Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Associate|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||0|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.8%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||9,510|
What's needed: A two year associate degree program is the most common training path for radiologic technologists. Certificate programs are an option for some of the subspecialties with bachelor degrees increasingly being promoted within the profession. Programs are offered by both schools and hospitals. A point of interest is that starting in 2015 an associate degree or greater will be required for registration through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
What you study: Studies usually include:
- patient positioning;
- radiation safety;
- radiation protection; and
- basic patient care.
As a radiation technologist you might specialize further, learning specific techniques such as bone densitometry, cardiovascular-interventional radiography, or sonography.
Briefly recaps radiologic technologist careers. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
This is a very helpful video overview of the radiologic technologist profession produced by several organizations and associations in the field. It features several student radiologic technologists in action.
Tips for Selecting a School
Here is a checklist of information to gather about a radiologic technologist program before selecting it:
- Accreditation: In this field graduating from an accredited program is very important. Most states require this to obtain a license. Accreditation also provides some assurance of the overall quality of the program. The top accreditation in this field is one from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), which notes that it is the only U.S. Dept. of Education approved accreditor for this field.
- Equipment: Does the program have state-of-the-art medical imaging and/or radiation equipment for students? This is one of those fields that evolves quickly. For instance Advent University in Florida highlights its use of an energized x-ray machine in combination with a digital imaging system to enable real-time case studies.
- Clinical: What is the breakdown in clinical vs. classroom time? For example Midwestern State University in Texas focuses the first year of their two year program on classroom and lab training with the second year mostly clinical time at area hospitals.
- Breadth of offerings: More available technologist specializations within a program gives you more options upfront and later should you decide to switch. Programs that offer bachelor degrees, which are being increasingly promoted in the field, can give you the flexibility to go further in that program. For instance, Midwestern State University offers a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.
- Certification pass rates: What is the pass rate of graduating students for the ARRT certification exam? Also are all student qualified for taking the exam upon completion of the program. The national average pass rate is about 90 percent. One example here is that San Jacinto Community College in Texas reports a 96% pass rate, with 2011 graduates passing at a 100% rate.
- Job placements: What is the track record of the programs placement of its graduates directly into the profession? Are there local hospitals or imaging centers that tend to take on many of the graduates? Consider contacting such potential employers to get their feedback on the program you are considering. For instance Advent University in Orlando Florida reports an 83% placement rate and that many of its graduates go to work for its affiliate hospital, Florida Hospital.
Here are overviews for several of the largest radiologic technology programs, based on the number of recent graduates:
- San Jacinto Community College, Pasadena, Texas - SJCC offers associate degrees in applied science for medical radiography within its medical imaging department. Accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), the program is full time and includes rotations through Pasadena area hospitals. Graduates are eligible for the certification examination given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) in diagnostic medical radiography. The program reports that as of 2012 their pass rate on this exam is 96 percent, versus the national average of 90.5 percent.
- Adventist University of Health Sciences, Orlando, Florida - The university for the Florida Hospital system, their associate degree program is accredited by JRCERT. The program highlights state of the art systems in its labs, such as an energized x-ray machine that is linked to a digital imaging and archiving system with Florida Hospital, enabling real-time case studies. Students rotate through the Florida Hospital system. As of 2012, the school reports a 96% ARRT pass rate, a 68% retention rate, and 83% graduate placement rate. Many of their grads go to work for Florida Hospital. The school notes that grads have gone on to gain advanced certifications for various specialties, manage radiology departments, become educators in imaging programs, and become vendor sales and training specialists.
- Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas - MSU has associate, bachelor, and master degree offerings in Radiologic Sciences. Accredited by JRCERT, MSU's associate program writes that it considers the most effective way to prepare students is a progression from classroom theory to laboratory practice to clinical time. The first year is focused on classes and laboratory settings. At the beginning of the second year students take on clinical time with some online classes.
- St. Philip's College, San Antonio, Texas - This school's Associate of Applied Science Degree program is accredited by JRCERT. The program runs 24 months, including summers, going from 7 am to 3 pm weekdays. This particular program's admission requirements include a grade point average of 2.8 out of 4 for prerequisite college coursework, minimum 12th grade reading level shown via tests, and completion of at least three college courses including one in humanities. The school also gives credit for previous degrees and certifications towards a program application.
A Day in the Life
As a radiologic technologist your day can vary quite a bit by area of specialization. You'll almost always be working with patients during the day -- whether it be taking that x-ray for a child's broken leg, getting a detailed image for diagnosing a heart disease, or setting up treatments for cancer patients, or any other of a wide range of procedures.
If you are part of a medical imaging team, you'll be at the front line for performing diagnostic exams. You'll be responsible for precisely positioning your patients so that a quality image results. You'll work closely with radiologists, the physicians that interpret the images in order diagnose medical conditions.
Depending on your imaging specialization, you might be responsible for the following activities:
- Calculating bone densities using special x-ray equipment
- Guiding medical tools, like a catheter, by applying sophisticated imaging techniques
- Operating magnetic resonance equipment that apply magnetic fields in a patient's body in order to create highly detailed images
- Administrating trace amounts of radiopharmaceuticals to gain helpful information about organs, tissues, and bones.
- Use x-rays to produce black and white images of a patient's anatomy, such as the most common type of x-ray, a chest x-ray.
For those involved with radation based cancer treatments, specifically radiologic technologists and medical dosimetrists, on a daily basis you'll be responsible for:
- Determining how much radiation to deliver to a tumor site
- Target radiation doses to specific locations in a patient's body
Across all the areas of specialization your day to day role will including maintaining imaging equipment, following up on orders from physicians, preparing patients, operating equipment, and keeping patient records.
Areas of specialization can include x-ray, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment. In these areas you might be called a CT technician or MRI technician. You might also specialize as a mammographer, using low dose x-rays to create images of a women's breast.
Certifications and Licensing
Most states require either licensing or certification with specifics varying by state. However most do require completing an accredited program and passing a certification examination. Exams may be administered by the state or may be from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
For a complete compilation of licensing requirements by state, see the listing supplied by the US Bureau of Labor's CareerOneStop site.
Job growth prospects are considered to be strong for radiologic technologists. Trends cited by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics driving these prospects include:
- Aging US population that will have more and more medical conditions requiring radiologic imaging.
- More and more imaging being done outside of hospitals as part of outpatient care -- such as physician offices and imaging centers.
Full- vs. part-time: Most work is full-time. Because many procedures are needed in emergency treatments, many radiologic technologists work nights, weekends, or on call.
Work location: The work is also almost always on site, most commonly at a hospital but also physician offices, imaging centers, and outpatient clinics.
Here are several sites that we consider among the best resources for researching radiologic technologist careers:
- US Dept of Labor Occupational Handbook -- A great reference for a wide range of basic information and data for this line of work. Because this handbook takes a strong reference approach to presenting what the radiologic technologist career involves, other sites that can offer more personalized content ought to be also consulted.
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists - This association represents those working in medical imaging and radiation therapy fields. The site is comprehensive and current. It has a very good info on careers, describing: the various subspecialties avialable to technologists, what they do in their jobs, education optinos, career pathways, and overview videos. There is also a well supplied job listing section.
- Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) -- JRCERT accredits training programs in radiography, radiation therapy, magnetic resonance, and medical dosimetry. Programs with JRCERT accreditation are often required for licensure within a state. The site has a database of currently accredited programs in the US as well as programs that are applying for accreditation. Anyone considering a program would be well advised to checking out this database.
- The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists -- This organization credentials individual practitioners through testing and certification. On this site you will find detailed reviews of what education is needed for ARRT certification as well as other ongoing requirements. Students will also find a well done FAQs section.
- Explore Health Careers - Run by the non-profit American Dental Education Association, this site gives a well organized presentation about the radiologic technologist career as well as many other related allied health professions.