Bachelor’s Degree in Radiologic Technology
A bachelor’s in radiologic technology (also known as a bachelor’s in radiologic science or radiography and sometimes referred to as a bachelor’s degree in radiology) prepares to use advanced medical technology to produce images of the body for diagnosis and treatment as well as how to provide competent patient care. While associate’s degrees in radiologic technology provide foundational skills, radiologic technology bachelor’s programs are generally designed to prepare students for practice in a wider range of modalities and imaging techniques. Majors (also known as concentrations, emphases, or specialties) for a radiologic technology bachelor’s program include radiography, radiation therapy, sonography (ultrasound), nuclear medicine technology (NMT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Completing a radiology bachelor’s degree typically takes at least four years of full-time study including coursework and clinical placements. Both on-campus and online study options are available, although face-to-face clinical placements may still be required as part of online programs. Continue reading to learn more about how a bachelor’s in radiologic technology can support your career in medical imaging.
Table of Contents
- Reasons to Pursue a Bachelor’s in RT
- Majors and Areas of Study
- Program Options
- Core Concepts
- Top-Rated Programs
- Select Program Profiles
- Employment Opportunities
- Frequently Asked Questions
Reasons to Pursue a Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology
An RT bachelor’s degree is preparation for a variety of different careers in this field, including careers in healthcare management. There are three main reasons to earn a bachelor’s in radiologic technology:
1. To get a job. While an associate’s degree in radiologic technology is the minimum educational requirement for most fields of medical imaging, a bachelor’s degree is the generally accepted minimum for specialties such as nuclear medicine technology and can lead to expanded career opportunities in all modalities. A bachelor’s can also allow you to add modalities or secondary disciplines to your RT certification or license. In addition, many employers favor candidates who have a bachelor’s degree or higher for positions in supervision and management.
2. To prepare for further study. For those who wish to pursue careers as radiologist assistants (RAs) or in medical physics (designing, testing, and selling radiologic equipment), a bachelor’s degree is a necessary step towards earning a master’s degree in radiology. A bachelor’s degree in RT can also be a stepping-stone on the way to a doctorate in radiology.
3. To get licensed. Requirements for RT licensure vary by state. Some states only accept applications from graduates of accredited RT programs who have also earned a professional credential from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), while other states have different requirements. Details on current requirements can be obtained by visiting the department of health and/or radiation safety in the state where you plan to work.
The ARRT requires candidates for RT credentials to have completed an acceptable education program. Acceptable programs are typically accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT), and/or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). See our outline of major accreditors in radiologic technology for further information.
Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology Majors and Areas of Study
There are five major areas of practice (also known as modalities) in radiologic technology in which professionals seek initial certification. The degree or certificate that you earn will determine which career licenses or certifications you are eligible for. For bachelor’s degree programs, the primary areas of study are:
- Radiography (often treated as a synonym for radiologic technology)
- Radiation therapy
- Sonography (ultrasound)
- Nuclear medicine technology
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology Program Options
The two most common program structures for a bachelor’s in radiologic technology are four-year degree plans and two-year degree completion or transfer programs. To enter a traditional, four-year degree program, students must complete prerequisite courses in science and math before applying to the RT degree program at the university of their choice.
Applicants who have already completed an accredited associate degree program in radiologic technology may be able to apply to a bachelor’s degree transfer program, which accepts transfer credits from a two-year school and applies them towards the bachelor’s degree requirements. These programs commonly require state or national RT certification as well as verification of the associate’s degree earned.
Online Degree Program Formats
Due to the hands-on nature of work in the RT field, students seeking initial certification or licensure should expect to complete most, if not all, of their program coursework in a traditional, on-campus setting. However, for those seeking an online bachelor’s in radiologic technology who already have an associate’s degree and initial certification, a bachelor’s completion or transfer program may be a good fit since these are commonly found in online and hybrid formats.
No matter which program format you choose, be sure to check with the appropriate state board of public health or radiation safety in order to ensure that the RT programs you are considering will meet standards for licensure or certification. It is also helpful to check program status with the appropriate program accreditor as well as the credentialing standards set forth by the ARRT.
Admission requirements to a bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology will vary by school. However, like their associate’s degree counterparts, RT bachelor’s programs are often competitive and require above-average GPAs. At the bachelor’s level, schools may be more likely to require pre-admissions tests like the SAT or ACT and may require higher-than-average scores on these tests. Prospective students who performed well in an associate degree program may have an edge in the admissions process. Many schools also prefer candidates who are registered with the ARRT and, if applicable in their state of residence, have an active RT license in good standing.
