- Radiology degrees provide multiple career paths for radiologic technologists. An associate’s degree allows technologists to work in clinics or hospitals, while those with a bachelor’s degree may work in imaging sales or technology repair.
- A radiologic technology certificate is the minimum education requirement for entry-level work in the radiologic technology field(1). At the doctoral level, radiology graduates can pursue advanced radiologic science careers.
- In the United States, 672 schools are offering radiologic technology programs(2).
What Is a Radiology Degree?
A radiology degree represents an individual’s educational achievement in radiology or radiologic technology and gives the individual the opportunity to pursue a career path in this field.
Various radiology degrees present different career options for radiologic technologists. For example, an associate’s degree allows individuals to work in clinics, hospitals, urgent care facilities, and doctor’s offices. In contrast, technologists with a bachelor’s degree may be employed in technology repair or imaging sales.
Meanwhile, a master’s or doctoral degree allows individuals to pursue careers in academia and research.
After graduating, individuals who manage to work in radiologic technology use diagnostic imaging methods to produce images of specific parts of an individual’s body.
These images are then analyzed by a radiologist or trained physician who makes diagnoses and treatment decisions based on the results of the images.
The specific imaging methods a radiologic technologist employs will vary based on the individual’s education and training.
Additionally, some states require specific licenses and most employers require certifications for the technologist to use the different pieces of medical imaging equipment.
Radiology degrees, also referred to as radiology technology degrees, have varying levels, starting from the certificate level to the doctoral level.
Each degree level represents different certification and licensure opportunities, impacting the individual’s career path.
For example, at the certificate level, an individual can work as a limited-scope X-ray technologist, while at the doctoral level, the technologist can pursue a radiologist career.
Radiologists are medical doctors specializing in diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases using medical imaging procedures.
Individuals pursuing a career in radiology or radiologic technology can take relevant education through the following degrees(3):
- Radiologic technology certificate: Obtaining a certificate in radiologic technology is the minimum education requirement for an entry-level job in the radiologic technology field.
Applicants with such certificates can become eligible to operate X-ray machines in a limited range of practice.
Radiologic technology certificates are also suitable for professionals already working in the field and pursuing advanced expertise in medical imaging specialties, such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT).
Individuals can obtain these certificates at the undergraduate level as an alternative to pursuing a second degree, especially for enrollees already working in the radiologic technology field.
Earning this type of certificate usually takes six months to a year.
Individuals who complete this certificate program may proceed to obtain a state license or other certification to practice in their chosen field.
Additionally, individuals without prior medical imaging experience may earn a radiologic technologist certificate, often together with an associate’s degree, to qualify for an American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) certification, state licensure, or both.
Most educational institutions offer radiologic technology certificate programs in-campus, especially when some courses require hands-on laboratory experience.
However, some of these schools also offer online certificates for select medical imaging sciences for certified individuals in one or more areas.
- Radiologic technology associate degree: In most hospitals or healthcare facilities, an associate degree in radiologic technology is the minimum educational requirement to start working as a diagnostic imaging team member(4).
Many technical schools and community colleges offer associate degrees in radiologic technology.
The titles for this science degree depend on the educational institution and can be known as any of the following:
- Associate of Science (AS) in Radiography
- AS in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Radiologic Technology
Some schools also offer associate degrees in nuclear medicine technology and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The required coursework can vary depending on the major the student is taking. Aside from anatomy, math, and medical terminology classes, students undergo hands-on clinical experience through patient care and equipment operation.
Students can complete an associate degree in radiologic technology in two years through a full-time program.
A significant portion of the course will likely be held on-campus due to the need for hands-on training to sufficiently prepare students to operate medical imaging equipment.
However, some schools also offer select courses online.
Graduates that complete an accredited program will usually qualify as entry-level radiologic technologists, provided they meet licensing or state certification requirements.
- Bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology: There are over 1,000 accredited bachelor’s degree programs in radiologic technology(5).
