- A radiation technology school teaches students how to operate imaging machines so they can assist doctors in diagnosing and treating patients with various health conditions.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for radiologic technologists is predicted to grow up to nine percent by 2028(1).
- Some of the top schools for aspiring radiologic technologists are the State Technical College of Missouri, Mitchell Technical Institute, and Ball State University.
- In May 2019, the median annual wage of radiologic technologists was $60,510(2).
Radiation technology schools teach students how to use medical imaging equipment so they can help doctors diagnose, monitor, and treat patients.
Although the courses vary, most of the topics involved are in areas of physiology and human anatomy, radiographic positioning, and clinical practice.
Radiology schools in the United States train students to learn the various skills they need to take on these jobs. People who would like to work in health care may want to consider a role in radiology technology.
As stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of radiologic technologists is projected to grow nine percent by the year 2028(3).
The BLS believes that, as the population ages, there will be an increase in medical conditions requiring imaging as a tool for performing diagnoses.
The State Technical College of Missouri, Mitchell Technical Institute, and Ball State University are some of the best schools for aspiring radiologic technologists.
All three have a high pass rate and program effectiveness while also accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).
The JRCERT (www.jrcert.org) is the only agency allowed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE) to accredit educational programs in radiography, magnetic resonance, radiation sciences therapy, and medical dosimetry.
To achieve accreditation, JRCERT takes into account specific performance metrics of each program. These measurements include the completion rate percentage, the first attempt pass rate in the ARRT certification, and the Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board (MDCB) exam.
There are also schools in Chicago and Oklahoma City that have programs related to radiology.
Some community colleges and technology centers offer financial aid for people who wish to pursue a certificate or degree in radiologic technology.
Programs in Radiologic Technology
The type of radiology equipment that technologists can use depends on their training and education. Typically, a radiologic technologist accomplishes an associate degree based on the technology they wish to specialize in for their state.
These are the main areas that can lead to becoming certified as a radiologic technologist:
- Radiography – A radiography program prepares students to use primary radiologic technologies, such as X-ray and fluoroscopy, while becoming certified as radiographers. The programs are often part of associate degrees, although they can also be found in bachelor’s degrees.
- Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy programs prepare graduates to become radiation therapists by teaching them how to handle high doses of radiation for cancer treatment.
- Sonography – Programs in sonography lead to sonographer and ultrasound technician careers. The classes teach students how to use ultrasound to produce images of internal body structures.
- Nuclear Medicine Technology (NMT) – A degree in NMT prepares graduates to become registered nuclear medicine technologists. Their jobs are to produce medical images using equipment, like gamma cameras and computerized tomography (CT) scans.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – MRI programs teach students how to use magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of internal structures in the body.
There are also other radiologic technology programs that can be pursued as additional certifications. These include:
- Bone densitometry
- Breast sonography
- Cardiac interventional radiology
- Computed tomography (CAT/CT scans)
- Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
- Positron emission tomography (PET scan)
- Radiologist assistant
- Vascular interventional radiography
- Vascular sonography
Programs for radiologic technologists are challenging, especially since radiographic procedures can be complicated.
Having excellent anatomical knowledge, mechanical aptitude, and communication skills are the top three requirements for this field. Critical thinking skills are also necessary for aspiring technologists.
The time it takes to complete a degree or certificate program varies.
For entry-level roles in the field of radiology, some certificate programs can often be accomplished in a year. However, applicants may be required to have additional qualifications before they can be employed.
Those who wish to expand their skill set can obtain shorter-term certificates that can potentially be completed in less than a year.
Radiologic Technology Degree Levels
The radiologic technology programs begin at the certificate level, extending up to doctoral degrees. Each level represents various opportunities, depending on the licensure and certifications possessed.
Radiologic Technology Certificate
A radiologic technology certificate is the minimum education requirement for an entry-level position in the field. These certificates are often found as limited scope X-ray programs that prepare high school candidates to operate diagnostic imaging machines in a limited range safely.
Radiologic Technology Associate Degree
Some technical schools offer associate of applied science (AAS) programs in radiologic technology. Most medical centers and hospitals require applicants to have an associate’s degree in the field before they can work in these settings.
Bachelor in Radiologic Technology
More than a thousand bachelor degree programs are available in radiologic technology. The most popular are Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Technology (BSRT), Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences, Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Radiologic Technology, and Bachelor of Radiography.
The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University offer various programs in radiologic technology.
Master in Radiologic Technology
Students who already completed a bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology can proceed to the master level to obtain advanced knowledge of biomedical imaging and its associated research approaches. Usually, full-time students can accomplish a master’s degree in one or two years.
Doctoral Degrees in Radiology
A degree in radiology prepares student graduates to pursue higher careers in radiologic health science. The most common program is Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Radiology, which prepares graduates to work and seek licensure as medical doctors.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist: Requirements
Students who wish to become radiologic technologists are required to have an associate’s degree to gain entry-level employment. However, some occupations may necessitate a bachelor’s degree or a postsecondary certificate.
