Both associate's and bachelor's programs include classroom-based lectures and extensive hands-on clinical training, though bachelor's programs typically include more general education courses, along with management-oriented classes. Graduates of these programs can sit for American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification exams. Certification or licensure is required by some states, and many employers prefer job applicants who are professionally credentialed. Graduates can also earn voluntary credentials in specific forms of imaging to increase job prospects in a particular specialty in the field.
Applicants need a high school diploma or GED, prior coursework in physics, biology, chemistry or anatomy and satisfactory standardized test scores for associate's degree programs. A high school diploma or GED and standardized test scores are also needed for bachelor's degree applicants.
Associate's Degree in Radiography
Through a 2-year associate's degree program, aspiring ARRT technicians learn to produce radiographs, or x-ray images, which physicians use to detect defects and abnormalities in the body. Students also learn to explain radiological procedures to patients and prepare examination rooms. They are also trained on industry-standard machinery, allowing them to capture and develop x-ray images. Most radiography programs combine theoretical education with hands-on learning. Some classes that might appear in the curriculum include the following:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Radiation safety
- Applied physics
Bachelor's Degree in Radiography
Bachelor's degree programs in radiography typically train students in technical skills similar to those taught in 2-year programs. However, many bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete since they also explore other more specific areas of medical imaging technology, such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT). Additional courses might include management and supervision, finance and human resources, which prepare radiography students for leadership positions.
Many courses in radiography bachelor's degree programs equip students with non-technical skills that can be useful in medical settings. Such courses might include the following:
- Equipment purchasing
- Report writing
- Human resources management
- Radiology instruction
Popular Career Options
Graduates from bachelor's programs in radiography are often prepared for mid-level management positions. Here are some examples of popular career options for those holding this degree:
- Lead radiologic technician or technologist
- Radiological program director
- Radiological trainer
- Diagnostic imaging center director
- Radiologic equipment sales manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The employment rate for radiologic technologists was expected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). This projected growth was due mostly to advancements in technology and an aging population that would require more medical services. The median annual salary for radiologic technologists according to BLS data was $56,670 as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Most states require licensure for radiologic technicians; however, licensing requirements differ by state. Certification through ARRT is voluntary, but many states use passage of the ARRT exam as part of their licensing process. To sit for the exam, candidates must meet education requirements and agree to ARRT's code of ethics. Each year, certified radiographers must meet continuing education requirements to remain registered with ARRT.
In addition to primary certification in radiography, ARRT offers a number of specialized post-primary certification options. These include credentialing in bone densitometry, mammography, MRI, sonography and vascular-interventional radiography.
Students interested in radiography can earn an associate's degree to work entry-level jobs in the field, or they can pursue a bachelor's degree to work mid-level management and leadership positions. Graduates will need to meet their state's licensing requirements, and can receive credentials in a specialized area if they choose.