Study Medical Imaging: Training & Associate Degree Program Info

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What will you learn in a medical imaging training or associate's degree program? Read about training and associate's degree program requirements, the pros and cons of a training program and an associate's degree program and potential careers.
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Medical Imaging Training and Associate's Degrees at a Glance

The term 'medical imaging' refers to a branch of the medical sciences in which photos of patients' bodies are taken for diagnostic and treatment purposes. Workers in this field may use X-ray, ultrasound or other medical equipment to take photos. Training programs in this field can be designed for professionals who are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) or for individuals seeking AART certification. Associate's degree programs in medical imaging prepare you to work as a medical equipment repairer, radiologic technician, radiologic technologist or diagnostic medical sonographer.

Training Associate's
Who is this degree for? - AART-certified individuals seeking advanced training in the field - Individuals seeking to enter the medical imaging field
- Individuals seeking a career repairing medical imaging equipment
- Medical imaging professionals seeking to earn a college degree
- Individuals intending to transfer to a bachelor's degree program
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Radiologic technologist or technician ($55,000*)
- Diagnostic medical sonographer ($65,000*)
- Career opportunities are the same as those available to training program graduates
- Medical equipment repairer ($45,000*)
Time to Completion - Less than one year, full time - About two years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Clinical experience - Capstone course
- Cooperative education or clinical experience
Prerequisites - AART certification
- Graduation from an accredited radiologic sciences program
Medical imaging equipment repair programs:
- Passing score on admissions test
- High school diploma or GED certificate
Advanced degree programs:
- AART certification (for some programs)
- Experience working as a radiographer (for some programs; five years experience may be required)
- Criminal background check
- Immunization records
- Physical examination
- CPR certification
Online Availability - None available at this time - Rare
- Some program courses may be available online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Medical Imaging Training Programs

Medical imaging training programs are rare. When offered, these programs are usually designed for AART-certified professionals currently working in the field who are interested in taking advanced certification exams. These programs typically provide training for the use of a particular type of medical imaging equipment, such as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine. Many times, these programs award certificates to graduates.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs may prepare you for higher-level certifications offered by the AART, which can increase your salary potential or employment opportunities
  • Programs can be completed in less than one year
  • Curricula may allow you to focus your studies on the medical imaging equipment of interest to you

Cons

  • Admission to programs can be competitive
  • Earning higher-level certification is not necessary to work in the field
  • You may need to be AART-certified and have graduated from an accredited program for admission

Courses and Requirements

The courses in these programs depend on the type of equipment you study. Classes in a computed tomography (CT) program may cover topics like cross sectional anatomy for medical imaging, CT physics and CT procedures. MRI programs may include courses in MRI physics, MRI imaging procedures, MRI diagnoses and advanced patient care. Most programs include several clinical experiences in addition to coursework.

Online Availability

Currently, medical imaging training programs are not available online. This is likely due to the significant hands-on experience that is required in these programs. Attending a program in person allows you to obtain hands-on experience working with medical equipment and to complete clinical education experiences.

Stand Out With Your Training

To stand out with your training, attend a program that prepares you to take higher-level certification exams offered by the AART. Not all programs provide this preparation, and attending one could increase employment opportunities. Technically, you may want to do additional studying in the computerized aspects of the equipment you'll be using to familiarize yourself with it.

Associate's Degree in Medical Imaging

The curriculum and instruction provided in an associate's degree program in medical imaging depends on the program's focus. Programs may teach you to repair medical imaging equipment, work as a medical imaging professional or prepare you for transfer to a 4-year degree program in medical imaging. These programs also allow AART-certified individuals to earn a college degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs focus on a variety of medical imaging areas
  • Careers available to graduates are predicted to experience higher than average growth during the 2010-2020 decade: diagnostic medical sonographers (44%*), medical equipment repairers (31%*) and radiologic technologists (28%*)
  • Some programs allow you to specialize in a certain type of equipment, such as CT machines

Cons

  • Some programs may have tough admission standards
  • Not all programs prepare you to take AART certification exams
  • Not all programs prepare you to transfer to a 4-year degree program

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Programs that teach students how to repair medical imaging equipment may be offered as a degree in medical imagining systems technology or electronics equipment technology with a concentration in medical imaging equipment technology. The coursework may cover topics like soldering skills, the fundamentals of networking technologies, safety in healthcare facilities, medical circuits and medical equipment troubleshooting.

Programs that prepare students to work in medical imaging often include several clinical experiences in addition to traditional classroom lectures. Courses may cover topics like image production, patient care, radiographic equipment operation and interventional procedures. These programs may allow you to concentrate in areas like radiologic technology or diagnostic medical sonography.

Advanced medical imaging degree programs are designed for AART-certified professionals and may prepare students to take certification exams for using specific equipment offered by the AART. Classes in these programs include radiographic procedures and positioning, diagnostic imaging physics, CT procedures and radiographic quality assurance. These programs usually include extensive clinical components.

The curricula of programs designed for students intending to transfer to 4-year schools include classes in anatomical medical terminology, medical ethics, pathophysiology and anatomy. These programs often require the completion of lab-based science courses, such as chemistry and physics.

Online Availability

Currently, most associate's degree programs related to medical imaging are not available online. This is likely due to the hands-on commitments. However, some programs may include courses that can be completed over the internet. Of the four main types of programs, advanced medical imaging programs typically offer online coursework.

Stand Out With Your Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider completing a program that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology and that prepares you to take the AART certification exam. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many states require radiologic technologists and technicians to be certified. Attending an accredited program that prepares you for certification in the field may make it more likely that you will earn certification the first time you take the exam. Similar to individuals in training programs, you should become familiar with the computerized components of the job.

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