Master’s Degree in Radiology
A master’s in radiology, also commonly encountered as a master’s degree in radiologic science or a master’s in medical physics, allows students to study radiologic technologies at an advanced level and develop the skills and knowledge needed to become leaders in the field. A master’s in radiology can lead to careers as radiologist assistants (RAs), sometimes known as radiology practitioner assistants (RPAs), radiology physician extenders, or radiologist extenders. These professionals assist radiologists and other medical doctors with advanced patient care, imaging, and diagnostic procedures. Other specializations (also known as concentrations or emphases) at the master’s level include advanced clinical practice in a particular modality; healthcare administration and leadership; medical physics and the development of radiologic imaging equipment; or radiology education and teaching. There are 39 colleges and universities that offer advanced degrees in the radiologic sciences.1
A radiology graduate program can take as little as one year of full-time study to complete, although many programs take two to three years. On-campus and online degree options are available, although it is common for online programs to take on a hybrid format that requires at least some on-campus study. Read more below about options and careers with a master’s in radiology.
Table of Contents
- Reasons to Pursue a Master’s in RT
- Majors and Areas of Study
- Program Options
- Admission Requirements
- Core Concepts
- Top-Rated Programs
- Select Program Profiles
- Employment Opportunities
- Frequently Asked Questions
Reasons to Pursue a Master’s in Radiology
A master’s in radiology is an option for those who already have a bachelor’s in radiologic technology who are interested in advanced careers. There are three main reasons to earn a master’s degree in radiology:
1. To get a job. While a bachelor’s or associate’s degree is the minimum requirement for most careers in radiologic technology, a master’s degree is the common entry-level degree for radiologist assistants, which is one of the top three highest-paying RT careers according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), at a mean of $100,311 per year.2
2. To prepare for further study. Some students earn a master’s as preparation for a doctoral program in radiology. Doctoral programs in radiology are usually encountered as Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs that train practicing radiologists, though there are a few Doctor of Medical Physics (DMP) programs designed to train radiologic equipment specialists and treatment planners. Some programs, especially on the DMP side, require candidates to have a master’s degree or include a master’s as part of the doctoral program.
3. To get licensed in new modalities. Earning a master’s can allow candidates to add modalities to their license or certifications. One of the common modalities at the master’s level is radiologist assistant (RA) (or Registered Radiologist Assistant (RRA) for those who are certified through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)). If the goal of earning a master’s degree is to earn licensure or certification, be sure to check with your state board of public health or radiation safety for education requirements in your desired modality. It’s also wise to check current guidelines for radiology certification programs, exams, and required experience through the ARRT. The ARRT offers voluntary credentialing and its guidelines and exams are also used for RT licensure by many states. Contact the ARRT or the appropriate state licensing board with any questions about this process.
Master’s in Radiology Concentrations and Areas of Study
At the master’s level, students typically choose a concentration (which is equivalent to the “major” at the undergraduate level) in a specific area of practice. Since a master’s degree builds on previous undergraduate study, the curriculum tends to be highly focused on the student’s specialty area. Some common concentration options for a master’s degree include:
- Bioimaging or Biomedical Imaging
- Imaging Informatics
- Medical Device & Diagnostic Engineering
- Medical Imaging Science
- Medical Physics
- Radiation Science
- Radiologist Assistant (RA)
Master’s in Radiology Program Options
Both traditional and online options are available for master’s in radiology programs. Online master’s degrees in radiology provide busy students with more flexibility. Specialties designed to add modalities or those with a focus on medical imaging equipment will require more hands-on work, and therefore more on-campus work, as well as potential clinical placements. Most master’s programs take between one and three years to complete with full-time study. Some programs may offer part-time options.
Online Degree Program Formats
It is common to find RT master’s programs online in specialties such as teaching and education as well as administration and healthcare management. While these specializations will not typically lead to additional professional certifications, they do lead to expanded career opportunities for those who already hold one or more formal RT credentials. There are also fully online radiologist assistant master’s programs as well as programs that only meet in-person a few times per year, sometimes referred to as low-residency programs. These partially-online master’s in radiology programs commonly combine on-campus, distance, evening, and weekend classes in order to accommodate the needs of working professionals.