Core Concepts for a Bachelor’s Degree in Radiologic Technology
Before taking core courses, RT bachelor’s degree students will typically take foundational courses in science, such as biology and anatomy and physiology, as well as courses in math, liberal arts, and social sciences (if they have not already met these requirements in an associate degree program). Once formally admitted to the RT program, common courses students may take include:
- Advanced Image Analysis
- Clinical Decision-Making
- Clinical Research Methods
- Digital Image Acquisition
- Human Anatomy
- Management in Diagnostic Healthcare
- Medical Ethics
- Medical Terminology
- Principles of Imaging
- Radiation Protection
Top-Rated Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology Programs
Niche Best Colleges in America: Four-Year RT Degrees 2020
- University of Iowa (#136)
- Baptist College of Health Sciences (#177)
- University of Mississippi (#213)
- North Dakota State University (#343)
- Manhattan College (#363)
- Virginia Commonwealth University (#376)
- Xavier University (#392)
- Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (#438)
- Gannon University (#443)
- University of St. Francis Illinois (#455)3
Select Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology Programs
The Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology (BSRT) degree offered at Austin Peay State University (APSU) is designed to provide students with a broad range of skills including theory, critical thinking, laboratory, and hands-on clinical experience. After applying and being accepted to APSU, students complete core general education and science courses, which typically takes two years of full-time study, before focusing on RT coursework. The majors offered include Radiography, Radiation Therapy, Nuclear Medicine, and Sonography. Once admitted to the RT program, students should be able to complete all the remaining degree requirements in two years. Courses include Image Production and Evaluation, Quality Control in Radiologic Technology, and Radiographic Pathology. Applicants must have at least a 2.5 high school GPA to apply; however, successful applicants typically have a higher GPA.
The Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences (BSRS) program at California State University–Northridge (CSUN) takes two-and-a-half years to complete once the prerequisite coursework is satisfied. The program includes 12 months of foundational education in radiographic technology and an additional 18 months of study on advanced imaging techniques. Students are exposed to a variety of different radiologic technologies in theory and practice, including MRI, Computed Tomography (CT), Interventional Radiology (IR), Cardiac Catheterization, and Mammography. During the program, students complete over 2,500 hours of clinical practicum. To apply to the RT program, students must have completed prerequisite courses either at CSUN or another institution with transferable credits. Then, prospective applicants must meet with a BSRS advisor, complete at least 40 hours of job shadowing, attend a tour of a clinical placement department, and submit an application by late January to begin in the fall term. Certificate programs in specific advanced imaging techniques are also available.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) offers a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences (BSRS) with two possible program options. The first option is a traditional transfer program that enables applicants who have already completed 60 credits of general arts and sciences to complete their degree in radiologic sciences. This full-time program takes 22 months (five semesters) to complete and provides clinical experience to prepare students for a career as a technologist. The second option is an online, part-time advanced standing program for individuals who already have a recognized credential in RT at the associate degree level and would like to pursue a more advanced degree. The advanced standing program is offered on a part-time basis and can be completed in less than two years. Courses include Pharmacology, Digital Image Acquisition and Display, and Radiographic Image Analysis. UMC also offers Master of Science (MS) degrees in MRI and Nuclear Medicine.
Online and Hybrid Programs
At the University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, students who have already completed a Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)-accredited radiography program can apply for the Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences (BSIS) degree completion program that is focused on leadership and management in the RT field. Transfer credit is accepted for radiography courses and general education courses. Clinical requirements are completed in the student’s local geographical area and include a Leadership Practicum. The university also offers related on-campus degrees, including an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Radiography and a BSIS in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until May 15th for fall term entry. Courses are taken online and include Research in the Health Sciences, Patient Information Management, and Risk Management.
For applicants looking for greater flexibility or busy working professionals, the University of Louisiana at Monroe offers a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology (BSRT) delivered fully online that can be completed at the student’s own pace with either full-time or part-time study. As this is a degree completion program, applicants must already have prior education and experience as a radiographic technologist to be eligible for admission. The education plan allows 38 transfer credits from previous coursework. In addition, students complete 54 credits of general education, including biology, math, and medical terminology, and 27 credits in professional coursework including a capstone project. Most courses have an eight-week, intensive block structure that enables students to focus their attention on two or three topics during each term. Courses are offered during five terms throughout the year with winter and summer holiday breaks. Topics in the curriculum include Methods of Patient Care, Imaging Equipment and Radiation Production, and Advanced Radiographic Procedures.
