There are associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in radiology, each of which builds in complexity through advanced coursework and hands-on training. The curriculum prepares graduates to take a licensure or certification exam. Students pursuing a master's degree may be required to complete a thesis and a practicum in a healthcare setting.
Associate's Degree in Radiology
An associate's degree program in radiology teaches students how to operate X-ray equipment, which produces the images used to assist in the diagnosis of conditions and diseases. Students also learn how to position patients during radiological procedures and protect patients, other medical professionals and themselves from potentially harmful radiation. Vocational schools and community colleges require that students enrolling in a radiology degree program have a high school diploma or its equivalent. It's beneficial for high school students to focus on classes involving math and science. The curriculum within an associate's in radiology degree program ensures that students are clinically and academically prepared to begin a career in this field. Courses are offered in:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Patient care
- Radiologic science
- Radiologic procedures
- Radiologic equipment and quality assurance
- Radiographic imaging and exposure
Bachelor's Degree in Radiology
Those enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in radiology study human anatomy and the principles of imaging. Students learn professional etiquette and the protocols of interacting with patients and medical professionals. While an associate's degree is the most common type of qualification for this field, a bachelor's degree in radiology may lead to managerial opportunities with higher levels of pay. Students entering this program should be high school graduates. Other admissions requirements may include a background check, submission of immunization tests and current certification by the ARRT or a related organization. Clinical portions of these programs may have separate admissions requirements, such as having a certain GPA or passing specific core classes.
The classes in a bachelor's degree in radiology program prepare students for advanced healthcare management positions. The curriculum offers hands-on radiologic training and instructional theory. Courses may include:
- Legal and ethical aspects of healthcare
- Sectional anatomy
- Principles of quality management
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Patient care issues
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Master of Science in Radiologic Science
Students interested in the Master of Science (M.S.) in Radiologic Science program can often choose between multiple concentrations, including education in radiologic sciences, radiologic science administration or radiologic assistant. These programs often require the completion of 39-42 credit hours beyond a bachelor's degree and a thesis. To enter an M.S. in Radiologic Science program, students must have a bachelor's degree in radiologic science or a related field. In an M.S. in Radiologic Science program, students must gain practical experience in an approved setting. Certain concentrations may require a longer practicum in a hospital or health setting. Common courses include:
- Radiologic science trends
- Leadership in radiologic science
- Patient interactions
- Legal issues in radiology
- Radiologic assistant procedures
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an associate's degree in radiology program are eligible for entry-level work. Depending on the position, state licensure may be required. Career opportunities are available as:
- Nuclear medicine technologist
- Radiologic technician
- Radiation therapist
Radiologic technicians who earn a M.S. in Radiologic Science can qualify for upper-level jobs in their field. Common careers include:
- Radiologist assistant
- Medical physicist
- Medical educator
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities in nuclear medicine technology were expected to grow by just 2% between 2014 and 2024, (www.bls.gov). The same agency noted that career opportunities for radiologic technologists and technicians were projected to grow by 9% in the same decade, while radiation therapists were estimated to have a 14% growth in employment.
In 2015, the BLS reported that there were 19,740 nuclear medicine technologists working in the U.S. The mean hourly wage for these individuals was $36.06, which translates to $74,990 annually. Radiation therapists held 16,930 jobs in 2015 and earned an average of $40.61 per hour, or $84,460 annually.
Professional Certification and Licensure Information
Certification is available voluntarily for those working as nuclear medicine technologists, radiologic technicians and radiation therapists. However, some employers and states may require certification. One organization that awards certification for these professions is the American Registry of Radiation Technologists (ARRT). To gain certification, individuals must typically prove completion of an accredited education program and pass a test (www.arrt.org). Licensure standards vary by state, so it's important to research what's required before moving forward in the chosen career.
The ARRT offers a Registered Radiologist Assistant certification for individuals who have proof of their advanced education and one year of full-time clinical experience. These individuals must also pass an exam administered by AART and agree to abide by the organization's code of ethics.
The American Board of Radiology (ABR) offers certification in several specialties for medical physicists, including therapeutic medical physics, diagnostic medical physics and nuclear medical physics (www.theabr.org).
Students interested in radiology have the option of completing an undergraduate or graduate degree program. While undergraduate students may have clinical portions to complete, those interested in a master's degree in radiology are required to gain practical experience in a medical setting.