There are several career paths you can take in radiology technology. The degrees differ throughout the jobs in this field. We will expand on these and provide information on the degree options. More importantly, there are plenty of reasons to pursue a career in radiography. Radiologic technologists with an Associate’s degree can look forward to a 13 percent increase in job opportunities over a decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2017). This represents a change in 30,300 jobs through 2026. The occupation of Radiologic and MRI Technicians earn a median salary of $60,070 per year or $28.88 per hour.
Radiology technicians operate the machinery, position patients for optimum results and perform the tests that create digital images of the body such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or mammograms used for diagnosing illness. They typically work in private medical facilities performing x-rays of extremities, arms, fingers, legs, ankles, etc.
Those who have at least a minimal background in math, science, chemistry, biology, or physics will probably feel more comfortable with the medical courses required for this particular career. Your formal education provides the option of a 20-24 month certificate program, a two-year associate degree, or a four-year bachelor’s degree. The most expeditious choice is an associate degree, which is adequate to begin working in a hospital, clinic, or imaging facility. However, a bachelor’s degree can help candidates stand out and give them a competitive edge when seeking the most desirable radiologic technologist positions.
Technologists (also referred to as radiographers) are licensed professionals who can perform advanced imaging procedures and operate many types of medical imaging equipment. Another difference between radiology technicians and radiologic technologists is their level of education. Most technologists hold four-year bachelor’s degrees and are eligible for supervisory positions. Technologists, also sometimes called radiographers, operate equipment and conduct tests using x-ray, CT, MRI or mammography technologies to produce digital images of internal organs, bones, and tissues. In addition, technologists may choose to specialize in a range of different procedures, including but not limited to bone densitometry, breast sonography, computed tomography (CT), mammography, or vascular sonography.
According to O*NET (2016), which sources its data from the US Department of Labor, 63% of radiology technologists have an Associate’s Degree while 24% hold a Bachelor’s degree. Only 6% of technologists have a graduate degree.
Radiology assistant is a newly recognized occupation by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, the national certification organization of radiologic technologists. Radiology assistants are trained radiologic technologists who have completed advanced study and work directly with radiologists.
An associate’s degree plus experience is an option as many assistants begin as a technician. Once employed, there are four-year programs offered online. Online courses offer the flexibility and ease for students who need to work full time, but also want to advance in their careers and increase their earning potential. However, a bachelor’s degree is not required. This level does require more training and practices advanced techniques than a radiological technician, but assistants are not allowed to diagnose or treat patients like a radiologist can do. Experience and proper licensing are the main concerns for radiology assistants. Most medical facilities require all radiology assistants be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). This is more important than a bachelor’s degree.
Ensure that any school you look into is approved by the AART. If the program is not approved by this organization, you may have issues applying for their certification exam. Many employers will not consider students who are not certified by the AART.
Radiology nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed special training in treating patients undergoing radiologic procedures. Their duties include assisting patients with testing to ensure their safety and comfort. They may also supervise their recovery to manage pain or any complications that may arise. Most radiology nurses have completed several years of nursing school, plus extra study in radiology. They will have passed both the RN certification exam and the radiology nurses certification exam such as the one administered by the Association for Radiologic & Imaging Nursing.
The Association offers classes to become certified as a Radiology Nurse. It is necessary to gain experience as an RN first, because you have to be a registered nurse for 2,000 hours, with that time being in radiology, and a minimum 30 hours of additional education in radiology to be eligible for the Certified RN exam. Radiology centers can provide the extra hours of education and training that you need to become eligible for your exam.