Students who want to become mammogram technicians can work toward a medical radiography certificate, an associate's degree in radiologic technology and/or a bachelor's degree in radiologic sciences. Certificate programs focus on courses in medical radiography, while students in degree programs must complete general education requirements as well. All of these programs combine lecture-based classes, some of which may be available online, with hands-on learning experiences. Students learn about many types of radiologic technology, not just mammography. During the extensive clinical requirements, students gain experience working with staff and patients in a real world setting. Some states require that radiologic technologists be licensed, which generally calls for graduation from an accredited program and passing an examination.
To begin a certificate program, which is often part of an associate's degree program, students must have a high-school diploma or its equivalent and may be required to pass a drug test. Potential associate's students must complete at least a semester of college before entering the program, and earned passing grades in their general education classes. Bachelor's applicants must submit high-school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores.
Medical Radiography Certificate
Graduates of medical radiography certificate programs are required to take certification tests in the states where they plan to work. Prospective students should select schools accredited not only by those states, but also by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology or by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Preliminary courses such as medical terminology, anatomy, principles of radiographic exposure, biology and radiographic processing prepare students for advanced courses in topics that include:
- Radiographic film evaluation
- Quality assurance
- Medical law/ethics
- Radiology procedures
- Sectional anatomy
Associate of Applied Science Degree in Radiological Technology
This program trains students to be competent radiographers. The program focuses on problem solving, improving students' interactions with medical personnel and patients, clinical competency and professionalism. The first year of this program focuses on radiologic physics, technology, exposures and procedures. It also includes at least two clinical practica. Because students are to be working closely with the public, it's highly recommended that they take elective courses in interpersonal communications. Advanced courses include:
- Advanced principles of exposure
- Pharmacology and drug administration
- Radiography and patient care
Bachelor's Degree in Radiologic Sciences
This undergraduate-level degree program combines classroom instruction in the academic major with studies in the liberal arts and social sciences. It also promotes professional ethics and the study of technological advances. Most schools include a radiology internship as part of the curriculum, along with interpersonal communications courses such as patient care in imaging. First year courses in anatomy, chemistry, biology and computer applications are complemented by advanced courses such as:
- Clinical radiological practices
- Medical terminology for the radiology professional
- X-ray physics
- CT imaging
- Cross-sectional anatomy
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
While there will continue to be a need for radiologic technicians with a specialty in mammography, many hospitals and health care organizations are looking for professionals with multiple specialties. Radiologic technologists earned an annual average salary of $58,520 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Students who aspire to work as mammography technicians can go for a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in the radiology field. Upon graduation, these professionals typically work in hospitals or doctors' offices.