Programs in radiology technology emphasize diseases, radiographic imaging techniques and patient care procedures. Available as 2-year certificate, 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's programs, they consist of classroom work and clinical experiences. Entrance requirements vary by program level, and graduates of all levels might be eligible to take certification examinations.
Certificate Programs for Radiology Technicians
Radiology technology certificate programs are found at hospitals and some post-secondary schools, and they usually take two years to complete. Students learn about infectious diseases, cleaning solutions, ionizing radiation and processing chemicals. They also become familiar with protective clothing and devices. Upon completion of the program, candidates can sit for the certification examinations.
Admission into a radiology technology certificate program typically requires applicants to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Also, some programs require applicants to have an associate's degree or have completed specific college-level courses, such as anatomy, physiology, algebra, sociology and English. A professional-level CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification is necessary for acceptance into some programs.
The curriculum includes classroom work, lab studies and clinical education. The clinical portion provides students with experience in various areas of radiology, including emergency radiology, pediatric radiology, mammography and ultrasound. Topics of study may include:
- Radiographic positioning
- Radiographic terminology
- Radiographic anatomy
- Darkroom chemistry and processing
- X-ray fundamentals
- Radiation biology
Associate's Degree Programs for Radiology Technicians
Associate's degree programs in radiology technology teach students to perform medical imaging in safe and efficient ways. Students learn correct positioning of patients and equipment operation so physicians can make accurate diagnoses with the images. This 2-year program is offered at community colleges, universities, colleges and medical institutions.
A high school diploma or GED is necessary for acceptance into an associate's degree program. Additionally, some schools require that students complete their general education courses prior to gaining acceptance into the radiology program.
Students complete a curriculum rich in liberal arts and sciences, radiology-related courses, seminars and clinical education. Coursework may include the following topics:
- Radiation physics and protection
- Anatomy and physiology
- Radiographic exposure
- Pathology and positioning
- Patient care
Bachelor's Degree Programs for Radiology Technologists
In a bachelor's program, students learn how to perform basic and advanced diagnostic imaging procedures. They study various procedures, professional handling and care of patients, radiation safety and how to operate the different types of imaging and computerized equipment. Degrees can be offered in radiologic technology or fall under a broader field, such as health sciences with a radiologic technology concentration.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for admission into a bachelor's degree program. Additionally, some radiology technology programs require students to complete general education and other foundation courses prior to gaining entry into the major.
Similar to the associate's and certificate programs, the bachelor's degree program includes coursework and clinical education at local hospitals or medical facilities. Course topics may include:
- Radiographic imaging
- Radiologic analysis
- Radiologic health physics
- Radiologic practice issues
- Radiologic science management
Popular Career Options
Upon successful completion of the program, graduates may find employment opportunities in hospitals, clinics, physician offices and diagnostic imaging centers. Common career titles may include:
- Radiologic technician
- Radiologic technologist
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Employment of radiologic technologists and technicians is expected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hospitals will continue to employ the majority of these professionals. As of May 2015, radiologic technologists earned a median income of $56,670 each year.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Due to the hazardous nature of the radiation associated with medical imaging, federal law mandates that radiology technicians be properly trained. However, it falls to the states as to how these professionals are regulated, and most do require them to obtain licensure. Additionally, radiology technicians can obtain voluntary certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (AART); eligible candidates must complete an approved radiology technology program and pass an exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification every two years. The ARRT also offers certification for various specialty areas in radiology.
With proper training and experience, technologists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions. The completion of business or health administration master's degree programs can help radiology technicians advance to these positions.
Practicing radiology technicians or technologists who are interested in specialty areas of radiology may enroll in post-associate's degree certificate programs. Specialty areas may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammography, computed tomography (CT) or angiography (angio). These programs prepare students to sit for various specialty certification exams. Applicants must submit to criminal background checks prior to clinical internships.
There are multiple undergraduate educational options for students who want to work in the field of radiology. Depending on the student's educational background and interests, they may decide to enroll in a certificate, associate's or bachelor's program.