Radiology Degrees: Associate's, Majors & Certification Info

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What will you learn in a radiology program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Radiology: Degrees at a Glance

Radiology is a medical field that uses radiation to help diagnose medical issues. Undergraduate degrees in this field, such as the ones discussed in this article, typically prepare students for careers as radiologic technologists. More advanced degrees may be necessary if you want more diagnostic responsibility for dealing with patients.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), job prospects for radiologic technologists are expected to increase by 28% from 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average. Many new positions are expected to occur in physicians' offices and other outpatient clinics.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People who wish to help with the diagnosis of injuries and disease Those who have a background in radiology and wish to advance their careers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Radiologic technician ($38,000)**
- Radiologic technologist ($57,000)*
Same as associate's, but with managerial options
Time to Completion 2 years 2 years after associate's
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework
- Electives
- Clinicals
Same as associate's degree, plus:
- Higher level courses
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- Math and science prerequisite courses
- CPR certification (varies)
Same as associate's degree, plus:
- Registered with the ARRT
Online Availability Hybrid Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **O*NET Online (2011 figures).

Associate's Degrees in Radiology

Associate's degrees in radiology often prepare students for careers as radiologic technologists or radiographers. Radiographers take x-rays of patients and maintain imaging equipment. Degrees may be offered under the title of radiology technology, radiography or radiologic sciences. Most associate's degrees in radiology also prepare you for the certification examination provided by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), which many states require.

Associate's degrees in radiology are offered at community colleges, universities and other colleges. However, in order to earn advancement opportunities, a bachelor's degree may be needed.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Potential careers earn higher-than-average salaries*
  • Job prospects are growing faster than average*
  • Can work in a variety of locations, such as hospitals, clinics or imaging centers*

Cons

  • May be competing against those with bachelor's degrees for positions
  • May have to work nights and weekends*
  • Exposed to higher-than-average levels of radiation*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Courses and Requirements

Most associate's degrees in radiology take about two years to complete. They consist of 65-75 credit hours worth of work, which are broken up between coursework and clinicals. Clinicals are where students get hands-on experience in a professional setting.

Courses you may take include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Radiologic technology
  • Radiography
  • Patient care

Many states require radiologic technologists to be licensed. This involves being educated in a Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredited program and often requires certification from the ARRT. Most associate's degree programs prepare students for this certification exam.

Online Degree Options

Online options for associate's degrees in radiology tend to be hybrid programs, where coursework is offered online and clinicals are conducted at approved health care locations. Additionally, even if a program is not offered online, the school may offer some courses, such as general education courses or prerequisites, online.

Standing Out With This Degree

Some schools offer certificates in specializations such as positron emission tomography, CT imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or vascular interventional. The ARRT also offers certifications in nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, MRI and sonography that can be earned through an examination. Certifications typically need to be renewed every two years. More information about requirements can be found on the ARRT's website. An understanding of technology and attention to detail will also be an asset.

Degree Alternatives

If you would like to be more hands-on with patients, you might consider going into radiation therapy. Radiation therapists treat diseases by using radiation, such as during cancer treatments. They typically have an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. Job prospects for radiation therapists are expected to increase by 20% from 2010-2020. These medical professionals earn an average of $79,000 a year, according to the BLS in May 2011.

Bachelor's Degrees in Radiology

Bachelor's degree programs in radiology are almost exclusively designed for people who already have experience in the field. They typically require applicants to have radiology-related certification, such as those from ARRT or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). This means potential applicants need to already have completed an associate's degree in this field. Graduates may compete with associate's degree holders for entry-level jobs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepares students for administrative and teaching positions*
  • Skills applicable to a wide range of health care fields**
  • Helps advance radiology-related careers****

Cons

  • May be competing for same positions as those with associate's degrees
  • Certification requires on-going continuing education***
  • May be on feet for long periods*****

Source: *Saint Joseph's College, **Weber State University, ***ARRT, ****Pima Medical Institute, *****BLS.

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degrees in radiology are 2-year programs that can be used to move into a supervisory or educational role. Some programs may offer specialty options in computed tomography, MRI or quality management. This degree will build off of your associate's degree knowledge and include coursework, electives and a practicum.

Courses you may take include:

  • Patient information
  • Health care ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Sectional anatomy

As with an associate's degree, most states require licensure and certification. Contact your local state board for their specific requirements.

Online Degree Options

Many schools offer bachelor's degrees in radiology completely online. These programs will not have the practicum component of on-campus programs; however, they may require you to be employed and currently working in the field. Some schools may offer fast-track 1-year versions of their online programs.

Standing Out With This Degree

You might consider joining a professional society. For example, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) gives members access to continuing education requirements and opportunities, journals, a member magazine and discounts on services and products. In addition, certificates are available for varying specialties, including mammography, nuclear medicine, radiology assistant and diagnostic medical sonography. The ARRT also offers certification in these specialties and others. All ARRT specialty certifications require you to have a base ARRT certification and experience in the field.

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