Associate’s Degree in Radiologic Technology
The associate degree in radiologic technology, usually offered as either an Associate of Science (AS) or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS), is the initial, entry-level degree offered to high school graduates or individuals with no prior training to begin a career in the field of radiography. While there are many radiologic modalities and specializations, associate degree programs in the field are designed to ensure that new graduates understand biology, physiology, anatomy, patient care, and clinical skills before embarking on this dynamic career path. Completing an associate’s degree in RT typically takes two years of full-time study, but due to the clinical requirements of these programs, it may take up to three years of full-time study. AS and AAS degrees in radiologic technology are offered by colleges and universities across the country, many of which also offer degree completion programs, bachelor’s, and master’s level programs in radiologic technology or specialty modalities.
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers licensing for radiologic technologists (RTs), which is required in many states. In order to take the ARRT exam(s) leading to licensure in some states, candidates must complete a program that is accredited by an ARRT-approved accrediting agency. Keep in mind that each state has different requirements and may also require new graduates to obtain additional state licensing before working in the field. Upon graduation, registered radiologic technologists can look forward to a growing demand for their skills and a good return on investment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average salary for radiologic technologists in 2016 of $59,260, and a projected job growth rate of 9%, or an estimated 17,200 open RT positions between 2014 and 2024.1,2
Associate’s degrees are generally open to high school or GED graduates, and typically no prior post-secondary education or work experience is necessary to apply. Application requirements, including high school GPA, do vary widely among institutions, so applicants should always check the details of each school’s requirements. Many programs require prospective radiography applicants to complete prerequisite coursework in science, math, and English to ensure they are prepared for the rigorous nature of the program. First, applicants typically apply to the college or university of their choice by submitting transcripts and other supporting documents. After taking general education courses and required prerequisites for the program, students may formally apply to the radiologic technology degree program.
Core Concepts and Coursework
Requirements for an associate’s degree in radiographic technology typically include a range of courses, including science, math, and English prerequisites; theoretical and foundational courses on radiographic procedures, safety, and anatomy; and practical, hands-on clinical courses where students can apply their learning. Foundational coursework generally must be completed before students are able to progress to the clinical learning stage. The following list is a sampling of courses that may be part of your radiologic technology associate degree program:
- Introductory Anatomy
- Introductory Biology
- Patient Care & Management
- Foundational Radiographic Procedures
- Diagnostic Concepts
- Radiographic Protection
- Radiographic Anatomy & Positioning
- Specialized Clinical Imaging
Radiologic Technology Associate’s Degree Learning Goals
1. Learn how to use radiographic technologies and take accurate images.
The most important part of any radiologic technology degree program is accurate and safe usage of radiologic technologies. Students learn how to operate various types of equipment, such as x-ray machines and digital imaging, to produce images that can be used by a physician to diagnose health issues.
2. Provide competent and confident patient care.
Regardless of the equipment being used, the radiology technologist must ensure the patient is safe, as comfortable as possible, and informed about the procedure at all times. Students also learn how to position patients appropriately to produce the best possible images.
3. Acquire the knowledge necessary to pass the ARRT radiography exam, if necessary.
As many students pursue ARRT certification after graduation, many programs specifically focus coursework on the learning goals of the exam. If you plan to seek ARRT certification, be sure to guarantee that the program is accredited by an approved agency and look for data on the exam success rate of previous students.
Traditional Radiologic Technology Associate’s Degree Programs
490 not-for-profit colleges and universities in the US offer an associate degree program in radiologic technology.3 Due to the demanding nature of the clinical placements, many programs are only offered full-time. Below are some program profiles of options offered in various regions of the country that meet ARRT requirements.
City College of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
At the City College of San Francisco, students can complete a full-time Associate of Science (AS) in diagnostical medical imaging. Applicants can feel confident that the program will adequately prepare them for the ARRT exam, as 100% of program graduates have successfully passed it on the first attempt since 2006. Prospective applicants to the program must first complete 12 general education credits before submitting an application during the August 1-10 application period for either a fall or spring start date. Only 15 students are admitted each year and are chosen by a random draw from all qualified applicants. Once admitted, the program consists of 66 credits taken over 30 months. The curriculum covers a broad range of radiography topics, such as pathology, patient care, and advanced imaging, and includes several clinical placements throughout the program.
Kapi’olani Community College at the University of Hawai’i (Honolulu, HI)
Beginning in the fall term only, the Associate of Science (AS) degree in radiologic technology at Kapi’olani Community College consists of 89-92 credits organized in a set sequence that must be taken on a full-time basis. The program takes two years to complete, including mandatory coursework during the summer, after prerequisite general education courses are completed. As spaces are limited in the program, the admissions process is thorough with several requirements. For example, applicants must attend an information session in O’ahu and take an admissions test to show competency in foundational subjects, such as physiology, math, and grammar. Admitted students take courses in human anatomy and physiology, radiographic techniques, and radiologic physics and complete 2,000 clock hours of clinical placements at clinics and hospital sites across the island.