Graduate programs in radiology require a foundational understanding of radiologic technology. A bachelor’s in radiologic technology is generally required for admissions consideration and a relevant credential, such as a state-issued license and/or certification by the ARRT in at least one modality, is also typically required. Related work experience is another common requirement. The application process may also require letters of recommendation and most schools require a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. Individuals pursuing an administrative or educational leadership track may also need to show management experience or potential.
Core Concepts and Coursework for a Master’s Degree in Radiologic Technology
Courses in a master’s 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 more coursework on leadership, communication, and collaboration. Most programs will have a clinical experience requirement and also typically have a research component that may require a thesis. Some common courses for a master’s in radiology include:
- Advanced Image Analysis
- Advanced Practice Radiologic Imaging
- Advanced Research Methods
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Foundations of Healthcare Systems
- Healthcare Administration and Technology Management
- Healthcare Law & Ethics
- Health Informatics and Technology
- Pathologic Pattern Recognition
- Radiologic Physics
Top-Rated Master’s in Radiology Programs
US News & World Report’s Best Radiology Programs 2020
The following schools were ranked by US News & World Report as having the best radiology programs in the US at the doctoral or postdoctoral level. As we only included schools that offer radiology-related specialties at the master’s level, these programs are not listed in sequential order.3
- University of California-San Francisco (#3)
- Duke University (#5 tie)
- Washington University in St. Louis (#5 tie)
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (#8)
- University of California-Los Angeles (#9)
- Columbia University (#12)
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (#17)
- Vanderbilt University (#20)
Select Master’s in Radiology Programs
Quinnipiac University (QU) is home to a Master of Health Science (MHS) in Radiologist Assistant degree that qualifies graduates 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. QU also offers a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences (BSRS).
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 eight optional concentrations: Education; Management; PET/CT; Interventional and Cardiac and Vascular Technology (ICVT) for Radiographers; ICVT for Cardiac Sonographers; ICVT for Vascular Sonographers; CT; and Non-Clinical Sonography. The modality-focused tracks, which require between 30 and 50 credit hours, 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 can take as few as 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.
Weber State University
The Master of Science in Radiologic Sciences (MSRS) at Weber State University (Weber State) prepares graduates for leadership positions within the healthcare system through three tracks: MSRS Innovation and Improvement, Cardiac Specialist, or Radiologist Assistant (RA). The program takes 36 to 62 credit hours to complete, depending on the track. The shortest track, MSRS Innovation and Improvement, can be completed in as few as three semesters. Regardless of the track chosen, all students must take foundational courses in Research Methods; Clinical Laboratory Correlation; and Managing Health Information. Weber State also offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Radiography as well as Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees with majors in Advanced Radiologic Sciences; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; Nuclear Medicine; and Radiation Therapy.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Loma Linda University
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. Though most courses are online, several short visits to the California campus are required throughout the degree plan. The program takes 21 months to complete. Students will acquire 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 for admission. The program begins each year in September and applications are due June 1st.
Northwestern State University
The Master of Science in Radiologic Science (MSRS) at Northwestern State University (NSULA) can be pursued online or on-campus. Students choose a concentration in either Radiologic Sciences Education or Radiologic Sciences 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 33 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. NSULA also offers a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science (BSRS) and several advanced modality certificate programs.
Southern Illinois University
The School of Allied Health at Southern Illinois University offers a Master of Science in Radiologic Sciences (MSRS) with a concentration in Radiology 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. Courses include Cultural Foundations and Theories of Education; Legal and Ethical Fundamentals of Health Care; and Advanced Research Methods. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in the imaging sciences and meet other graduate prerequisites. 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
The University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences offers a Master’s in Radiologist Assistant (RA) program for students interested in becoming certified Radiologist Assistants through the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and the American College of Radiology (ACR). The RA program is 24 months long with coursework delivered via distance education and web-based instruction. Students must complete a minimum of 1,792 clinical hours under an approved clinical preceptorship under certified radiologists. 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.