Schools may have varying titles for this degree, such as the following:
- Bachelor of Radiography
- Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Radiologic Technology
- Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology (BSRT)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Radiologic Sciences
- BS in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Coursework for this program typically includes patient care, patient positioning, radiation safety and protection, and ethics. Other essential topics include anatomy, pathology, and radiation physics.
A bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology typically takes about four years, and graduates must become ARRT-certified or state-licensed to be eligible to practice radiologic technology.
Individuals who have completed an associate’s degree in medical imaging can apply for transfer credits to obtain an online bachelor’s degree in radiologic science.
- Master’s degree in radiologic technology: Students who already hold a bachelor’s degree and want to pursue advanced education may obtain a master’s degree.
This degree helps students gain an advanced understanding of biomedical imaging concepts and related research methods.
A student taking a full-time program can complete their master’s degree in one or two years. Those who prefer a part-time program can obtain the degree in three years.
Some schools with master’s degrees in radiologic technology may offer such programs under the following titles:
- Master of Science in Radiologic Science (MSRS)
- MSRS-radiologist assistant (RA)
- Master of Science (MS) in Biomedical Imaging
- MS in Radiation Sciences
- Doctoral degrees in radiology: Most radiology programs at the undergraduate and master’s levels are typically about radiologic technology rather than pure radiology.
However, a radiology degree enables graduates to pursue advanced radiologic science careers at the doctoral level.
Radiology involves diagnosing and treating diseases using imaging technology. Doctors specializing in this field are called radiologists.
Individuals can pursue the following doctoral degrees in radiology:
- Doctor of Medicine (MD) in radiology: Prepares graduates for licensure and medical board certification to become doctors and work as medical fellows.
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in radiology: Provides a potential board certification as a medical physicist and career opportunity in medical imaging research, working behind the scenes as an equipment specialist.
Individuals interested in taking up a radiologic technology or radiology degree should accomplish the following enrollment requirements before being admitted to the program:
An enrollee fills out a form during the application, providing school information on the applicant’s academic history and personality.
Application forms typically contain multiple sections, such as the applicant’s resume, letters of recommendation, and personal statement.
Additionally, college applications include fees, which are usually under $40. Students can request to have their college application fee waived.
Transcripts are the applicants’ high school or college records indicating how well the student performed during the course of their education.
Students can claim an official copy of their transcript from their school counselors and submit it during their application.
Schools typically use an applicant’s American College Test (ACT) scores, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, or both to evaluate the applicant’s eligibility to enroll in the chosen program.
Letters of Recommendation
These letters should usually come from professionals or teachers who can elaborate or vouch for the applicant’s skills and work ethic. The student should submit two or three letters of recommendation.
List of Radiology Schools
Six hundred seventy-two schools in the United States offer radiologic technology programs(6).
Among this number, 250 schools offer a certificate program in radiologic technology, 514 colleges and universities with associate degree programs, 161 with a bachelor’s degree, and 36 offer advanced degree programs.
Schools offering radiology or radiologic technology programs include the following:
- University of Iowa: The Carver College of Medicine is the University of Iowa’s medical school offering three bachelor’s degree pathways in medical imaging.
Students can choose among the following degrees:
- BS in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- BS in Radiation Therapy
- BS in Radiologic Technology (BSRT)
The university also offers an online radiology tech program leading to a bachelor’s degree for those with an associate’s degree in radiologic or nuclear medicine technology.
- California State University-Northridge: CSUN’s Department of Health Sciences offers a BS in Radiologic Sciences degree.
In addition to receiving a well-rounded education, students learn about specialized imaging, creating career growth opportunities within the field.
CSUN offers two tracks in this program: one for credentialed radiologic technologists and another for students without prior radiologic technology background.
Students enrolled in the BS in Radiologic Sciences program will learn about various medical imaging procedures like cardiovascular imaging, CT, or MRI.
- Long Island University-Post: LIU Post’s BS in Medical Imaging (radiologic technology) addresses the increasing demand for professionals who can perform diagnostic tests for various injuries and illnesses, including concussions, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Students taking this degree will learn about conducting mammograms, MRI scans, and CT scans. These students also learn to produce 2D and 3D images of organs, tissues, and the skeletal system.
