Master’s Degree in Radiology
Radiology graduate programs offer the chance to study radiology at an advanced level and develop the skills and knowledge needed to become a leader in the field. A master’s in radiology degree can prepare graduates to become radiologist assistants (RAs), sometimes known as radiology practitioner assistants (RPAs) or radiologist extenders, who assist radiologists and other medical doctors with advanced patient care, imaging, and diagnostic procedures. Other program options at the master’s degree level include advanced clinical practice in a particular modality, healthcare administration and leadership, or radiology education and teaching. Depending on the chosen track, the degree can take as little as one year of full-time study to complete, although many programs take two years.
Radiologist assistant graduate programs are usually offered at universities and colleges with access to nearby hospitals and clinical settings or may have affiliated teaching hospitals where students can complete internships and placements. The programs have a required clinical preceptorship and also typically have a research component that may require a thesis. Both traditional and online options are available, with more online options for the administrative and education tracks. Prior education in radiologic technology is required and a relevant credential, such as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) radiologic technologist credential, may also be necessary depending on the state and school requirements. Applicants should also have a baccalaureate level degree; however, this does not always need to be in radiologic sciences.
Given the range of concentrations in radiology master’s programs, graduate salaries can vary widely. Salary data for radiologist assistants is not collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; however, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) reported that in 2013, registered radiologic assistants earned a mean salary of $97,185.7 Salaries varied depending on the type of work and the location. Instructors and faculty members reported the lowest average salary ($51,000), while chief technologists earned the highest average salary ($162,000).7 Individuals who pursue an administrative track may work as medical and health service managers, a profession that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had a median salary of $96,540 in 2016 and was projected to grow by 14% through 2024 based on 140,500 projected openings during that time period.1 Additionally, graduates from an education and teaching master’s degree program may work as postsecondary healthcare specialty teachers. These professionals earned a median salary of $99,360 in 2016 with 77,200 projected job openings through 2024.3
Graduate programs in radiology require a foundational understanding of radiologic technology and related principles. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree and may also need a relevant credential, such as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) radiographic technologist credential, and related work experience. The application process may also require letters of recommendation and most require a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. Some programs also require a minimum number of hours worked or experience in a specific modality. Individuals pursuing an administrative or educational leadership track may also need to show management experience or potential.
Core Concepts and Coursework
Courses in a master’s degree in radiology program will vary depending on the specialization. Radiologist assistant and modality-focused programs include advanced coursework on techniques and image analysis, while administration and teaching programs include coursework on leadership, communication, and collaboration. Some common courses for each type of program include:
Radiologist Assistant and Advanced Modality Programs
- Foundations of Healthcare Systems
- Medical Terminology
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Advanced Image Analysis
- Pathologic Pattern Recognition
- Current Technology in Radiologic Sciences
- Advanced Human Anatomy
- Radiologic Physics
- Clinical Internship
- Research Thesis
- Foundations of Healthcare Administration
- Healthcare Law & Ethics
- Healthcare Administration and Technology Management
- Financial Management in Healthcare
- Human Resources in Healthcare
- Accreditation & Quality Management
- Strategic Management
- Business Policy in Healthcare
- Advanced Research Methods
- Fundamentals of Healthcare
- Adult Education Theory
- Program Management
- Healthcare Ethics
- Curriculum Development
- Healthcare Administration & Leadership
- Critical Thinking in Higher Education
- Program Accreditation
- Health Informatics and Technology
- Advanced Research Methods
Master’s in Radiology Learning Goals
1. Develop advanced clinical skills.
Master’s in radiology degree programs build on the foundational knowledge applicants acquired in the bachelor’s of radiologic technology curriculum. As technological innovations in radiology are constantly changing, clinical graduate students learn the latest techniques and methods for advanced image analysis and diagnosis in modalities such as CT, nuclear medicine, and sonography.
2. Acquire management and leadership skills.
Graduate students in the administrative and leadership tracks shift their focus to relevant business, human resources, and financial skills rather than advanced clinical skills. In these programs, students learn to inspire and manage teams of healthcare professionals and students in either healthcare or educational settings.
3. Strengthen complex problem-solving skills.
The healthcare system is complex and robust, requiring managers with excellent analytic and communication skills. Graduate programs prepare radiologic professionals to work with other healthcare professionals to understand and tackle challenging administrative and systematic processes that impact departmental functions and the patient experience.
