Everything You Need to Know About Radiography and Radiologic Sciences Programs

Radiography and radiologic science programs prepare you to work radiology tech. This is a career field with tons of options, so the educational programs available can be a little confusing to someone with no experience in the field. Let’s take a look at the different routes you can choose, along with what you expect from your education if you’re interested in radiology.

Radiology Technician versus Radiology Technologist

Before you start looking at radiology programs, it is important to decide whether you work as a radiology technician or radiology technologist. Technicians work with x-ray machines, with job duties that include maintaining and cleaning the equipment, positioning the patient, and taking the clearest pictures possible. Technologists do all that, but also receive education in at least one other type of imaging machine, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. Depending on the level of education you receive in either of these fields, you could also help with diagnosing patients or work as a shift manager, which could put you in charge of hiring new staff members, scheduling for your shift, and other leadership tasks. Often radiology technicians and radiology technologists are lumped together under the job title “radiographer.”

In some cases, “technician” is used solely to refer to people who maintain and repair imaging medical equipment, rather than those who actually run the equipment. Since there’s no standard in terms of vocabulary, make sure you clarify when speaking to others about your options in this field.

Types of Radiography Degrees

The type of educational program you attend depends on your career goals. On average, you’ll have to go through a longer program if you want to be a radiology technologist, since you’ll have more to learn.

You can get started in this career field with an associate’s degree. Although not required everywhere, few employers consider hiring radiographers who don’t have at least this two-year degree. With an associate of science in radiology, your classes will cover topics such as human anatomy, biology, nursing procedures, radiation physics, medical ethics, and medical imaging basics. Your education will include hands-on experience with x-ray machines, especially so you can learn about safety – although this is a generally safe career choice, you still have to learn how to take precautions to shield yourself and your patients from radiation.

Instead of entering an associate’s degree program, you can earn a bachelor’s degree by going through a four-year program. Bachelor’s degree programs are more common for technologists, since you can specialize your education a bit more. In addition to learning the basic skills you need to work an x-ray machine safely and effectively, with a bachelor’s degree, you can also learn about diagnostics or about other types of imaging machines. In addition, you could learn about nuclear medicine and radiotherapy, which is the use of radiation to heal, such as is the case with cancer patients.

Although most radiography students don’t earn more than a bachelor’s degree, some schools do offer master’s degree programs in this field. With a master’s degree, you’ll spend an additional two years in school learning more about medicine, which allows you to do work closer to what a physician would do. While you won’t be able to prescribe medications or work independently, you will help more with diagnosing and treating patients. You’ll take classes in areas such as pharmacology and anatomy. Most master’s degree programs are set up for students who already work as radiographers; this may or may not be a requirement for you to apply. Many masters’ degree programs also require that you are registered with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Radiographer Licensing

If you want to work in radiography, most employers require that you have a license. There’s no single national standard – licensing requirements vary by state. Most require that you’re 18 and have certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board. Beyond that, each individual state has its own requirements when it comes to earning a license.

Most states do, however, require continuing education of some sort. This usually involves taking a certain number of credit hours of classes or practical training every two years. If you have an associate’s degree, you might be able to use the classes you take for your continuing education to go toward a bachelor’s degree, killing to birds with one stone. While licensing isn’t always required, it is the best way to find a high-paying job in your field after graduating from a radiography program.

Top Online Radiology Programs

Adventist University of Health Sciences — The Adventist University of Health Sciences' BS in radiological science degree covers everything the professional radiologist needs to know about mammography, computed tomography, MRI, advanced patient care issues, and medical imaging. Coursework also covers issues and trends in health care and case studies, with a focus on providing the tools and insights students need to become marketable job applicants.

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