- Idaho State University: ISU offers a BS in a radiographic science program that aims to teach students the academic and technical foundations of radiologic imaging procedures safely and competently.
Students in this program will learn the skills needed to become qualified imaging technologists and the ethical responsibility to attend to an individual’s needs through competence and compassion.
After graduation, candidates can become eligible to take the national radiography certification exam administered by the ARRT.
Applicants can also pursue a certificate program in diagnostic medical sonography at ISU.
Radiology Degree Program Courses
Universities often try to keep pace with the latest studies and technological developments, causing these institutions to develop and change their programs over time(7).
Thus, radiology degree programs can vary between schools, and no two programs are alike.
To ensure that the chosen program offers relevant coursework, students should verify with accreditation agencies that such programs provide the proper education needed for these individuals to become capable in the chosen career path.
Standard courses found in radiology tech programs are the following(8):
This course lets students learn and identify the functions of the body’s anatomical structures.
These structures include the gross and microscopic anatomy of the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems and apply these structures’ clinical relevance in practical situations.
Principles of Imaging
Students taking this course will learn about medical imaging principles, including the functions of the appropriate imaging equipment.
Students also learn how to accurately read images, including the effects of scattered radiation on film and how to minimize such an effect.
This course allows students to demonstrate reading and communicating competency regarding various medical imaging machines.
Students are also tasked to recall relevant processes and protocols, leading to accurate and effective results. Individuals interested in taking a bachelor’s degree related to leadership training will find this course helpful.
Advanced Image Analysis
Students enrolled in this coursework utilize foundational knowledge and skills to learn about the scientific methodology and use this method in analyzing publications, developing strategies for algorithm implementation, and presenting theories professionally.
Students at the end of this course should be capable of imparting image processing knowledge to others.
This course covers radiation protection principles, including radiographer responsibilities, patient responsibilities, and federal- and state-mandated radiation regulations.
By the end of the course, students should be able to communicate and explain the importance of monitoring radiation as part of radiation protection.
This course also requires students to discuss the impact of radiation on various populations or individuals with specific ailments.
Prerequisites, Licensing, and Certification
Prerequisites to become eligible to enroll in radiology or a radiologic technology program vary from one school to another.
For example, universities will have varying minimum high school grade point average (GPA) requirements. Some institutions require an average cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. Some schools also accept a minimum GPA of 2.5.
Other prerequisites include courses to be taken upon application. For example, in the Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, individuals can enroll in the Associate of Science in Medical radiography degree by meeting the following education requirements(9):
- Introduction to physics
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Freshmen English
- Interpersonal communication, speech, or oral communication
- Social sciences
- Electives (includes nutrition, physical education, sociology, psychology, computers, philosophy, political science, history, statistics, and economics)
Most states require individuals to obtain a state license to work as radiologic technologists. Many of these states also require these applicants to become certified registered radiologic technologists (RRT).
Additionally, the individual should graduate from an accredited program and pass the ARRT certification exam. Some employers may require job candidates to have these credentials.
To maintain their certified status, radiologic technologists must complete their continuing education worth 24 credit hours every two years. This education typically includes online classes, lectures at professional meetings, classroom learning, and self-study readings.
Credentialing and Accreditation
There are three major program accreditors in the medical imaging field:
- Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology (JRCNMT)
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
These organizations grant accreditations to programs that reflect quality as these programs undergo a thorough review and vetting process to obtain accreditation.
There are 36 universities and colleges offering radiologic technology degree programs in California alone. These schools provide admissions to the following programs(10):
- 20 educational institutions offer a radiologic science certificate program
- 31 schools have an associate’s degree in radiologic science
- 6 educational institutions offer a bachelor’s degree in radiologic science
- 2 schools offer a master’s degree in radiologic science
Accreditation can impact an individual’s licensure eligibility and the ability to transfer credits when switching to another program.
For example, accreditation can influence an individual’s eligibility to transfer to a four-year program after a two-year program completion or obtain a certification for a new modality.
