Professionals in the radiology field pursue formal educational programs with classroom and clinical training designed to prepare them to work safely with patients and complex equipment. In most states, radiologic technologists must complete an accredited training program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012).
Many professionals choose to pursue an Associate of Science degree in radiology; in fact, the BLS reports that the most common educational path for radiologic technicians and technologists is the radiology associate degree. However, not every radiologic technician or technologist majors in radiology. Some have completed an associate or bachelor's degree in a different field that satisfies the didactic requirements of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, or AART. The AART may be a part of your professional preparation as its certification is required by many states for licensure of radiologic technicians.
Prerequisites for Radiology Degree Programs
Associate degrees in radiology allow students to focus specifically on classes in this field. Associate degrees typically require a high school diploma or GED. Aspiring professionals may opt for associate degree programs because as of January 1, 2015, the minimum AART requirement for those taking the certification exam is an associate degree or higher.
Certificate programs have varying prerequisites depending on the specialization, but programs come in two main varieties:
- Entry-level radiology certificate programs designed for individuals who have never worked in radiology
- Programs for those who already work in radiology but want to expand their skill set
For the second category of certificates, applicants usually need to be employed as rad-techs, which in turn means they have completed an approved training program and earned certification in basic radiology skills. This second type of certificate, which the AART calls the post-primary pathway, can cover subjects such as:
Bachelor's degree programs in radiology generally require an associate degree, not necessarily in radiology. There are some exceptions made to these rules. For example, a school may allow radiology professionals with several years of on-the-job experience to substitute it for certain educational prerequisites. If you are in doubt about your unique scenario, the best thing to do is to ask the school of your choosing about the radiology bachelor's degree program and the program's pre-reqs.
Master's degrees in radiology typically require candidates to have a bachelor's degree, and in some cases, professional experience.
Again, prerequisites can vary by program, so request information from the schools to get specifics about each option.
It is important to remember that the time to completion for a degree or certificate program varies greatly depending on your particular circumstances. If you are looking for an entry point into the field of radiology, some radiology certificate programs can typically be completed in about one year; however, additional qualifications may be required for employment. If you are already working in radiology, but would like to expand your skills into additional specializations, shorter-term certificates can potentially be completed in less than a year. For example, a radiologic technologist interested in mammography could aim to complete a certificate in six months with the appropriate qualifications.
Availability of Online Programs
Because of the nature of a radiology education, a hands-on approach is a key part of training programs; however, various online options exist if you are looking to enhance your professional qualifications. Some schools offer online fast-track programs for those who are currently working in a limited capacity, but want to obtain their associate degree. Also, certificate programs may be offered online or as a hybrid of online and hands-on training at local clinics and hospitals. Master's programs in topics like radiologic administration or radiologic education may provide some coursework online. Practicing radiologic professionals are typically required to pursue continuing education, and those credits may also be available online.
Potential Careers in Radiology
To practice in most states, radiologic technicians must hold a license, complete an accredited program, and pass a certification exam, according to BLS.gov. Many states use the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians certification exam in lieu of their own exam and automatically license ARRT certified technologists. Only ARRT-approved schools offer degrees that allow candidates to sit for the ARRT exam. Because of the importance placed on ARRT certification, it's vital to do your research on the ARRT's requirements.
States have differing requirements, so check with your state board of health to find out the exact requirements for certification in your state. You can also ask if your school's radiological program must be ARRT approved.
Following certification, the BLS reports that radiological technologists and technicians earned a median annual wage of $55,120, nationally, as of May 2011, and the highest 90 percent earned $77,760 while the lowest 10 percent earned $37,360 during the same year (BLS.gov/oes, 2011). Employment opportunities for radiologic technicians and technologists are expected to grow by up to 28 percent from 2010 to 2020, partly as a result of the shift toward outpatient care at physicians' offices and clinics (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
Radiology Degree and Certificate Programs: Frequently Asked Questions
Do any schools offer online radiology programs or evening degree radiology programs?
Yes, check out our list of schools offering online radiology degrees. Because the use of specialized equipment is a must in radiology education, programs typically require your attendance at a physical location, however online-hybrid programs do exist. Depending on the program, elements of the curriculum may be available through online studies. If you are already employed in radiology or health care, you may qualify for an online fast-track program. For practicing radiology professionals, the AART currently accepts online CE credits from approved continuing education courses.
Can I get a certificate to be a radiologic technologist without getting a radiology degree?
Certificate programs or diplomas can help to prepare you for the ARRT exam, however, first you should check your state radiology license requirements to determine if you must be certified through the ARRT or hold a post-secondary degree. Additionally, as mentioned above, AART policy as of 2015 requires applicants sitting for the exam to have earned at least an associate degree prior to the test date.
It is also recommended that you look at some of the available radiology job listings in your area to gauge the qualification requirements. Find out if a radiology certificate can be sufficient education or if you need to pursue one of the radiology degrees to be competitive in your area. School representatives may also be able to give you some insight into local job markets.
What types of radiology certificates are available?
Radiology certificates fall into two categories. The first category is for those entering the field, and the second is for those looking to expand their skills. Here is a list of the more common certificates you can find in radiology school programs:
- X-ray technician
- Medical assistant with x-ray focus
- CT (computed tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Ultrasound tech
- Cardiovascular ultrasound
- Nuclear medicine
What can I do with a radiology certificate?
Radiology certificate programs are designed to provide you with fundamental knowledge in radiologic sciences to enable you to seek entry-level positions. If you are already working in radiology, completing a certificate program in a radiology specialization may be the next step toward expanded duties or promotion; the BLS foresees promising job opportunities for technologists with multiple certifications (BLS.gov/ooh, 2013).
Why pursue a bachelor's degree in radiology?
A bachelor's degree in radiology can offer a robust educational experience, and the expanded course of studies allows for an emphasis in advanced radiology modalities and/or health care management. Individuals who would like to pursue leadership positions can explore bachelor's degrees in radiology; for example, a program might offer a fast track to a master of health administration degree.
How long does it take to finish a bachelor's degree in radiology?
A bachelor's degree in radiology takes approximately four years of full-time studies from start to finish, depending on the program and the student's schedule. However, many students who pursue a bachelor's radiology degree have already completed an associate degree or some formal training and have experience working in the field, so a program could take less time to complete.
Are there any prerequisites?
An associate degree may be required before you can enter a radiology bachelor's degree program. Each school has different requirements, so it is important to request information and discuss the requirements with a school representative.
What kind of radiology courses can I expect to take?
The curriculum can vary widely, however, the following classes are found in many degree and certificate programs:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Clinical education
- Image evaluation
- Medical terminology
- Patient positioning
- Radiation safety
- Radiographic pathology
- Radiographic procedures
For more information on common course work, please visit our radiology courses page.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Radiologic Technologists - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm#tab-6
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, Academic Degree Requirements, https://www.arrt.org/Certification/Academic-Degree-Requirement
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, Continuing Education Requirements for Renewal of Registration https://www.arrt.org/pdfs/Governing-Documents/Continuing-Education-Requirements.pdf
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292037.htm