For those interested to become radiologists, clinical coursework is an essential aspect of instruction and learning.
These classes provide learners with hands-on (student services) knowledge and skills on how to work with imaging equipment, including applications in real-life settings.
Although the courses and necessary credit hours may vary based on the program, the education needed to become a radiologic technologist is mostly the same.
Students who study to become radiologists could take classes in:
- Anatomy and radiographic positioning
- Radiographic imaging sciences
- Radiographic science and protection
- Radiographic equipment and clinical experience application
Once the radiographic technology program has been completed, students can start processing their state license.
Licensing is necessary for most states, but the requirements can vary.
For instance, passing the state or national certification exam provided through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is included in the licensing process for those in California.
Graduating from an accredited program by the JRCERT is another requirement.
Students in California who recently obtained their licenses have to renew it every two years. The renewal takes place by completing twenty-four continuing education hours in a two-year period.
As mentioned by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), Californian students must allocate four of these hours in digital radiography.
Working toward being certified in specific areas of radiology, such as in bone densitometry and mammography, is possible through the ARRT.
As of 2019, the median yearly salary of radiologic technologists was $60,510 in May 2019(4).
Other Careers in Radiology
Some of the specific occupations in radiology are:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technician
- Nuclear medicine technologist
- Cardiovascular technologist
- Ultrasound technician
How to Become an MRI Technician
Magnetic resonance imaging technicians are required to have an in-depth understanding of their equipment and patients for their patients.
Empathy is particularly important, especially since MRI scans can take more than an hour to accomplish and can be claustrophobic for some individuals.
Having the ability to keep patients at ease before, during, and after the process can be very useful.
MRI technicians are expected to perform the following activities:
- Prepare patients for the imaging procedure, which can include learning about their medical history.
- Set up and adjust the equipment for the scan.
- Position patients appropriately on the MRI machine to acquire the correct images. This task can include moving or lifting disabled individuals.
- Get the precise images ordered by the radiologist, repeating the process when required.
- Prepare the images for viewing by the doctor while following proper documentation.
- Coordinate with the radiologist to determine if additional images are needed.
- Enforce precautionary measures at all times.
An MRI technician may also work with a radiologist to diagnose problems or conduct follow-up procedures. Experts in this field can expect to work full time, night shifts, or be on call.
Besides specific training required to operate a magnetic resonance imaging machine, the following subjects are also necessary for MRI technicians:
- Image evaluation
- Patient care
- Radiation protection and safety
- Medical documentation
Although the salary and job placement rate for an MRI technician varies from state to state, its top-paying industries include working in scientific research and universities.
The median yearly wage for magnetic resonance imaging technologists was $73,410 in May 2019(5).
How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
More than forty million nuclear medicine procedures are performed around the world each year(6). Since their invention in the 1950s, these processes have become a medical specialty that is practiced in countries worldwide.
To become a nuclear medicine technologist, one has to complete a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree program by way of an accredited school of radiologic technology.
Topics typically covered by these programs include nuclear drug administration and equipment operation.
Certification for nuclear medicine varies from state to state. It is vital to know what these requirements are when deciding to pursue a career in this field.
The two organizations that offer certifications are the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
There are various applications for nuclear medicine:
- Identifying abnormal lesions within the body without resorting to surgery
- Determining if organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and stomach, are functioning optimally
- Evaluating patient lung function, blood volume, bone density, and vitamin absorption
- Detecting even micro bone fractures before it can be identified by an X-ray machine
- Discovering cancers and determining if they respond to treatment
- Determining if cancer-infected bones will heal
- Identifying sites of epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease
- Assessing the damage sustained by the heart after a stroke
- Informing physicians if newly transplanted organs are functional
Nuclear medicine is not the same as an X-ray, CT, or MRI scan. In this field, the equipment used can detect radiation from within the body of a patient.
There are also no other imaging methods capable of determining disease status by using the body’s own functions.
The job description of a nuclear medicine technologist includes the following:
- Communicating with patients to prepare them for the NMT procedure
- Administering radioactive compounds to the patient intravenously or orally
- Monitoring gamma cameras, which capture and acquire images from the radiation given off by pharmaceuticals
- Identifying reactions in the body, called tracers, which help indicate the presence of specific abnormalities or diseases
- In some instances, it could be possible to work with an MRI or CT technician to highlight in detail an area of interest
- Adhering to strict protocols for safe dosage and following guidelines
As of 2019, the median yearly salary for nuclear medicine technologists was $77,950(7).
How to Become a Cardiovascular Technologist
There are several pathways to becoming a cardiovascular technologist. Fields closely related to diagnostic medical sonography and radiologic technology can lead to this career.
The most common credentials requested for the job include possessing a diploma, undergraduate certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree in cardiovascular technology.