The following are schools in California offering JRCERT-accredited radiology or radiologic technology degrees(11):
- Antelope Valley College: AS in radiologic technology
- Completion Rate: 100%
- Credential Examination Pass Rate: 100%
- Job Placement Rate: 100%
- Bakersfield College: AS in radiologic technology
- Completion Rate: 83%
- Credential Examination Pass Rate: 89%
- Job Placement Rate: 100%
- Cabrillo College: AS in radiologic technology
- Completion Rate: 72%
- Credential Examination Pass Rate: 96%
- Job Placement Rate: 88%
- El Camino College: AS in radiologic technology
- Completion Rate: 86.4%
- Credential Examination Pass Rate: 100%
- Job Placement Rate: 95.1%
- Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences-Kaiser Medical Center–Richmond: BS in Radiography
- Completion Rate: 94%
- Credential Examination Pass Rate: 99%
- Job Placement Rate: 83%
Career Opportunities and Interviews
Pursuing a medical imaging degree can open up an individual’s career in several health professions.
The following are the potential career opportunities and specializations individuals can pursue after earning a degree in this field:
Radiation therapists assist a medical team in planning and administering treatments prescribed by radiation oncologists or radiologists to patients. Therapists also help monitor these patients’ conditions.
Radiologists typically prescribe radiation therapy for individuals with cancer or other serious diseases.
Radiation therapists use specialized imaging equipment that delivers therapeutic doses of radiation to individuals undergoing therapy.
A radiographer captures images of an individual’s tissues, bones, and internal organs using X-ray equipment.
Radiologic technologists who enter the medical imaging field will typically start their profession as radiographers(12).
Radiographers also support radiologists in various procedures, such as gastrointestinal examinations or fluoroscopic imaging, that require using contrast media.
Contrast media are substances given to an individual to help improve the contrast resolution of various imaging modalities(13). Administration routes to deliver contrast media include oral or intravenous methods.
Registered Radiologist Assistant (RRA)
RRAs are essential medical team members that assist radiologists in performing various clinical duties, such as managing and assessing patients.
This career creates new opportunities for individuals who wish to pursue advancement in their radiology-related profession.
When the demand for medical imaging services increases, it can stretch medical resources and radiology teams thin(14).
Thus, some medical institutions turn to RRAs to provide high-level assistance to radiologists and improve the facility’s efficiency and patient care.
A bone densitometry technologist uses specialized X-ray equipment to create images, which helps physicians diagnose and treat bone health conditions.
Scanning results can assist patients, while their health providers discuss treatment options for adverse bone conditions. These options include lifestyle changes or medications.
Breast sonographers conduct medical imaging using a transducer on the patient’s breast to produce ultrasound images. A transducer is a tool that converts a form of energy, such as sound, into electronic signals.
Breast sonograms are noninvasive, meaning these procedures do not involve inserting an instrument or device into the body. Sonograms create images using sound energy instead of radiation.
Sonographers also participate in interventional procedures, such as biopsies or removal of tissues for disease examination.
Sonographers need the appropriate knowledge to capture high-quality images and provide a calming presence to individuals being scanned(15).
Cardiac Interventional Radiography
Cardiac interventional radiographers use image-guided and minimally invasive procedures to assist physicians in diagnosing and treating heart and blood vessel conditions without surgery.
Radiographers are likely to assist in procedures such as thrombolysis, angioplasty, and biopsies(16).
Thrombolysis is a procedure that uses drugs that help dissolve blood clots. Meanwhile, angioplasty is a medical process to restore blood flow by opening blocked arteries.
Cardiac interventional radiographers utilize fluoroscopic equipment to produce images of the heart and surrounding blood vessels.
Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique using X-rays to produce real-time moving images for observing body parts.
Computed Tomography (CT)
CT technologists usually work in imaging laboratories or hospitals and use X-ray equipment to scan various body parts.
Doctors utilize these CT-generated images to diagnose or treat a patient’s disease. CT scans are also helpful for physical injuries so that physicians can determine the appropriate remedy for the wound.
