The traditional education path for a career in radiologic technology is to complete a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program that has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. These programs prepare students for professional certification. Some courses and programs may be available online at some schools.
Students are required to have high school diplomas or equivalent for admission. Some programs may require applicants to have completed previous coursework in math, English and psychology, and placement tests may be administered.
Certificate in Radiologic Technology
Radiologic technology certificate programs are allied health programs offered by many vocational schools, community colleges and universities. The programs typically take two years to complete and focus on the skills necessary for passing the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification examination. Graduates are prepared to work as radiologic technologists. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for state licensing exams and ARRT certification. Programs combine classroom learning with lab work and clinical experiences. Topics include the following:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Radiology physics
- Radiation safety practices
- Radiologic technology principles
Associate's Degree in Radiologic Technology
Programs at the associate's degree level are similar to certificate programs in that they provide students with the necessary training to pass the ARRT certification exam and work as radiologic technologists. Associate's degree programs include general education requirements in addition to the radiation technician coursework, typically taking about two years to complete. A few programs might require students to complete prerequisite coursework or general education requirements before taking the core courses. Through a combination of classroom, lab and clinical study, students gain the skills necessary to operate X-ray machinery and handle patients. Courses might include the following:
- Radiologic procedures
- Principles of exposure
- Radiographic pathology
- Patient care
Bachelor's Degree in Medical Imaging
Students interested in pursuing bachelor's degrees related to radiologic technology might consider a degree in medical imaging. These 4-year degree programs include training in X-ray technology as well as other forms of diagnostic imaging, including sonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Some programs are designed as transfer programs for students who have already earned associate's degrees or who have been ARRT certified. Programs who admit students with no previous experience may require prerequisite coursework in radiography be completed before core coursework can be taken. Students learn the theory and skills necessary to perform various imaging techniques. In addition to the courses found in a typical associate's degree program, a bachelor's program might include the following courses:
- Cross-sectional anatomy
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Computed Tomography
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expect employment of radiologic technologists to increase by 9% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov); this prediction was based on an expected increased need for diagnostic imaging by an aging population. Radiologic technologists with training in more than one imaging procedure may have an advantage in the job market. While the majority of jobs are available at hospitals, technologists are also employed by outpatient care centers, medical labs, diagnostic imaging centers and private physician offices. The median annual wage for radiologic technologists in May 2015 was $58,520, according to the BLS.
Licensing, Certification and Continuing Education
Certification is offered by the ARRT to individuals who complete an approved accredited program and pass the certification exam. While certification is voluntary, several states use ARRT certification for licensing standards, and many employers prefer job candidates with certification. Continuing education credits are required to maintain ARRT certification.
Radiology technicians may pursue advanced certificates in specialized areas of radiology technology. Some areas of specialty include nuclear medicine, ultrasound, computed tomography and cardiovascular imaging.
Students interested in radiologic technology have several options for schooling, such as certificates, associate's or bachelor's degree programs, depending on their career goals. Certifications is voluntary, but it does improve employment prospects as most employers prefer certification.