Medical Radiography Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Course Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees in medical radiography can lead to careers in healthcare facilities. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Medical Radiography: Degrees at a Glance

Medical radiographers are healthcare professionals who use imaging equipment to take x-rays of patients. As a student in this degree program, you will learn about anatomy, patient care, image evaluation, pathology and radiation protection and physics. After graduation and successfully completing licensing exams, you will be prepared to seek positions in hospitals, physicians' offices, outpatient care centers, clinics and medical and diagnostic laboratories. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that radiologic technologists are required to be certified in most states, which requires the completion of a Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)-accredited program and passing an exam from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for radiologic technologists are expected to increase by 28% from 2010-2020. This growth rate is faster than the average for other types of careers.

Associate Bachelor's
Who Is This Degree For? Students interested in healthcare and starting training towards a career as a radiologic technologist Students who wish to pursue advanced training and enhance career opportunities
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - CAT Scan Technologist ($60,000)*
- Radiologic Technologist ($49,000)*
- Interventional Radiological Technologist ($60,000)*
- Chief MRI Technologist ($78,000 - typically requires 4 years of experience)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements -Associate coursework
- Clinical rotations
- Bachelor's coursework
- Clinical rotations
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- High school or college courses in English, chemistry, algebra and biology with a course grade of C or better
- Associate degree in medical radiography
- Current registration by the ARRT or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (for some programs)
- 2.0 cumulative GPA
Online Availability None found at this time Yes

Source: *Salary.com (June 2012 figures).

Associate in Medical Radiography

The curricula of associate programs offer a combination of hands-on activities, lectures, group projects, classroom activities and laboratory work. In addition to courses that involve learning about radiographic procedures, patient positioning, evaluating radiographs for technical quality and patient safety, clinical internships are also an important component of the learning process. These clinical experiences require you to complete about 2,000 clinical hours, and some programs do not recommend you attempt full-time work while completing program. Within the clinical internship, you'll have the opportunity to integrate what you have learned in your coursework and practice radiologic procedures on patients under the supervision and direction of faculty.

After you have successfully completed your required coursework and clinical experiences, you will be eligible to sit for the licensing examination. You may also need to comply with state licensing requirements.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allows you to gain the entry-level experience needed for employment in the field
  • Coursework prepares you for licensing exams
  • Clinical work offers you the opportunity to practice your skills and gain experience in the field

Cons

  • Requires additional education for specialties such as mammography, computerized tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Admission to the program is competitive
  • Students must provide own transportation to clinical sites

Courses and Requirements

Your required coursework will include course topics such as human anatomy and physiology, patient care and radiographic procedures and images. While you're completing your clinical experiences, you'll be working a full-time schedule. Common course topics include:

  • Radiographic procedures
  • Radiographic physics
  • Radiographic positioning
  • Radiographic skills

Online Degree Options

Due to the clinical nature of associate degree programs, online programs are very unusual, and the few programs that are available may not be accredited, so you should research any options you encounter carefully. Though online programs aren't available, you may be able to find some programs that offer online or hybrid classes within the curriculum.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

While in an associate program, you can seek out student organizations, such as the Radiologic Technology Student Association, on campus that will allow you to connect with other students and participate in opportunities for professional development. These student organizations encourage active involvement and can lead to skill development at the national, regional and local level.

After you have become certified by the ARRT, graduates can consider a membership to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). This membership offers numerous benefits, including career assistance, educational conferences and discounts on educational products, uniforms, shoes, insurance and electronics. A membership to the ASRT also provides you with the opportunity to earn continuing education credits that you can apply to classes in a specific specialty, such as mammography, MRI, CT and patient care.

Degree Alternatives

Though radiologic technologists have good prospects, your options in specialty areas may be limited without further education. However, you can choose to complete an associate degree program in diagnostic medical sonography (DMS), which offers specialty areas and higher career prospects. Diagnostic medical sonography programs train you to maintain ultrasound equipment, operate DMS equipment, record patient records and ultrasound images and apply gel for imaging. According to the BLS, DMS careers are projected to grow by 44% from 2010-2020. Additionally, the mean annual wages for diagnostic medical sonographers was $66,000 in May 2011.

Bachelor's Degree in Medical Radiography

Bachelor's programs in medical radiography allow you to further enhance your technical skills and take advanced level courses. Many schools also offer education and training in other specialties, including mammography, CT and MRI. As a student in this degree program, you can expect to learn about advanced patient care, cross-sectional anatomy, business and radiology informatics.

A clinical component is highly emphasized in bachelor's degree programs, and you can expect to spend your final two years as a student engaged in clinical work and internships. These internships are typically full-time and take place in local hospitals, clinics and outpatient care centers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Curriculum includes specialties that can improve job opportunities after graduation
  • Clinical internships provide real-world job experience
  • Can lead to leadership positions

Cons

  • Internship admission is competitive due to limited clinical centers
  • Most schools require an associate degree and certification to apply
  • Potential risk of radiation exposure and contact with infectious diseases

Courses and Requirements

While enrolled in a medical radiography bachelor's program, you can expect to take classes in radiographic procedures, equipment manipulation, anatomy, patient care and image assessment. You'll also need to take general education courses in mathematics, English and the social sciences. Full-time clinical internships are also a required. Topics covered include:

  • Physiology
  • Mammography
  • Radiographic exposure
  • Radiographic pathology

Online Degree Info

Online bachelor's degree programs in medical radiography exist, although they are not very common in comparison to other online programs. It is important to note that some online degree programs in this field do not have a clinical internship component. If you are looking for a program that places emphasis on supervised clinical experiences, you should carefully consider your professional goals before enrolling in an online bachelor's degree program. In order to meet licensing requirements for most states, you must graduate from a program that is accredited by the JRCERT. When researching online programs, you'll want to ensure that your program is accredited since this can affect your ability to become licensed.

Stand Out With This Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technologists who are certified within multiple specialties will have the most favorable employment prospects. To make yourself more marketable to employers and expand on employment possibilities, you can consider becoming certified in a specific discipline, such as mammography, nuclear medicine and MRI. Therefore, during your degree program, you may want to consider focusing on courses in specialty areas, such as MRI, CT, nuclear medicine or mammography.

Popular Schools

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Colorado Technical University

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Grand Canyon University

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Regent University

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Trident University

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American InterContinental University

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Virginia College

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Kaplan University

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Keiser University

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