CT scans involve X-ray exposure. Thus, CT technologists must have the appropriate knowledge and skills to balance image quality with the radiation dose.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI technologists perform MRI procedures, which utilize the atomic frequencies within a magnetic field to generate images of the physiologic or anatomic body conditions.
Radiologists review these images to diagnose and treat patients. Therefore, MRI technologists must be capable of obtaining the best possible images.
The MRI equipment places the individual being scanned inside a confined space, which can cause them to become claustrophobic or distressed. MRI technologists must be skilled and considerate when supporting patients undergoing the procedure.
Mammography is an essential part of medical care as it can help in the early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast diseases.
The ARRT states that, since 1990, mammography has helped lower breast cancer-related deaths by almost one-third(17).
Mammographers operate specialized imaging equipment to produce images that aid physicians in detecting breast diseases such as breast cancer, even during the early stages.
Nuclear Medicine Technology
Nuclear medicine technologists create images using imaging equipment that detects radiopharmaceutical agents administered to an individual as part of the image capture procedure.
Radiopharmaceuticals are radioactive agents that help diagnose medical conditions. The medical imaging equipment’s camera scans these agents, which appear on the image to help doctors analyze the condition(18).
Nuclear medicine technology is an advanced area of health care that involves evaluating and diagnosing severe medical conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.
Ultrasound technologists, also called sonographers, operate medical imaging equipment that utilizes nonionizing ultrasonic frequency sound waves to obtain images of an individual’s internal organs and tissues.
This procedure has clinical applications, such as in gynecology and obstetrics. For example, the sonographer uses ultrasound equipment to develop images of the baby inside a mother’s womb.
Facilities and institutions where sonographers can gain career opportunities include diagnostic clinics, hospitals, and physicians’ offices.
Vascular Interventional Radiography
The job of vascular interventional radiographers is to assist doctors through the use of image-guided vascular procedures, such as thrombolysis and angioplasty.
These procedures use advanced fluoroscopic equipment and are minimally invasive. Vascular interventional radiographers must have the appropriate skills to operate these pieces of equipment to produce high-quality images of the blood vessels.
Sonographers use ultrasound equipment that utilizes sound waves at ultrasonic frequencies to produce images of an individual’s arteries and veins.
The images produced through this method show blood movement through the vessels and the structure and condition of internal organs. Doctors utilize these images to diagnose and treat various medical conditions.
Vascular sonographers also provide information about the procedure to patients, such as precautions and what to expect, and support them during the imaging process.
According to the May 2021 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), magnetic resonance imaging technologists had a median annual wage of $77,360(19).
Among those working in this profession, the lowest 10% earned less than $59,110, while the highest 10% earned higher than $100,870.
Meanwhile, radiologic technologists and technicians have a median annual wage of $61,370 as of May 2021(20). The lowest 10% received less than $46,850, while the highest 10% earned more than $94,880.
In May 2021, the top industries employing magnetic resonance imaging technologists had the following median annual wages(21):
- Outpatient care centers: $101,020
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $77,580
- Physician’s offices: $77,210
- Private, local, and state hospitals: $77,030
Also, in May 2021, the top industries where radiologic technologists and technicians work and their median annual wage were as follows(22):
- The federal government (postal service excluded): $71,530
- Outpatient care centers: $67,240
- Diagnostic and medical laboratories: $62,410
- Private, local, and state hospitals: $61,670
- Physician’s offices: $59,500
A professional organization provides valuable learning and career opportunities for college students and radiology professionals at any stage of their education or career.
Students enrolled in radiology degree programs can become part of professional organizations even while in school.
These organizations can provide students scholarships and access to a network of working professionals willing to become mentors.
Organizations can also help professionals complete additional courses to maintain licensure. Additionally, organizations can also provide networking opportunities through conferences and webinars for emerging professionals.
The following are professional organizations that medical imaging professionals can become members of based on specialization(23):
American Society of Radiologic Technologists
ASRT supports radiologic technologists and radiation therapists by providing them access to professional development opportunities, magazines, journals, and continuing education (CE) opportunities.
Association of Vascular and Interventional Radiographers
AVIR helps vascular and interventional radiographers improve their skills through annual conferences, chapter meetings, regional networking opportunities, and online workshops.
To be updated on new practices, members can access self-paced modules and video lectures.
Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA)
The AHRA represents professionals working in management roles that deal with imaging. The organization also provides its members access to CE opportunities, award-winning publications, and a worldwide network.
Radiological Society of North America
RSNA is composed of medical professionals working in radiology.
The organization’s vast network allows its members to access thousands of CE credits. These credits can help keep members updated with the latest developments in the field and maintain the members’ licensure.
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Since 1970, SDMS has educated medical professionals who specialize in sonography. Members can access a network of more than 28,000 professionals.
X-ray Technologist (X-ray Tech) vs. Radiologic Technologist
In general, radiologic technologists have the skills to perform advanced imaging procedures and operate a wide range of imaging equipment, including X-ray, MRI, or CT machines(24).
However, X-ray technologists, sometimes called X-ray technicians or radiologic technicians by some employers, are limited to operating X-ray machines and guiding patients through the procedure.
X-ray technicians support physicians and other medical staff in providing patient care by operating imaging equipment that uses X-rays to produce images radiologists use to analyze and interpret(25).
The technician primarily sets up the imaging equipment to be used and performs the X-ray image capture procedure on the patient to be scanned.
The technician also focuses on the patient by preparing the patient mentally, physically, and emotionally for the procedure.
Technicians typically work for private medical institutions and can also perform imaging on the patient’s extremities.
Requirements for technicians may vary from state to state. However, academic requirements typically include a high school diploma and the completion of a radiologic technician training program.
On the other hand, a radiologic technologist’s role includes assisting a physician during and after a procedure and administering therapeutic radiation to patients. Technologists are responsible for maintaining and operating imaging equipment, preparing patients for procedures, and assisting physicians in evaluating images.
Technologists are also present during sonograms, mammograms, CT scans, MRIs, nuclear medical treatment, and radiation therapy.
Academic requirements for technologists include completing an associate’s degree in radiologic technology or bachelor’s degree program and acquiring a certification from the ARRT to obtain licensure.
Similar to X-ray technician requirements, radiologic technologist requirements may vary from one state to another.
What can an individual do with a bachelor’s degree in radiology?
Individuals taking up a bachelor’s degree in radiology can consider the following career opportunities(26):
- Radiologic technologist
- Radiology administrator
- Cardiovascular technologist
- MRI technologist or technician
- Pediatric radiographer
How long does getting a radiologist degree take?
After graduating high school, an individual interested in becoming a radiologist typically spends four years completing an undergraduate program followed by another four years of medical school.
Afterward, the graduate will undergo an internship for one year and, depending on the school, may spend four years of residency in diagnostic radiology.
Overall, the average time to earn a radiology degree is 13 years after completing high school(27).
Some individuals may prefer starting with an associate degree to jumpstart their radiology career. However, this degree is a two-year program, and graduates are still required to undergo medical school, internship, and residency.
- Radiology Degrees
- Attend Radiology School. Become a Radiologic Tech.
- Radiology Degrees
- Attend Radiology School. Become a Radiologic Tech.
- Bachelor’s in Radiology Technology Program Guide
- Medical Radiography (X-ray), AS
- Radiology Technologist Schools and Careers in California
- Great Careers in California: Become a Radiologic Technologist
- Contrast Medium
- Registered Radiology Assistant
- Breast Sonography
- Cardiac Interventional Radiography
- Radiopharmaceutical (Oral Route)
- Radiologic and MRI Technologists
- Bachelor’s in Radiology Technology Program Guide
- How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
- What Is the Process of Becoming an X-Ray Technician?
- What Jobs Are Available with a Bachelor’s in Radiology?
- How to Become a Radiologist – 6 Steps From Undergrad to Medical Licensing in Diagnostic Radiology