
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 already hold a bachelor’s degree and are seeking an advanced understanding of biomedical imaging and associated research methods. A master’s degree usually takes one to two years to complete while studying full-time and three years to complete as a part-time program. Read more about the master’s in radiology degree on our Master of Radiology page.
Individuals who earn a PhD in Radiology are typically academic radiologists focused on research and the study of neural imaging, diagnostic radiation therapy, radiological physics, and other advancements in the field of advanced radiological sciences.
Radiology Degree Types
Individuals with degrees in radiologic technology have completed academic and clinical education to prepare them for medical imaging careers. Employed at clinics, medical institutions, urgent care facilities, and physicians’ offices, radiologic techs must be 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 may be required to pass the national certification exam from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), depending on the licensing rules in their state.
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, an accredited diagnostic medical sonography degree or certificate is preferred by many employers. Also commonly referred to as an ultrasound degree, the curriculum and clinical work for this procedure cover 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 allied health can be another pathway towards a medical imaging career. Although these programs encompass much more than radiography, many radiologic techs earn degrees in allied health because it provides 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 in certain areas of radiologic study such as sonography, CT, MRI, or general radiography.
Typically labeled as an MRI Technician Certification or MRI Technologist Certification program, MRI certificates are intended for professionals with previous training and/or 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.
Along with grants, scholarships are one of the lowest-cost forms of educational funding available to a student. Although some applications are long and the review process can be slow, it is 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 funding master’s and doctoral research projects. Grants are typically backed by organizations, 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 that provide additional clinical education, typically with a stipend. In radiology, fellowship candidates are usually pursuing a medical degree, internship, or 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