Traditional Master of Radiology Programs
Traditional radiology master’s degrees are offered on campus, although some may also include online classes. A traditional program provides excellent opportunities for the hands-on learning necessary to develop advanced clinical skills. Here are some well-known master’s programs in radiology.
Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT)
Graduates of the 24-month radiologist assistant program at Quinnipiac University are awarded a Master of Health Science (MHS) degree and are qualified to work as advanced clinical healthcare professionals. Applicants must already have a bachelor’s degree in any subject with several prerequisite courses in science and math, be registered as a radiologic technologist with the ARRT, and have at least 2,000 hours of work experience. Applications are due April 1st each year and the program begins in the summer term. Courses include Clinical Pharmacology, Imaging Pathophysiology, and Interventional Procedure. Students complete hands-on learning in simulation labs and healthcare sites in Connecticut and surrounding states. The university also offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Radiologic Sciences.
Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, PA)
Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson College of Health Sciences offers a Master of Science (MS) in Radiologic & Imaging Sciences with five concentrations including education, management, PET/CT (for students with prior nuclear medicine training), interventional and cardiac and vascular technology (for students with prior radiography, cardiac sonography, or vascular sonography training), and CT (for students with prior radiography, radiation therapy, and nuclear medicine training). The modality-focused tracks allow students to specialize in a particular area of radiology and develop advanced practice skills while the education and management tracks prepare students for a career in teaching or administration. The degree takes 12 months to complete full-time or 24-months to complete part-time. Courses vary depending on the chosen concentration. Applicants must apply by July 15th.
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX)
The Master of Science (MS) in Radiologic Sciences at the University Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center focuses on preparing radiologic professionals for leadership positions within the healthcare system. The program takes 30 credits to complete and has two tracks in administrative leadership and educational leadership, both of which are offered in a hybrid format of online and traditional courses. Students only need to attend two on-campus classes each semester. The degree takes five semesters to complete and includes a major research thesis. While some of the advanced courses in the tracks differ, the tracks also share common foundational courses including Fundamentals of Healthcare Systems, Strategic Management and Business Policy, and Health Informatics and Technology Management. The University of Texas also offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in diagnostic imaging.
Online Master of Radiology Programs
Online master’s degrees in radiology provide busy students with a more flexible way to further their careers. Many online programs include administrative or education courses with no clinical requirements. Some examples of fully online programs are provided below.
Loma Linda University (Loma Linda, CA)
In Loma Linda University’s Master of Science (MS) in Radiologist Assistant degree program, students complete coursework online and clinical rotations in their home community. The program takes 21 months to complete and several short visits to the California campus are required throughout. The online RA program teaches students the advanced clinical skills needed to work in diverse departments and settings, such as pediatrics and geriatrics. Applicants must have two years of radiography experience, a bachelor’s degree in either administration or science, and must reside in an approved state to be eligible. The program begins each year in September and applications are due June 1st.
Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, LA)
The Master of Science (MS) in Radiologic Science at Northwestern State University is a fully online degree with concentrations in education and administration. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, a credential in a radiography modality, and an undergraduate course in statistics or research methods. Once admitted, students complete at least 39 credits including nine to 12 credits in advanced research with an optional thesis, 12 credits of radiological science core courses, 15 credits of concentration courses, and an optional elective. Each student must also pass a comprehensive exam. New students enter the program in the fall term and take courses in a set sequence. A bachelor’s degree in radiologic sciences and several advanced modalities certificate programs are also offered at Northwestern State.
Southern Illinois University (Carbondale, IL)
The School of Allied Health at Southern Illinois University offers a Master of Science (MS) in Radiologic Sciences with concentrations in management and education. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of working professionals and prepare them for career advancement opportunities through coursework in educational theory, leadership, research methods, and ethics. The 36-credit program can be completed in 24 months of full-time study; part-time study is offered as well. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a 2.7 minimum GPA in the final 60 hours and at least a 3.0 GPA overall. While applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, students should apply at least five weeks before the start of the term.