Students of cardiovascular technology often choose to specialize in the following:
- Adult echocardiography
- Cardiac electrophysiology
- Invasive cardiovascular technology
- Noninvasive vascular study
- Pediatric echocardiography
Clinical coursework is essential in cardiovascular technology education. Before working in a clinical setting, students must also submit medical forms and records that verify the following:
- A yearly physical
- A current tuberculosis test
- Hepatitis vaccinations
- A current flu vaccination
- Antibody test or chickenpox vaccination
In most states, only certified or licensed cardiovascular technicians are allowed to enter the field. Some state licensing boards require students to pass an ARRT exam, while others require specific certifications.
Here are some things aspiring cardiovascular technicians should know concerning state licensure:
- They should meet state eligibility requirements before they can take a licensing exam. The criteria might include having accreditation, a professional certificate, or a set number of hours of clinical patient care.
- Prepare the necessary documentation and go through the complete application process.
- Pay all of the required fees.
Cardiovascular technology candidates should carefully review the educational and clinical criteria. Also, professional certifications and state licenses need to be renewed periodically, usually requiring the completion of continuing education requirements.
For cardiovascular technologists and technicians, their median annual wage was $57,720 in May 2019(8).
How to Become an Ultrasound Technician
An ultrasound technician’s job is to assist doctors and other health experts in diagnosing patient illnesses. Technicians operate equipment that utilizes high-frequency sound waves to acquire images of internal structures in the body.
Ultrasound technicians are also called sonographers, diagnostic medical sonographers, or ultrasound techs.
A sonographer works directly with physicians and patients. They may also specialize in abdominal, vascular, cardiac, or breast sonography.
Some of the primary activities of an ultrasound technician include:
- Preparing the examination room and equipment
- Assisting radiologists with vascular ultrasound procedures and ultrasound-guided biopsies
- Identifying and recording the correct pathology and anatomy using sonographic machines
- Creating reports based on scan results
- Informing appropriate medical personnel of abnormalities that require immediate attention
- Helping physicians solve problems and make decisions
- Maintaining the highest level of confidentiality
Diagnostic medical sonographers require formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate.
As of May 2019, the median yearly salary for ultrasound technicians was $74,320(9).
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Online Schools for Aspiring Radiologic Technologists?
Since both clinical experience and lab-based work are necessary to earn initial licensure or certification, institutions offering radiology technologist programs at the associate degree level typically require on-campus study.
However, for those who already have an associate’s degree, many online bachelor degrees in radiologic technology are available as transfer programs. Sometimes these programs can include certification in other modalities.
Coursework that leads to career advancement to supervisory and managerial roles can be expected.
What Is the Difference Between Cardiovascular and Ultrasound Technologists?
Cardiovascular technologists, also known as echocardiographers, have similar careers as general ultrasound technicians. The difference between the two is the parts of the human body they assess.
Additionally, cardiac sonographers report to a cardiologist instead of a radiologist.
They also work full-time schedules in a hospital environment. Like other modalities within sonography, they can also operate in a physician’s office, depending on their interest.
Echocardiologists are required to be physically fit since most of their work necessitates walking and standing.
These professionals are also highly trained to work with sophisticated equipment daily to diagnose cardiac illnesses.
The following are some of the main activities one can expect from a cardiovascular technologist:
- Preparing patients for catheterization (shaving and cleaning), positioning them accordingly on examination tables, and, sometimes, administering anesthetics
- Help with balloon angioplasty procedures to open up blocked heart valves or blood vessels.
- Assist a physician in determining where these blockages are located
- Performing the necessary echocardiography tests
- Reviewing patient files and physician interpretations
- Working with a doctor during electrophysiology tests to find abnormal impulses in the heart
- Operating test equipment while explaining the procedures to patients
What Is the Difference Between a Degree in Radiologic Technology and Radiology?
A degree in radiology can lead to a job as a radiologist, a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases using radiologic technologies.
A radiologic technologist is someone who assists radiologists.
One of the primary roles of a technologist is to take radiologic images for diagnosis and treatment.
Radiology programs are at the master’s and doctoral levels, while radiologic technology degrees are for undergraduates.
A radiology technology school is where students can learn how to use medical imaging machines to assist physicians in diagnosing, monitoring, and treating patients.
According to the BLS, radiologic technologist employment is predicted to grow up to nine percent by the year 2028.
Some of the best schools for aspiring technologists are the State Technical College of Missouri, Mitchell Technical Institute, and Ball State University.
Having an applied science degree is one of the stepping stones to a career as a radiologic technologist.
- U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. Radiologic and MRI Technologists. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
- U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 29-2035 Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292035.htm
- World Nuclear Association (2020, May). Radioisotopes in Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/non-power-nuclear-applications/radioisotopes-research/radioisotopes-in-medicine.aspx
- U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nuclear Medicine Technologists. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nuclear-medicine-technologists.htm
- U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm