What Does a Career in Radiology Entail?
Are you interested in pursuing a career in radiologic technology? If you are passionate about people, healthcare, and technology a job in this field may be ideal. Radiologic technologists and similar professionals utilize several types of equipment to diagnose and treat patients suffering from a wide variety of conditions. Most frequently, they use x-ray and diagnostic imaging to capture images that are instrumental in developing treatment plans. The field is quite diverse and there are many different jobs available. Depending on the degree in radiologic technology obtained, graduates can expect to find employment as a:Read More
- Radiologic Technologist
- Radiology Tech
- Cardiovascular Radiologic Technologist
- Ultrasound Technologist
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist
- X-Ray Technologist
- X-Ray Technicians
- Nuclear Medicine Technology Tech
- Computed Tomography (CT) Technologists
Components of a Successful Career in Radiology
It is important to realize that a career in radiology as a radiologic technologist is not for everyone. Professionals in this field must learn many skills and often work long hours. People who are most successful in radiologic technology positions often possess the following qualities:
- Detail-oriented and able to follow exact instructions
- Interpersonal skills that can help ease patient anxiety
- Proficient with math used to calculate and mix chemical dosages
- Physical stamina to remain active for long periods of time
- Technical understanding of how to operate complex machinery
How to Earn Degree in Radiology
Finding and enrolling in a radiologic science degree program is not difficult. The field is very technical and requires time and training to master. As a result, the hardest part of the process will be completing the degree requirements and advancing your career afterward. Taking the following steps can help you prepare for a successful career in radiology:
Develop and hone your interest in radiologic technology by taking relevant science classes and participating in related high school activities
Determine what level of education you need to reach your ultimate career goal (associate, undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate)
Research institutions that offer radiologic technology degree programs, whether that is an associate of applied science or a bachelor of science in radiologic technology
Create, request, and organize any necessary application materials (entrance essay, reference letters, etc.)
Submit applications to your preferred programs (often your first, second, and third choices)
Decide which institution/program meets your objectives and offers the best opportunities for future success
Enroll in courses that align with your specific interests, whether that is medical imaging, X-ray, or nuclear medicine technology
Graduate from your chosen college or university
Complete your state’s credentialing or certificate process (if applicable)
Apply for professional employment
Typical Radiology Degree Requirements
Individuals interested in a career as a radiologic technologist can choose between several education options. Degrees are offered at the associate, undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels. Most professionals find work after obtaining an associate degree in radiologic technology, as this is usually the minimum that is required by employers. An Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Science degree in radiologic technology will take two years to complete.
Typical Radiology Certifications Needed
Credentialing requirements vary per state, but most do require radiological professionals to be licensed and/or hold certificates. You should become familiar with your location’s specific expectations and process. Practicing before you have obtained the appropriate credentials is not legal.
Additionally, many professionals opt to become certified through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). ARRT provides certification options for individuals, but also works in conjunction with state credentialing boards. Many states use ARRT examination scores as part of their licensing process.
It is also worth noting that some employers will not hire candidates without ARRT certification. Others expect certification even if the state in which you reside does not.
Academic Standards for a Radiology Degree
While every college and university is different, most institutions establish certain academic standard requirements. These vary, but frequently mean that prospective students need to provide the following items:
- High School Transcript(s)
- Application Fee
- College Admission Tests (ACT or SAT)
- Letter(s) of Recommendation
- Application Essay
- An Interview
While enrolled, many colleges and universities also require that you maintain a certain grade point average (GPA). If your GPA drops below the designated point, you can be placed on academic probation and, eventually, suspended.
Exam / Experience Needed for a Radiology Degree
Most colleges and universities require that prospective students complete a college admission test. For institutions in the United States, either the ACT or SAT will suffice. The majority of schools will accept scores from one or both of these examinations. Keep in mind, however, that the minimum score requirements will vary.
If you plan to enroll in a graduate degree program, you may need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
There are also numerous experiences that can help set you apart from other degree applicants. Most colleges and universities give preference to students who can show they were involved in their schools and communities. Taking part in extracurricular activities is often extremely helpful, especially if they relate to radiology in some way. Good examples include joining a science or math club. You should also consider volunteering at a local hospital or nursing home. These experiences will assist in preparing you for a career in the medical field, as well as impress your preferred institutions.
Individuals interested in a career in radiology will need to decide what level of education they intend to complete. There are several academic options to choose from, including associate, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees. Most colleges and universities will offer at least one of these options. You should seriously consider your career goals in relation to the benefits of each program type before you begin submitting applications.
The cost of attendance may also impact your decision. Keep the following average tuition rates in mind:
|Degree Type||Public (In-State)||Private|
You can find professional employment in radiology after earning an associate’s degree. In fact, most radiologic technologists earn either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. While graduate programs are available and beneficial, they are rarely necessary. If, however, you plan become a radiologist, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree and a medical school degree, as well as complete an internship and residency program.
Some radiology professionals start by earning an associate degree. This level of education is the minimum requirement for employment. An associate degree is intended to provide graduates with a basic understanding of biology, physiology, anatomy, patient care, and clinical skills. These programs usually consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that can be completed in two to three years. Assuming that the program is properly accredited, graduates will be prepared and qualified to apply for licensure. Credits may also be transferred to a four-year undergraduate college or university. An associate degree in radiology can qualify professionals for employment as radiographers, radiology technologists, x-ray technologists, radiologic technicians, limited scope x-ray machine operators, and rad technicians.
- Introduction to Anatomy
- Introduction to Biology
- Patient Care and Management
- Foundational Radiographic Procedures
- Diagnostic Concepts
- Radiographic Protection
- Radiographic Anatomy and Positioning
Many professionals prefer to earn a bachelor’s degree in radiology before beginning their careers. While an associate degree will suffice, students can learn a lot more about utilizing advanced medical technology for diagnosis and treatment during a traditional program. Graduates will be prepared to practice in a wider range of settings and situations. Undergraduate programs usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and require four years for full-time students to complete. Graduates can choose to continue their education or find employment as CT technologists, MRI technologists, nuclear medicine technologists, radiographers, sonographers, ultrasound technologists, or x-ray technologists.
- Human Anatomy
- Medical Terminology
- Principles of Imaging
- Radiation Protection
- Digital Image Acquisition
- Medical Ethics
- Clinical Decision-Making
- Clinical Research Methods
- Advanced Image Analysis
A master’s degree is not required to be successful in the field, but it does qualify professionals for higher level positions. Completing a graduate program demonstrates commitment, advanced knowledge, and a disposition for leadership. As a result, graduates can often expect higher salaries, faster promotions, and increased job security. These programs usually consist of 30 to 60 credit hours and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. A master’s degree in radiology generally qualifies professionals for employment as radiologist assistances, radiology equipment specialists, healthcare administrators, healthcare managers, radiography instructors, or radiologist extenders.
- Foundations of Healthcare Systems
- Clinical Pharmacology
- Advanced Image Analysis
- Advanced Human Anatomy
- Radiologic Physics
- Current Technology in Radiologic Sciences
- Healthcare Law and Ethics
- Business Policy in Healthcare
Course offerings may also vary based on the type of graduate program you enroll in. Many institutions offer concentrations that are specifically geared to prepare graduates for work as radiologist assistants, administrators, or educators.
|Degree Type||Public (In-State)|
|Master’s Degree||$30,000-$120,000 (Average)|
Earning Potential for Radiology Degree Fields and Occupations
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons (including radiologists) in 2017 was greater than $208,000. This is significantly above the median annual wage of $37,690 for all other occupations in the nation. It is important to note, however, that medical professionals of this level require extensive education and training. In addition to an undergraduate and graduate degree, radiologists must also attend medical school and complete a three to seven year residency program. Merely attaining an associate, bachelor, or master’s degree in radiology will not be sufficient.
Radiologic technologists and technicians earn a lower salary, but do not require nearly as much education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for radiologic and MRI technologists in 2017 was $69,930. Additionally, employment for professionals in this field is expected to increase by 12% from 2016 to 2026, a rate that is faster than average for other occupations.
As a radiologist, there are a few opportunities to specialize in a particular field of study. These specializations are usually unavailable until the final years of residency. Common areas of concentration include body imaging, breast imaging, cardiothoracic radiology, community radiology, interventional radiology, musculoskeletal radiology, neuroradiology, and nuclear medicine. It is clear that the level of education you obtain has a direct impact on the salary you can expect. The more training you have undergone, the higher your pay will likely be.
Radiology Salaries by Occupation
Within the field of radiology, there are several different occupations you may want to consider. It is important to realize that job titles can vary drastically from employer to employer. Your current or intended level of education will also dictate which positions you qualify for and how much you can expect to be paid.
Radiologists are physicians or surgeons who have learned how to diagnose and treat patients using medical imaging, such as mammography, x-ray, MRIs, fluoroscopy, and CT scans. These professionals work closely with radiology technologists and technicians. General responsibilities may include taking a patient’s medical history, updating charts, ordering imaging tests, reviewing test results, recommending a treatment plan, and addressing medical concerns.
Radiologic technologists, or radiographers, are responsible for performing diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. These professionals often use many different types of equipment, but specialize in x-ray and computer imaging technology. Other responsibilities may include adjusting and maintaining imaging equipment, following physician orders, preparing patients for procedures, positioning the patient, operating the equipment, assisting physicians in evaluating images, and keeping detailed records.
Radiation therapists are responsible for treating diseases, such as cancer, with radiation. These professionals often work closely with radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, and medical physicists. Common responsibilities include explaining treatment plans to patients, determining the location of treatment, calibrating equipment, monitoring patient health, and keeping detailed records.
|Occupation||Entry Level Median Annual Salary||Mid-Career Median Annual Salary||Late Career Median Annual Salary|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||$51,500||$70,800||$84,100|
|Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists||$58,600||$76,000||$82,500|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||$47,000||$66,000||$81,700|
|Nuclear Medicine Technologists||$59,900||$72,000||$77,900|
Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)
How long does it take to earn a radiology bachelor’s degree online?
In most cases, it will take full-time students four years to complete an online bachelor’s degree in radiology. If you intend to enroll part-time, however, you should expect it to take longer. Most part-time students working through online programs require five to eight years to graduate.
How much does a radiology bachelor’s degree cost?
Because every college and university is different, it is difficult to estimate the exact cost of a bachelor’s degree in radiology. That said, the College Board’s Trends in Higher Education Series reported that the average in-state tuition for attending four-year public institutions during the 2017-18 academic year was $9,970. Private colleges and universities charged more, however, with an average tuition of $35,260.
It is important to realize that tuition costs vary quite drastically from institution to institution. Expenses also fluctuate slightly year-to-year and are based on school size and location. Your residency status will also make a difference. Take time to thoroughly research each college and university you are interested in for more precise pricing information. Keep in mind, however, that your out-of-pocket expenses may be higher than what is listed on school websites. You will be responsible for paying tuition, fees, room and board, as well for required course materials and books.
Does the school have the major(s) you are considering?
If you intend to obtain a degree in radiology, you need to find an institution that offers it as a major. While many colleges and universities have radiology programs, not all of them do. Take time now to become familiar with school major listings so that you do not waste time applying to an institution that cannot provide you with the education you desire.
How many students graduate “on time,” or within four years?
Most traditional, undergraduate degree programs in radiology can be completed within four years. As long as you are enrolled full-time, this estimate is appropriate for both on-campus and online programs. Some universities and colleges do, however, have a reputation for delayed graduation. Before submitting applications, it is important to verify expected graduation timeframes and employment rates.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How it is regarded in the field?
When looking for a radiology degree program, you should pay close attention to the accreditation status of potential colleges and universities. Institutions do not have to accredit their programs, but the process ensures that the school adheres to important standards within the field.
The primary accrediting agency for radiology degrees is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). JRCERT is the only organization that is recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. It can accredit both traditional and distance learning programs in radiology, radiation therapy, magnetic resonance, and medical dosimetry.
Most states require radiologic technologists to be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). ARRT only recognizes degrees earned at universities and colleges accredited by certain agencies. In addition to JRCERT and many others, the following accrediting organizations are also acceptable:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCACS)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Schools (WASC ACS)
- Conjoint Accreditation Services of the Canadian Medical Association
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Accrediting Commission of Career School and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
Earning a radiology degree can be expensive. To make the venture more affordable, many students apply for financial aid. Scholarships, unlike loans, do not need to be repaid, making them an ideal solution. Keep in mind, however, that most scholarships will not cover your entire tuition costs.
One of the best sources for radiology scholarships is the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) Foundation. ASRT offers a number of great financial aid opportunities to both student and professional association members:
- James and Stephanie Johnston Journey Scholarship - $500 Award
- Jerman-Cahoon Student Scholarship - $2,500 Award
- Marie L. A. Racine Scholarship - $500 Award
- Philip W. Ballinger Scholarship – $1,000 Award
- Professional Advancement Scholarship - $2,500 Award
- Radiation Therapy Pioneers Scholarship - $500 Award
- Richard S. Kay Endowed Scholarship - $250 Award
- Siemens Clinical Advancement Scholarship - $5,000 Award
Elekta Radiation Therapy Scholarship
The Elektra Radiation Therapy Scholarship is intended to help students afford enrollment in radiation therapy programs. It is supported by Elekta, a human care company dedicated to the success of radiation therapists. The scholarship amount is $5,000, which is usually awarded to four students a year.
Parsons Degree Achievement Scholarship
The Parsons Degree Achievement Scholarship is intended to help students pursuing careers as radiologic technologists earn their first associate or bachelor’s degree in the field. It was established in honor of Cathy Parsons, the former Foundation Chairman. The scholarship amount is $6,000, which is usually awarded to six students a year.
Royce Osborn Minority Student Scholarship
The Royce Osborn Minority Student Scholarship is intended to assist minority students enrolled in entry-level radiography, sonography, magnetic resonance, radiation therapy, or nuclear medicine programs. It was established in honor of Royce Osborn. The scholarship amount is $4,000, which is usually awarded to five students a year.
Varian Radiation Therapy Advancement Scholarship
The Varian Radiation Therapy Advancement Scholarship is intended for current radiation therapists and medical dosimetrists seeking education to enhance their clinical practice skills. Through further education, the organization hopes to help professionals provide excellent patient care. The scholarship amount is $5,000, which is usually awarded to nine individuals a year.
Professional Radiology Organizations
As a professional working in radiology, you will have access to an almost endless variety of organizations and associations to choose from. Some are all-encompassing, while others cater to individuals in specific sub-fields. Regardless of which you prefer, becoming a member offers several benefits. Most professional organizations, associations, and societies provide great networking, education, training, and idea-sharing opportunities, as well as access to otherwise restricted resources. Further, it is not uncommon for members to receive special discounts on conventions, seminars, certifications, and events. Some prominent professional radiology organizations include:
- American Association of Medical Dosimetrists (AAMD)
- American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC)
- American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO)
- Association of Vascular and Interventional Radiographers (AVIR)
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS)
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS)
- Society for MR Radiographers and Technologists (SMRT)
- Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI)
- Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Technologist Section (SNMMI-TS)
- Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU)
Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) represents over 54,000 members from 136 different countries. As one of the largest non-profit professional radiology associations, RSNA is dedicated to enhancing the future or the profession through research, standards development, and educational outreach. RSNA member benefits include access to high-quality educational resources, continuing education credits, two peer-reviewed journals, and access to the world’s largest radiology conference.
American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)
The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) represents individuals working in medical imaging and radiation therapy. As a premier professional association, ASRT offers membership to professionals who hold an unrestricted license in medical imaging or radiation, as well as students, associates, limited x-ray machine operators, radiologist assistants, and retired employees. Members have access to membership networking, high-quality continuing education, peer-reviewed journals, an ASRT magazine, and discounts.
Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA)
The Association for Medical Imaging Management (AHRA) represents over 5,000 hospital imaging management members of all levels from all over the world. As a leading resource for development in the medical imaging field, AHRA offers memberships to individuals, organizations, students, and military staff. Members are given exclusive access to peer reviewed journals, free continuing education credits, sophisticated online reporting tools, conference discounts, resources, volunteer opportunities, and scholarships/grants.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in radiology, then it is time to begin preparing for your future now. As a high school student, consider discussing your career plans with a school counselor. He or she will be able to tailor your course list and recommend various extracurricular activities that will suit your goals. At the very least, it is recommended that you sign up for additional science courses. As a current professional, look for relevant seminars or training opportunities through your employer or within your community. Regardless of your specific situation, keep the following tips in mind as you begin looking for a radiologic technology degree program.
Choosing an Accredited College
Now that you know so much about radiologic technology, it's time to find a college with an accredited program. Unless the radiologic technology department is within a business school, it's less likely to have specific program accreditation. Thus, making sure that your college is regionally accredited is of vital importance, because a non-accredited degree is unlikely to help you with your job search and if you desire higher education you may have to re-take many, if not all, of your courses.
However, if you want to find a school with programmatic accreditation for it's radiologic technology or medical imaging courses, you'll want to search for a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. The Joint Review Committee on Education in this field covers degrees in radiologic science such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray, and other diagnostic imaging sciences. However the Joint Review Committee on Education in Nuclear Science covers nuclear medicine technology separately.
On-Campus vs. Online vs. Hybrid Degree Programs
The majority of individuals seeking degrees in the medical field will enroll as full-time students at institutions and attend classes on campus. Regardless of the program selected, this usually takes about four years. Attending a college or university in person may not, however, be a feasible option for you. If you are currently employed or have responsibilities at home that will prevent you from seeking a traditional degree, you may be considering a distance learning program. These offer scheduling alternatives that are more flexible and often permit you to complete requirements at your own pace.
Online degrees in radiology are available, but there are some drawbacks you should be aware of before enrolling. Distance learning does not allow for much, if any, networking. While the classes will provide you with the knowledge you need to be successful in the field, you will not have much opportunity to build relationships with professors and peers. Radiologic technologists also need hands-on experience with the technology they will be using. For this reason, it is rare to find an online program in radiology that does not require some in-person instruction.
Programs that occur primarily online but have campus residencies are commonly referred to as hybrid programs. These bridge the gap between online and on-campus. While the majority of coursework is completed from home or work, students seeking a hybrid degree are asked to travel and stay at the institution for periods of time throughout the program.
Post-Graduate Job Placement Assistance
Finding a job after graduation can be daunting, especially if you are attempting it without proper guidance. To ensure a higher employment rate, many colleges and universities actually have post-graduate job placement assistance programs. These allow students to seek the support they need as they transition from school-life to the professional world.
It is important to realize that no college or university can guarantee employment after graduation. Job placement programs are designed to provide the guidance, tools, and resources necessary to be successful; they do not do the work for you. Most institutions offer interview preparation assistance, resume development, and career coaching services, as well as access to job fairs.
If you feel you would benefit from these amenities, make sure that you apply to schools that offer a post-graduate job placement assistance program. You can often find information about these services on institution websites.
Accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
Accreditation should be an extremely important factor when looking for and selecting a radiology degree program. The accreditation status of the college or university that you choose has a huge impact on your future success in the field. Not only does an institution without accreditation lack proof that it adheres to academic standards, but it can negatively impact the amount of money you earn.
Because unaccredited programs do not necessarily cover certainly topics that are vital within the industry, employers may be more hesitant to hire you. Those that are willing to hire you will likely do so with the understanding that you likely have incomplete or insufficient knowledge in certain areas. To account for this, they will start you at a lower salary.
- Trends in College Pricing
- American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
- Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
- The Association for Medical Imaging Management
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- The Radiological Society of North America
Healthcare Degrees & Career Paths