An Expert’s Guide for students considering pursuing a degree in radiology technology, by Amy Scorsolini

What is a Radiology Technician?

A radiology technician takes x rays of patients in either a medical office or hospital. You will be responsible for maintaining the imaging equipment, attending to the needs of the patient before, during and after the procedure and discussing the results with the physician. A certificate in radiology can be obtained in as little as 6 months, but it is more common to earn an associates or bachelors degree to become a registered radiology technician.

What to Look for in Radiology Technician Programs

Clinical experience, anatomy, communication and mathematics are some of the critical features that you should look for in a strong program. Only accredited programs will offer the kind of involved hands-on education that will give you the precision required for the job. The best programs will offer you a range of clinical experience, giving you the opportunity to gain extensive experience and choose a specialty, as well as psychology and communication courses to help you deal most effectively with a range of patients.

What to Expect in Radiology Technician School

As soon as you begin your courses, you will be immersed in clinical training as well as classroom work. You can choose from schools that offer a 6- to 12-month certificate, the more common 2-year associates degree or a 4-year bachelors degree. All accredited classes will give you a solid foundation in the use and maintenance of the imaging machines, how to position patients for precise imaging and the study of human anatomy and physiology.

The Best Radiology Technician Courses for Students

Top classes will always focus on core subjects like anatomy, physiology and radiographic positioning, which you will study both in the classroom and in clinical rounds. Not only do these courses form the foundation of the program, they are also the best classes, and you may find them as fun and exciting as they are meaningful. Look for radiology technician programs that offer the widest range of positioning courses because this will give you the best experience that you can apply once you are on the job.

Radiology Tech Certificate Programs

There are over 200 schools in the U.S. that offer radiology certificate training, with most of the programs lasting from 12 to 18 months. You must only seek out accredited colleges to guarantee the best education, and you can search for programs in your state by using the website of the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. After you earn your radiology technology certification, you will need to take a state licensing exam in your chosen specialty before you can dive into the active and growing job market.

Radiology Technician Associates Degree

An associates degree is the most common route to entering the field. There are hundreds of schools offering an AS (applied science) program, which will demand 2 years of rigorous study both in the classroom and on a range of clinical rotations, giving you a strong foundational experience from which to choose your specialty and earn your license. Students should attend accredited colleges in order to guarantee the best course of study and training and thus be eligible to compete in a growing job market.

Radiology Technician Bachelors Degree

It is less common to earn a bachelors degree than a certificate or associates degree, but if you opt for a 4-year program, you will likely earn a higher salary when you graduate. The BS is a demanding program that expects you to select an area of focus early in your academic career and earn some certifications prior to learning advanced areas of imaging. There are currently only 71 accredited colleges in the U.S., but earning a degree from any of these institutions will prepare you to enter the field at a competitive rate and advance quickly, as well as positioning you for managerial opportunities.

The Pros and Cons of Attending Radiology Technician School Online

There are only a handful of accredited online schools throughout the U.S. While you can earn an online certificate, associates or bachelors degree, you should be aware that there are both advantages and disadvantages to studying online. The pros include lower costs, enhanced availability if there is no suitable program in your area and being able to work at your own pace. The cons include less interaction with others and limited flexibility compared to other online programs, since you will still be required to complete in-person clinical hours. Overall, online radiology technician courses should only supplement your in-person radiology education.

How Employers View an Online Radiology Technician Degree

Employers are gradually coming to accept online certificates, AAS and BS degrees, provided you can show a strong understanding of the knowledge and skill necessary to do the job. Since any online courses will only cover the theory behind radiology, employers will look at your clinical record and references first since these will more clearly show your skill level and performance. If you do excellent work in your clinical rotations, you may have an easier time securing a permanent job, whether or not you earned your degree online.

Advice for Students Studying in Online Radiology Technician Programs

Your online radiology technician courses will only cover some of your course requirements, while the bulk of what you learn in your program occurs during your clinical rotations. In this field, it is vital to get the best possible hands-on experience. Those attending online universities can broaden their experience by forming study groups with students in clinical programs, exploring special online class opportunities and engaging in volunteer work or doing an additional internship. There may not be much online financial aid, but 1 of the perks of these programs is that they tend to be inexpensive.

The Paths for Becoming a Radiology Technician

The single sure route to achieving a radiology technician career is to attend an accredited school for radiology and earn either a certificate, associates degree or bachelors degree, after which you will take the appropriate licensing exam for your state and then begin your job hunt. While jobs are growing in number, you can also make yourself a better candidate by gaining more than 1 certification, such as sonography and nuclear medicine, and by joining a professional organization. The average starting salary is $36,000, but with excellent work and increased certifications, you can quickly advance to the national median, which is upwards of $54,000.

Radiology Technician Certification

Even if you are a top graduate, you cannot practice without first earning your license and certification from either your state or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, or both, as is most common. In order to earn certification, you must prove that you have the requisite education and take the appropriate examination for your specialty. In order to command a higher salary and maintain your license, you will be expected to undertake continuing education and earn further certifications.

Radiology Technician Job Options

You can pursue your career in a number of specialties, including radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine or radiation therapy. While many of these jobs can be started with just a certificate, most demand at least a 2-year associates degree, along with the appropriate license and certification for the subfield. The starting salary is in the area of $30,000, but you can advance quickly to the median salary of $55,000. In addition, if you specialize in 1 of the more advanced fields, you can earn $75,000 or more after gaining experience.

Radiology Technician Salary

The salary range varies by region, workplace, specialty and experience. The lowest salaries are under $36,000, while the highest are over $76,000. The median radiology ...

Advice for Radiology Technician Professionals

It can be difficult to find the first full-time, permanent job that starts your career, but if you are flexible, persistent and take initiative, you will eventually get into the facility and department of your dreams. Some regions will have a wider range of available jobs than others, and you should definitely consider relocating if it is a possibility, as this will give you great experience and might open more doors. With the median salary at over $54,000, this is a competitive field, but you can make yourself stand out by working hard and being open-minded.