Employment Opportunities for a Bachelor’s in Radiologic Technology
- CT Technologist
- Limited Scope X-Ray Machine Operator
- MRI Technologist
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist
- Radiologic Technologist (also known as Radiographer, Rad Tech, RT, or Radiology Technologist)
- Sonographer (also known as Ultrasound Technologist or Technician)
- X-Ray Technologist or Technician
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I study for a bachelor’s degree in radiology part-time?
Many schools offer a bachelor’s degree in radiology (which is properly known as a bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology) with part-time study options for at least the first year or two of the program. Once you have been admitted to the clinical RT portion of the degree program, part-time study is less common due to the structured nature of clinical placements. In addition, many programs are offered in a cohort model in which students progress through the program together on a full-time basis.
What is the difference between a bachelor’s in radiology, a radiography bachelor’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree in sonography?
Strictly speaking, radiology is not an undergraduate major, though it can be a subject of specialization in medical school. Undergraduates may major in radiologic technology or related subdisciplines, such as sonography. This is because, in the wider view, radiology is the practice of using radiation for diagnoses or interventions. Radiologic technologists cannot make diagnoses or prescribe interventional medicine, and may only take images or perform other procedures under the supervision of an appropriately qualified medical supervisor. However, because many people search for a bachelor’s degree in radiology or bachelor’s in radiology technology while meaning radiologic technologist degrees, we also address the terms here.
What is the difference between a primary pathway and a postprimary pathway?
The area of a radiologic technologist’s initial or first license is called the primary pathway, following the ARRT’s nomenclature. There are five primary pathways: radiologic technology/radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine technology (NMT), radiation therapy, and sonography/ultrasound. The requirements for initial certification vary according to the modality, the state of practice, and the leading credentialing board. The possible secondary areas of licensure are based on the practitioner’s primary pathway, so it’s important for prospective students to consider their career goals and desired practice areas prior to choosing a program.
What job opportunities are available with a radiologic technology bachelor’s degree?
Graduates of an RT bachelor’s degree program may find work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, private clinics, medical laboratories, and research facilities.6 The bachelor’s in radiology curriculum provides the opportunity to develop advanced imaging skills in specific modalities, such as MRI, CT, and sonography, which can be found in a wide range of healthcare or research departments.
What degree do I need for radiology technician certification?
For most areas of radiologic technology, including radiography and ultrasound, an associate’s degree is the typical minimum educational attainment to become certified as an RT. Some areas require less education, such as limited scope x-ray operators. Other areas require more education, such as nuclear medicine technology, in which the bachelor’s degree is the common entry point. Check with programs of interest and major employers in your area to learn more about local standards, which can vary geographically with licensure requirements.
What are the salary expectations for radiologic technologists with a bachelor’s?
Bachelor’s degree holders tend to make more than associate degree holders in most modalities.2 In 2019, the national median salary for RTs and MRI technologists was $62,280; however, average salaries do vary by state and modality.2,4 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest mean salaries in 2019 were found in California ($86,120), Hawaii ($82,680), and Washington DC ($79,430).5 According to the ASRT, those with a bachelor’s degree make more than those with an associate’s degree across many modalities. For example, in imaging informatics, the mean salary is $75,683 for those with an associate’s, compared to $79,581 for those with a bachelor’s, and in bone densitometry, the mean is $58,681 for those with an associate’s and $63,401 for those with a bachelor’s.2 The difference is widest for radiologist assistants, with a mean salary of $72,047 for those with an associate’s and $106,679 for those with a bachelor’s.2 Note, however, that the ASRT survey sample is relatively small, and other factors including experience and geographic area impact salary expectations.
What is the job outlook for radiologic technologists with a bachelor’s?
The field of radiologic technology is projected to grow by 9% through 2028, providing over 20,000 new job openings.5 This is a higher rate of growth than the average of all occupations (6%) during the same time period.4 According to the BLS, RTs who have completed accredited programs and trained in multiple modalities will be in the greatest demand.4 O*NET OnLine reports that 63% of radiologic technologists recommend an associate’s degree to enter the field, and according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), there is a growing trend for RTs to pursue a bachelor’s degree; in 2016, 25% of ASRT members surveyed had a bachelor’s degree as their highest educational attainment.1,2
1. O*Net OnLine, Radiologic Technologists: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2034.00
2. American Society of Radiologic Technologists, Radiologic Technologist Wage and Salary Survey 2016: https://www.asrt.org/docs/default-source/research/radiologic-technologist-wage-and-salary-survey-2016.pdf
3. Niche 2020 Best Colleges with Four-Year Radiologic Technician Degrees: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges-with-radiologic-technician/?type=private&type=public
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiologic and MRI Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/OOH/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Radiologic Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm