Radiologic Technology Certificate
Earning a certificate in radiologic technology (RT) or radiography, often searched for as a certificate in radiology, is a path for those interested in entering the field of radiologic technology as well as an option for those already working in the field in order to add to their skills and qualifications. Prospective radiologic technologists must first gain education and experience in one or more specializations or practice areas, commonly referred to as modalities. This typically requires at least an associate’s degree. After earning an associate’s degree or higher in a primary area, radiologic technologists may then add modalities to their core practice area by completing one or more certificate programs. A certificate can also prepare RTs for practice with a specific population, such as children or older adults. For limited scope x-ray technicians, which are different from radiologic technologists, the minimum required education in many states is just a certificate program.
Table of Contents
- Radiologic Technology Certificate Types
- Reasons to Pursue a Certificate
- Majors and Areas of Study
- Program Options
- Admission Requirements
- Core Concepts
- Top-Rated Programs
- Select Program Profiles
- Employment Opportunities
- Frequently Asked Questions
Types of Certificates in Radiologic Technology
There are two types of certificates in radiologic technology, primary pathway certificates and postprimary pathway certificates. Primary pathway certificates are certificate programs that lead to a first-time license to practice in the RT field. Requirements vary by state as far as what types of radiologic technology you may practice with only a certificate and compared to primary pathway degree programs, primary pathway certificates are limited both in scope and availability. Adding a modality by completing a certificate (or a degree) after earning an associate’s degree and initial certification is referred to by the ARRT as a “postprimary pathway.”
Primary Pathway Certificates
Having a minimum of an associate degree to work in the RT field is the norm. However, in some states, select areas of practice may only require a certificate program instead of an associate’s degree to become certified or licensed. For example, limited scope x-ray technician certification or licensure commonly only requires a certificate program that can be completed in one year or less. According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), 18% of RT professionals in a recent survey held a certificate as their highest level of education completed.1
Postprimary Pathway Certificates
If you already have a degree and are licensed to practice in the RT field, you may pursue a certificate to add to your areas of practice, for example, if you are already licensed in radiography but you want to add a credential for MRI. This is known as the postprimary pathway. Some practice areas in radiologic technology require a degree in a supporting discipline plus a certificate in a specialized modality. According to the ASRT, just under 40% of radiologic technologists have a secondary discipline; the most common areas of secondary practice are radiography, computed tomography (CT), bone densitometry, and mammography.1 The postprimary pathways that a candidate is eligible for depend on the primary area of his or her initial degree and certification and the coursework in the postprimary certificate program. Other potential postprimary certifications include breast sonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Reasons to Pursue a Certificate in Radiologic Technology
A certificate in radiologic technology can qualify you for entry-level employment as an x-ray tech if it is your first credential. If you already have other RT credentials, a certificate can qualify you for employment in other areas. There are three main reasons to earn a certificate in RT:
1. To get a job. The hiring market for RTs can be competitive, and employers are looking for candidates who have at least basic qualifications to operate radiologic equipment. Earning a certificate demonstrates to prospective employers that you have the skills and knowledge required to work safely and effectively in an imaging department.
2. To prepare for further study. In some cases, a certificate program can be used as a stepping-stone towards a higher-level degree. For example, if you do not have an education in radiologic technology, your first step might be to earn a certificate in x-ray technology. After gaining employment as an x-ray technologist, you might then decide to pursue an associate’s degree in RT. Many associate’s programs will accept transfer credit from a certificate if it was completed at an accredited school.
3. To get licensed. One of the top reasons to pursue a certificate in radiologic technology is to qualify for licensure or certification in a specific modality. Becoming qualified in multiple modalities can also raise salary potential; as ASRT salary data shows, some modalities lead to higher average salaries, and those who have qualifications in multiple modalities may earn more.1 Such qualifications can also lead to expanded career opportunities with employers seeking RTs who have experience in specific disciplines, especially in hospitals and clinics that commonly use multiple types of RT equipment.
Each state sets its own guidelines for the licensure of RT professionals. Many states have adopted the educational guidelines and exams used by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The ARRT also offers voluntary certification, professional credentials that can lead to additional job opportunities. Certification and licensure generally require completing an acceptable education program–typically one that is 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). Our overview of RT accreditation provides more information on these requirements.
Certificate in Radiologic Technology Majors and Areas of Study
Learning the fundamentals of the safe use of complex radiographic equipment requires more contact hours than a certificate program typically provides. As a result, in most states and for all types of voluntary primary certification offered by the ARRT (radiography, radiation therapy, sonography, nuclear medicine technology, and MRI), candidates must have at least an associate’s degree in radiologic technology. However, there are many limited scope x-ray technician certificate programs that can be a starting point in this field for those who do not have an associate’s degree. Limited scope x-ray technicians (also known as limited scope radiographers), in states where they are recognized, can operate x-ray equipment over designated parts of the body under direct supervision.
For those who have an associate’s degree and one or more RT certifications, the ARRT recognizes the following postprimary pathways that can be added through a certificate program, depending on the area in which the candidate is already certified:
- Bone densitometry
- Breast sonography
- Cardiac interventional radiography
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Vascular interventional radiography
- Vascular sonography
Certificate in Radiologic Technology Program Options
RT certificate programs that are designed for initial certification in a modality will typically require at least some on-campus coursework, whether it is the student’s first modality or an add-on modality. This is due to the complexity of the equipment and radiation safety concerns; students must have at least some hands-on equipment training in order to follow proper procedures. Postprimary certificate programs will also generally require students to be certified in one or more areas of radiologic technology by the state in which they practice and/or the ARRT.
Online Degree Program Formats
There are online radiologic technology certificate options for those who are already trained and certified in a modality and are looking for certificate programs for professional development in areas like leadership, management, and special populations. While these certificates generally do not lead to new licensure, they can lead to career advancement. Other postprimary programs may be offered in a hybrid format, in which some training is classroom-based while supporting coursework is taken online.
Whichever certificate option you choose, be sure to check with the appropriate state licensing board(s) to make sure that the radiologic technology schools you are considering meet the requirements for the area you want to pursue. It’s also a good idea to check the accreditation status of the programs you are considering, as well as their alignment with the ARRT’s education and credentialing standards.
Admission requirements vary widely by program. Individuals with no prior formal training in radiologic technology should have at least a high school diploma or GED. Many postprimary certificate programs require an associate’s degree or higher (which may or may not be required to be in an RT discipline). Postprimary programs designed to add modalities or build advanced professional skills will also usually require ARRT certification and/or state licensure plus the completion of an accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. All applicants will likely be required to submit relevant transcripts and may also need to submit references, a personal essay, or proof of job shadowing or work experience as part of the application process.
Core Concepts for a Certificate in Radiologic Technology
Rad tech certificate programs teach students about anatomy and related sciences as well as the fundamental skills needed to take and analyze medical images. The courses required will usually be focused on a specific area of RT, since certificates tend to be narrower in focus than a comparable degree. Courses in an radiologic technology certificate program may include:
- Advanced Anatomy
- Advanced Imaging
- Digital Imaging & Display
- Foundations of Radiology
- Image Analysis
- Medical Ethics
- Patient Care
- Radiographic Exposure
- Radiologic Physics
- Radiographic Procedures
Top-Rated Certificate in Radiologic Technology Programs
RT Undergrad Certificate Programs: Niche’s Best Colleges 2020
- California State University-Northridge (#600 Best Colleges)
- Cypress College (#54 Best Community Colleges)
- GateWay Community College (#57 Best Community Colleges)
- Harper College (#24 Best Community Colleges)
- Manhattan College (#363 Best Colleges)
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (#609 Best Colleges)
- Minnesota State Community and Technical College (#29 Best Community Colleges)
- Northwestern State University of Louisiana (#616)
- San Jacinto College (#13 Best Community Colleges)
- University of Louisiana-Monroe (#475 Best Colleges)2
RT Grad Certificate Programs: US News & World Report’s Best Radiology Programs 2020
- Duke University (#5 tie)
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (#8)
- Columbia University (#12)3
Select Radiologic Technology Certificate Programs
Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) offers a 47-credit hour Diploma in Limited Scope Radiography (LSR) on its Detroit Lakes campus. Students in this limited scope x-ray program learn the fundamentals of radiation safety, patient positioning and care, and the basic evaluation of radiographs. To be considered for admission to the program, which accepts students for the fall semester, students must already be admitted to M State; meet English and math general education requirements and select other prerequisites; and pass a Minnesota Department of Health background check. Once admitted, students take courses such as Radiographic Procedures; Imaging Equipment and Quality Control; and Radiobiology. Graduates who are interested in further education are eligible for a bridge program to an associate’s degree in radiologic technology at M State, known as the LSR to RT program.
Through its College of Health Professions, Sacred Heart University (SHU) offers an undergraduate Certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound). Admission is open to those who are already certified in a radiologic discipline and/or have a state license in one or more disciplines. This 12-month, 18-credit hour program is based on 150 hours of theoretical instruction and 1,700 contact hours of clinical experience. Students have access to state-of-the-art learning facilities and highly experienced instructors who emphasize experiential learning and ethical conduct in healthcare. Other undergraduate certificates offered at SHU include Computed Tomography (CT), Mammography, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The school also offers an Associate of Science (AS) in Radiography that is designed to be completed in three years or less.
The undergraduate Certificate in Radiography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is offered in collaboration with Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina Health System to provide students with learning opportunities close to the campus. An associate’s degree with at least a 2.8 grade point average (GPA) is required for admission, including at least a B grade in prerequisite biology, anatomy, and physiology courses. Beginning in May each year, students take courses in radiologic procedures, ethics, and pathology and complete the program in approximately 18 months. The department also offers a Master’s in Radiologic Science leading to the radiologic assistant (RA) designation.
For students with a specific interest in women’s health, Fort Hays State University offers an online Certificate in Women’s Imaging with a required one-week residency on campus. The certificate comprises eight credits including Principles of Bone Densitometry, Mammography for Radiologic Technologists, and Advanced Mammography for Radiologic Technologists. Applicants must already be practicing radiologic technicians. The program can be used towards continuing education credits for the ARRT or simply to develop a specialization in an area of interest. The university also offers an on-campus associate’s degree in radiologic technology, on-campus and online bachelor’s degrees in medical diagnostic imaging, and related on-campus certificates.
The Rutgers University School of Health Professions houses an online Certificate in Radiologic Imaging Modalities (RIM). All courses are taken online. Students may meet clinical hour requirements at a university-associated clinical placement; other clinical placements will be considered but must be approved by the program in order to count towards degree requirements. In addition to meeting university requirements in math and English with an overall undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or better, prospective students must be ARRT-registered Diagnostic Radiographers. Once admitted, students select two specialties from three options offered: Computed Tomography (CT), Mammography, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Many of the 34 credit hours that comprise the program will then be focused on the student’s chosen modalities. Students may choose to study on a full- or part-time basis, with up to five years allowed to fulfill all program requirements. Core courses taken by all students include Multiple Modality Anatomy; Computerized Imaging; and Advanced Patient Care and Pharmacology.
At AdventHealth University (AHU), students can earn an Advanced Imaging Certificate in Computed Tomography (CT) online. Prospective students must have an associate’s degree in radiography or nuclear medicine and be certified by the ARRT or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) in order to be considered for admission. Courses offered include CT Imaging Procedures; CT Pathology Case Studies; and Advanced Procedures & Technology in CT. A semester-long clinical internship is also included in the program. The certificate is designed to meet the ARRT’s requirements for postprimary certification in CT; credits earned during the program may also be applied towards AHU’s Bachelor of Science (BS) in Imaging Sciences, an online bachelor’s degree program that is designed for RT-credentialed associate degree holders. AHU is the education arm of AdventHealth, formerly the Adventist Health System, one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the US.
Employment Opportunities with a Radiology Certificate
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a radiologic technology certificate to work in this field?
Employers typically prefer to hire medical imaging professionals who have at least a radiologic technologist certificate. However, the legal requirements vary by state; in a few states, no formal education or radiology certification is required by the state to apply for entry-level positions (though proof of education will still typically be required by prospective employers). At the same time, due to the complex and rapidly-changing nature of radiologic science, earning a certificate and becoming licensed can help you secure a job faster or move up from an entry-level position.
What is the typical salary for a radiologic technologist?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2019, the median salary for a radiologic technologist was $60,510 per year and the average salary was $63,120 per year.4 The states with the highest average salaries for RTs were California ($86,120), Hawaii ($82,680), and Washington DC ($79,430).4 The top 10 highest-paying metro areas for RTs were all in California, led by Salinas ($110,180), Vallejo-Fairfield ($109,680), and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward ($103,670).4
Where do radiologic technology certificate graduates work?
Radiologic technology certificate programs at the undergraduate level prepare graduates for initial radiology certification and entry-level positions in hospitals, clinics, research laboratories, and other medical facilities focused on the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Graduate-level certificates can prepare you for advanced careers in medical imaging, including management and leadership, health informatics, and related areas outside of direct patient care. For more information on jobs related to the field, see our radiologic technology career guide.
Can I complete a radiologic technology certificate online?
Fully-online radiology certificate programs are somewhat rare, as most foundational programs require students to complete at least one clinical placement or internship arranged by the school. These placements provide students with hands-on experience and allow instructors the opportunity to evaluate a student’s skills and progress. Specialization certificates for technologists who are already licensed in at least one modality may be found online; however, most radiology technician certificate programs are offered on-campus or in a hybrid format.
Can I become licensed or earn radiology tech certification with a certificate in radiography?
Licensure as a registered technologist varies between states. However, most states and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) credentialing program require at least an associate’s degree for most modalities. If your degree is not related to radiologic technology, completing an approved radiologic technician certificate program may also allow you to meet the requirements. However, in many states, a diploma-level radiology tech certification program can qualify you for licensure as a limited scope x-ray technologist or limited scope radiographer. Limited scope technologists can perform entry-level RT work with some limitations compared to full-scope RTs. Check with your state and/or the ARRT for more information on requirements and restrictions.
1. American Society of Radiologic Technologists, Radiologic Technologist Wage and Salary Survey: https://www.asrt.org/docs/default-source/research/radiologic-technologist-wage-and-salary-survey-2016.pdf
2. Niche Best Colleges with Radiologic Technician Programs 2020: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges-with-radiologic-technician/
3. US News & World Report, Best Radiology Programs 2020: https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools/radiology-rankings
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Radiologic Technologists and Technicians: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm