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Radiology Technician Schools

Radiation technology schools teach students how to use equipment such as X-ray machines to help doctors diagnose, monitor and treat patients. Courses vary, but according to The College Board, topics covered usually include areas like anatomy and physiology, radiographic exposure, radiographic positioning and clinical practice. In addition, radiology programs can serve as stepping stones to a surprising range of jobs. Read on to learn more about these radiology specialists, including key training and career trends.

Radiology Careers and Specialties

For such a seemingly niche area of study, radiology is actually a diverse field where your title determines both what you do in the workplace and how you prepare for it. Some professionals, such as radiologists, graduate from radiology schools with advanced degrees. For others, like radiation technicians, requirements are much less steep. Here is a brief review of many different types of radiology professionals, what they do, and how they train, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

  • Radiologic technologists use equipment like X-ray machines to capture diagnostic images for physicians and surgeons.
  • Medical assistants can be either administrative or clinical. Administrative medical assistants do not provide any sort of direct patient care, but clinical medical assistants can perform some hands-on tasks -- including preparing patients for X-rays -- under the direction of a physician or radiologist.
  • X-ray technician is a somewhat outdated title for radiologic technologists, but may at times be used to distinguish professionals specializing in X-ray from those who use other types of imaging technology, like MRI and sonography machines.
  • Ultrasound technicians -- also called diagnostic medical sonographers -- specialize in sonographic imaging, meaning they capture diagnostic images using sound waves instead of radiation. Some ultrasound techs specialize in one or more areas of sonography, like cardiology, obstetrics and abdominal care.
  • Cardiovascular technologists specialize in diagnostic imaging procedures involving the heart, including electrocardiograms (EKGs) and sonographs.
  • MRI technicians are radiology support professionals who specialize in magnetic resonance imaging.
  • Nuclear medicine technologists perform radiological imaging exams that require patients to take radioactive drugs called radiopharmaceuticals.
  • Radiologist assistants, as defined by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, are advanced-practice radiologic technicians who become qualified to perform more advanced diagnostic imaging procedures through additional certification.
  • Radiologists are medical doctors who specialize in interpreting diagnostic images and administering radiation therapies.

Radiology Degrees and Certificates

All of the radiology professionals detailed may all work in the field of radiology, but their duties -- and, in turn, training requirements -- can vary tremendously. For instance, radiologic technologists and medical assistants are entry-level support professionals, meaning they can typically enter the field with an associate degree or less. The following list details common education requirements for various radiological specialties, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Radiologic technologists: Associate degree and certification
  • Medical assistants: Postsecondary certificate
  • X-ray technicians: Associate degree and certification 
  • Ultrasound technicians: Associate or bachelor's degree, and certification
  • Cardiovascular technologists: Associate or bachelor's degree, and certification 
  • MRI technicians: Associate degree and certification
  • Nuclear medicine technologists: Associate degree or bachelor's degree, and certification.
  • Radiology assistants: Bachelor's degree or higher, and certification.
  • Radiologists: Graduate degree and licensure

Although all of these degree programs differ in scope and duration, most build off the same basic knowledge or skill set. That means that radiologists and radiologic technicians, for instance, often take some of the same courses. Contact prospective schools directly to learn more.

What is Professional Certification?

Professional certifications are awarded by professional organizations rather than radiology schools and programs, and they certify a candidate's knowledge or specialized expertise. They are typically earned in addition to any other required postsecondary certificates and degrees. Some employers prefer or require professional certification; some states also require certification in the course of licensure. Certification requirements depend on your professional specialty, as well as the organization providing the credential. Contact the certifying organization to learn more.

Radiology Salary and Career Trends

Job titles and education requirements are not the only things that change from one radiological specialist to the next: Career outlook and earnings vary, too. The following table offers career projections and salaries by specialty, as reported by the BLS:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Nuclear Medicine Technologists1974074990
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists3346068340
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians5140056100
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers6125070880
Radiologic Technologists19559058520
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Keep in mind that other factors can influence earnings and hiring, including experience, certification and past job performance. Some professional organizations maintain employment and salary records by certification. Location also tends to be a key driver of earnings and employment demand. The right training can also give radiology professionals an edge in even the tightest job markets, so it pays to invest in your education. Contact prospective radiology and radiology technician schools to learn more about your options.

Next steps: Where to Start

The decision to launch a career in radiology is a major step toward entering a dynamic field, but it is only the first step. The second? Choosing a degree program and school. We have detailed several specialties and their respective education requirements above, but it pays to do your own research. Request more information from prospective radiologist and radiology technician schools to get started.


Sources:

  1. "Healthcare Metro Monitor Supplement," The Brookings Institution, July 1, 2013, Martha Ross and Siddharth Kulkarni, http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2013/07/01-healthcare-metro-monitor
  2. May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: United States, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
  3. Occupational Outlook Handbook: A-Z Index, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/a-z-index.htm
  4. "Major: Medical Radiologic Technology," Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-allied-health-diagnosis-intervention-treatment-medical-radiologic-technology
  5. Radiologist Assistant, American Society of Radiologic Technologists, http://www.asrt.org/main/careers/radiologist-assistant

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