Online Radiologic Technology Associate’s Degree Programs
Online degree programs in radiologic technology are less commonly available due to the clinical placement requirements needed to be eligible for ARRT licensure; however, some hybrid options do exist that offer greater flexibility through online components. Here are a few programs to check out if you are interested in earning a partially online radiologic technology degree.
Ball State University (Muncie, IN)
Ball State University offers an Associate of Science (AS) radiography with a hybrid format. Some classes can be taken online in combination with traditional courses at the Muncie campus; however, clinical placements must be completed in person at the IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. In total, the program takes 26 months to complete including a coursework phase and a clinical placement phase that requires a separate application. Acceptance into the clinical placement phase is not guaranteed and is based on a combination of overall and prerequisite course GPAs. The program curriculum includes course topics such as physiology, anatomy, and clinical techniques.
Southeast Community College (Lincoln, NE)
For applicants looking for a program with more online content, the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in radiologic technology at Southeast Community College may be a good option. This program offers all course content online and allows students to complete clinical requirements at a medical facility in their local area. The program begins each year in the summer (July) term and students take courses in diagnostic imaging, radiation biology, and pathophysiology as well as several clinical placements. As clinical placement opportunities are not restricted by geographic location compared to traditional, on-campus radiologic technology programs, Southeast Community College has an open admission policy and admits students who have at least a C+ average in the prerequisite courses. Note that the SCC RT program is not available to students living in California or Florida.
Many new graduates will seek certification through the ARRT once they have completed their associate’s degree. Although this is not always necessary, it does show potential employers that you have a good knowledge base and clinical experience. It can also be useful if plan to look for work in states that require ARRT credentialing as part of their licensure process. Some states that require applicants to pass the ARRT exam(s) in their practice area(s) as part of licensure may also require applicants to take additional exams. Each state’s requirements vary, so be sure to check with your state’s RT licensing department for more details.
Jobs with a Radiologic Technology Associate’s Degree
Individuals with radiologic technology associate’s degrees typically work in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare settings. Related job titles can be combined into two primary groups:
- Radiology Technologist
- Radiologic Technologist
- X-Ray Technologist
- Limited Scope X-Ray Machine Operator
- Rad Tech
- Radiologic Technician
- Radiology Technician
- X-Ray Technician
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of salary can I earn as a radiologic technologist?
In 2016, the median salary for a radiologic technologist was $57,450, and 63% of these individuals had an associate’s degree.2,4 Of those, RTs working in hospital settings earned the highest median salary ($58,730); RTs working in medical labs earned a median salary of $57,410; and RTs working in doctor’s offices earned the lowest median salary ($52,420).2 RTs specializing in the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) earned a higher median salary, between $67,770 and $68,360 in 2016.2
Can I complete my entire degree online?
While some programs offer online courses, due to the clinical requirements of associate-level programs in RT, there are few to no 100% online associate degree programs. Completing clinical hours under the supervision of a registered radiologist ensures students have mastered the skills necessary to work safely and independently and, therefore, is an important part of the training process. There are, however, many RT programs that offer coursework 100% online or mostly online, with clinical hours being the only in-person requirement. There are also many bachelor’s degree programs that can be completed fully online for those who have already obtained their initial credentials.
What skills will I learn during a clinical placement?
During clinical placements, students may be exposed to a variety of client groups, such as children, athletes, and/or the elderly, while learning how to safely and accurately conduct radiographic procedures on different parts of the body. Learning how to work professionally as part of a healthcare team is also an important aspect of the clinical experience. After completing a clinical placement, students should feel more comfortable and confident entering their first radiologic technology job in a hospital or healthcare setting.
Can I specialize in one specific type of radiographic procedure at the associate degree level?
Typically, associate degrees in radiographic technology provide foundational knowledge for generalized radiologic imaging practice, as there simply is not enough time in a two-to-three-year program to learn both foundational skills and specialized modalities. Students interested in specializing in RT modalities may wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree or certificate program after completing the associate’s degree and/or after gaining work experience.
How long does it take to complete this degree?
Completing an associate’s degree in radiologic technology generally takes a minimum of two years of full-time study, although it can take three years or more, depending on the clinical components and other program requirements. Part-time study is less common at the associate degree level, and will further extend the length of time needed to complete the program.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Radiologic Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm#ind
2. Bureau of Labor Statisitcs, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiologic and MRI Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
3. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. O*NET OnLine, Radiologic Technologists: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2034.00