Employment Opportunities for a Master’s in Radiology
- Healthcare Administrator
- Healthcare Manager
- Radiography Instructor
- Radiologic Administrator
- Radiologic Educator
- Radiology or Radiologist Assistant (RA)
- Radiologist Extender
- Radiology Equipment Specialist
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a master’s to become an RA or RRA?
While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum to become certified as an RRA through the ARRT, many of the programs approved for certification in this modality are at the master’s level. Prospective RRAs must also pass the ARRT’s RRA exam, which includes content and scenario questions.
How much do radiologist assistants earn per year?
According to the ASRT, radiologist assistants earn a mean annual salary of $100,311.2 Comparatively, according to O*NET OnLine, radiologic technologists, who typically have an associate’s degree, earned a mean salary of $63,120 in 2019.4 According to the ASRT, RAs in Montana earn the highest average salary in the US at $160,000 per year, while RAs in Michigan earn the second-highest at $126,750.2 With few exceptions, RTs with a master’s earn more than RTs with a bachelor’s across other modalities; in radiography, for example, master’s degree holders earn an average of $71,501 compared to $56,540 for those with a bachelor’s degree.2 In radiation therapy, master’s degree holders earn an average of $95,317 compared to $79,206 for those with a bachelor’s; in positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET/CT) the difference is even wider, at $103,366 for master’s degree holders compared to $80,637 for those with a bachelor’s.2
What other careers and salaries can be expected with a master’s in radiology?
Given the range of concentrations in radiology master’s programs, graduate salaries can vary widely. Salaries also vary depending on the type of work and the location. Radiology master’s degree graduates can find work in clinical healthcare settings, specialized imaging departments, or in radiology education and administration. In addition to a career as a radiologist assistant, a master’s can lead to a career as a senior or lead technologist, with average salaries ranging from $59,017 to $93,076 depending on modality; supervisor/manager, with average salaries ranging from $70,926 to $101,511; or administrator, with average salaries ranging from $50,170 to $121,975.2 Corporate and commercial representatives, who work in imaging equipment sales, equipment support, and related roles, earn averages between $68,640 and $108,229 depending on modality.2
Can I teach radiologic technology after earning a master’s?
A master’s in radiologic science can expand career opportunities in education. In many technical and community college rad tech programs, prospective instructors must have at least a master’s degree in their specialty. Four-year colleges and universities may also consider prospective instructors with a master’s, though at this level a doctorate is more common. A radiology or radiologic technologist master’s degree can also qualify you for careers in healthcare administration; leadership within a medical imaging department; and developing, testing, and maintaining medical imaging equipment (an area commonly referred to as medical physics).
Which states have the most RA jobs?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track radiologist assistants, but they do track physician assistants, which can be used as a proxy due to their similarities in scope. According to the BLS, the states with the highest number of physician assistant jobs are New York (13,270), California (10,890), and Texas (8,040), which are also among the states with the highest numbers of radiologic technologist jobs.4,5
Can I complete a master’s in radiology program online?
Yes. There are programs that are offered fully online or through hybrid methods that combine online and on-campus learning. Because radiologist assistant and other master’s 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, are more likely to be available 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.
What qualifications do I need to become a radiologist assistant?
For voluntary credentialing (which is different from state licensure), the ARRT requires radiologist assistants to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an approved program. Licensure for RRAs and other radiology professionals is overseen at the state level and typically requires showing proof of education, experience, and relevant credentials. Radiologist assistants and advanced practitioners must, therefore, be familiar with the credentialing and licensing requirements in the state in which they wish to work.
How can I find radiology certification programs at the master’s level?
Many master’s-level radiology certification programs are available, though the available areas of certification will vary based on the program and the state. A good starting point for researching programs is the ARRT. Be sure to also check out our guide to radiology schools, which includes state-by-state information on schools’ exam pass rates, accreditation status, net prices, and more.
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. 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
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 and Wages, Radiologic Technologists and Technicians: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Physician Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291071.htm