University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC)
The University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences program offers a Radiologist Assistant Master’s in Radiologic Science program for students interested in becoming certified through the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and the American College of Radiology (ACR) that meets the requirements laid out by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The RA master’s program is two years (24 months) long and coursework is delivered via distance education and web-based instruction. Students must also complete a minimum of 1,792 clinical hours under a chosen clinical preceptorship, which must include certified radiologists who will instruct and supervise them. One to two in-person seminars are required each semester. Courses include Abdominal Imaging and Procedures, Musculoskeletal Imaging and Procedures, Advanced Pathophysiology, Vascular and Lymphatic Imaging and Procedures, and Pharmacology and Clinical Decision Making in Radiology.
Radiologist assistants and advanced practitioners should be familiar with the credentialing and licensing requirements in the state in which they wish to work. As the radiologist assistant is an advanced degree, applicants must typically already have ARRT credentials in radiologic technology, if required in their state, when applying. Not all states require credentials to work as a radiologic technologist or radiologic technician, but applicants should be aware that credentials may be required for graduate study, including out-of-state and online programs.
The ARRT also oversees the Registered Radiologist Assistant (RRA) credential. This credential recognizes the advanced skill and knowledge gained through graduate study in radiology. In order to earn the RRA credential, individuals must have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, be registered as a radiologic technologist, have at least one year of clinical work experience, and complete an approved RA graduate program. Upon graduation from the RA program, applicants must pass the RRA exam, which includes content and scenario questions. RRAs must complete at least 50 credits of ARRT-approved continuing education every two years to maintain their credentials.
Licensure for RRAs and other radiology professionals is overseen by each state and typically requires showing proof of education, experience, and relevant credentials; however, not all states require radiology professionals to be licensed. Details on current requirements can be obtained by visiting the department of health in the state where you plan to work.
Jobs with a Master of Radiology
Radiology master’s degree graduates can find work in clinical healthcare settings, specialized imaging departments and facilities, or in radiology education and administration. Some common jobs include:
- Healthcare Administrator
- Healthcare Manager
- Radiography Instructor
- Radiologic Administrator
- Radiologic Educator
- Radiology or Radiologist Assistant (RA)
- Radiologist Extender
- Radiology Equipment Specialist
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do radiologist assistants earn per year?
According to the ASRT, radiologist assistants earn an average salary of $97,185 and a median salary of $95,868.7 Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect salary data on radiologist assistants, we use physician assistant data as a proxy. These professionals earned a median salary of $101,480 in 2016.1 Comparatively, according to O*NET Online, radiologic technologists, 63% of whom have only an associate’s degree, earned a median salary of $57,450 in 2016.4 According to the ASRT, RAs in Illinois earn the highest average salary in the US at $125,000 per year, while RAs in Montana earn the second-highest at $120,640.7
Which states have the most RA jobs?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the highest number of physician assistant jobs are New York, California, and Texas, which are also the same states with the highest number of radiologic technologist jobs, so by proxy these states may also be optimal for RAs.5,6 The top three states with the highest concentration of physician assistant jobs per 1,000 jobs are Maine, New York, and Alaska, while the states with the highest concentration of radiologic technologist jobs per 1,000 jobs are West Virginia, Kentucky, and South Dakota.5,6
Can I complete a master’s in radiology program online?
Yes. Many programs are offered fully online or through hybrid methods that combine online and on-campus learning. Because radiologist assistant programs typically have a required preceptorship, students may be required to complete clinical components in person. Other types of master’s degrees in radiology, such as the administrative or teaching concentrations, may be completed fully online.
Is prior radiology training necessary to complete a radiologist assistant program?
Typically, radiologic assistant master’s degree programs require previous training in radiologic technology. Acceptable training may include an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in the radiologic sciences or a relevant ARRT credential. Individuals with an ARRT credential and an associate’s degree or certificate will need to complete a bachelor’s degree program before pursuing graduate study, although the bachelor’s degree does not necessarily need to be in radiologic sciences.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physician Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/OOH/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm
2. O*NET OnLine, Medical and Health Service Managers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00
3. O*NET OnLine, Healthcare Specialities Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1071.00
4. O*NET OnLine, Radiologic Technologists: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2034.00
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016: Physician Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291071.htm#st
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016: Radiologic Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
7. American Society of Radiologic Technologists, Radiologic Technologist Wage and Salary Survey 2013: https://www.asrt.org/docs/default-source/research/r13_wagesalarysurvey.pdf?sfvrsn=11