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How to Become a Radiology Tech with an Online Radiology Degree

Radiology technologist examines x-ray

Entering the healthcare industry with a degree in radiological imaging is a particularly unique professional course.  The career of the radiologic technologist, or radiographer, blends medical knowledge, the use of highly technical machines and radiation handling with extremely sensitive interpersonal and professional interactions and skill.

Radiologic technologists use medical imaging technology on patients being tested for symptoms and signs of disease.  Those experiencing dangerous medical conditions and procedures rely on these workers for confident and sensitive support.  Working with individuals experiencing pain, fear, or no social support is a common factor of the job and creates a delicate work environment.  Ethical, professional, and tactful communication are as important as administering and monitoring radiation exposure during a procedure.

This profession is one of life-long learning.  Healthcare and information technology are two of the fastest developing industries in the world.  By earning a degree in this field, radiologists, radiologic technologists, and technicians are staying ahead of the curve and gaining better opportunities in a competitive marketplace.

Technicians Vs. Technologists

The differences between becoming a radiologic technician versus a radiologic technologist can be defined in the scope of practice between the two titles.  While technologists can operate a wide variety of imaging equipment and perform advanced procedures, a technician is limited to operating x-ray machines and guiding patients through the routine.

TECHNOLOGISTSTECHNICIANS
A technologist’s role in the exam room ranges from assisting a physician through and after a procedure to administering therapeutic radiation to patients. They are required to maintain and operate equipment, prepare patients for procedures, and help evaluate images.The technician will primarily focus on the patients with an emphasis on interpersonal skills. They prepare patients mentally, emotionally and physically for the procedure, set up the equipment to be used, and perform x-rays on patients.
Technologists are present during CT scans, MRIs, sonograms, mammograms, nuclear medical treatment, radiation therapy, and more.Technicians are present during imaging of patient extremities. Typically, they work for private medical facilities.
Technologist academic requirements include completion of a radiologic technologist associate or bachelor’s degree program, and certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) to acquire licensure.  Requirements may vary from state to state.Technician academic requirements include a high school diploma along with completion of a radiologic technician training program.  Requirements may vary from state to state.

 

Both careers are easier to start with strong foundational knowledge in mathematics, as well as chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physics.  They require a full medical terminology vocabulary and acute interpersonal communication skills to utilize between physicians and patients.

Why Become A Radiologic Technologist?

Career Outlook

A radiologic technologist career exhibits excellent employment prospects for those entering the field with long-term goals. The 10-year job outlook by the US National Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 7% growth in the industry between 2019 and 2029. This growth rate is faster than the average growth rate of all professions.

Almost 60% of jobs in this field are located in general medical and specialized surgical hospitals.  Radiologic technologists in this domain worked for an average salary of $61,670 in 2019, according to the BLS.

Technologists also work in physician offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers and within the federal government. The last category carries the highest average salary at $65,780, but it is also the one that employs very few radiologic technologists. Only 3% of all technologists worked for the federal government in 2019.

Radiology Tech Salary

Considering that the educational requirements to enter the technologist marketplace are an associate’s degree and certification/licensure, and that the average annual salary earned by all radiographers in 2019 reports as $62,280, the tech’s salary caps at lucrative and sustainable numbers.

According to Payscale, the average annual salary for radiographers in San Diego, CA is 41.6% higher than the national average.  New York, NY, Boston, MA, and Seattle, WA retain a higher-than-average pay among all workers, along with several other metropolitan cities.  Lower-than average radiographer salaries are found in Houston, TX, Orlando, FL, and Nashville, TN as of January, 2020.

Salary is also determinable by your set of skills applicable to the position.  For example, Payscale ranks the top three affecting radiologic technologist skills as people management, cardiology, and advanced cardiac life support. 

The BLS reports that the average pay in 2019 for radiologic technologists was over $62,000, representing about $31 per hour.  That is excellent compensation for a career that does not require a bachelor’s degree.

Technologist Workplace Environment

The salary is higher for technologists, despite the education requirements, for several reasons.  Technologists are found working full-time in a wide breadth of occupational settings. Because of the nature of the healthcare industry, technologists must be available in emergency situations, or “on-call” along with their standard schedules.

Radiographers use high amounts of physicality throughout their work, as they move and set patients for procedures, often working with the disabled.  Again, in the nature of healthcare work, technologists are on their feet for long periods of time.  Their workplace environment  is thoroughly organized, and they must pay attention to acute details, have a solid grasp of anatomy, biology and mathematics, then balance those skills with interpersonal customer service.

As the title suggests, the radiologic technologist handles equipment using radiation, and must wear effective PPE to measure and lessen their own exposure.  Along with this comes possible exposure to infectious disease from patients, of which PPE and other professional guidelines are in place to avoid.

In general, you would learn about the highest workplace standards and how to apply professional competencies through degree study, as well as professional certification.  This acquisition can lead you to the best and safest places to work in radiology.

Steps to Become a Radiology Tech

  1. Complete education requirements—most professionals possess an accredited associate’s degree;
  2. Pass national ARRT certification;
  3. Qualify for state licensing, where applicable;
  4. Explore specialty certification to expand opportunities.

Can I Complete Radiologic Technologist Education Requirements Online?

Yes!

Several accredited online radiology technology schools offer certificates, associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Note that most will eventually require on-site learning for supervised radiologic technologist training, or an internship experience.

Choosing an online radiologic technology degree is a challenging pathway. Students are required to complete higher-level science and mathematics courses, learn about body imaging techniques and practice, correct body positions required to safely scan various body parts using a variety of imaging equipment, and more.

In general, all radiologic technologist programs include the following core subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Radiology theory
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Patient Positioning
  • Patient Safety

Three different educational paths you may take on your way to becoming a radiologic technologist:

  • A 20 to 24-month certificate program
  • A two-year associate degree
  • A four-year bachelor’s degree

Many programs require candidates to pass coding and medical office courses, as these subjects have gained importance on the job.

Whichever radiologic technologist online school you choose, it is important to make sure the degree or certificate is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), the national organization dealing with the accreditation of radiological technological training programs.  Keeping track of the JRCERT and ARRT website’s can save time and effort in figuring out if the program you are pursuing is accredited, and help you navigate employment easier.

Online Radiology Technology Certificate Programs

A certificate program is an excellent option for those with considerable experience in radiologic technology who choose to expand or change medical disciplines.  For example, you might be a radiologic technologist interested in moving forward in the workplace by earning a certificate in mammography, sonography, tomography, and more.

You can obtain a certification via a traditional program or through online courses. These certificate programs can be found at technical schools, community colleges and some private hospitals. 

In the case of hospitals, you typically must be employed on-site currently for them to provide you the training required.

Radiologic certificate programs host intensive curriculums, so the course load is typically heavy. Prerequisites for acceptance to a certificate program might include medical experience and medical ethics courses, but vary school by school. The following GetEducated Pick’s can be completed 100% online:

Online Associate Degrees in Radiology

A majority of radiologic technologists earn their credentials through an associate’s degree. Online radiation therapy associate degree programs are offered by accredited community and private colleges.

The coursework for an associate’s degree in radiology is vastly challenging as compared to other associate-level degrees, more comparable to a bachelor’s degree. Coursework will involve either online or on-campus classes and will be supplemented with laboratory work or an internship program.

In addition to the basic courses outlined above, an associate degree curriculum will include subjects such as pathology, radiation physics and ethics in the medical field.

Online Radiologic Science Bachelor Degrees

A few universities offer students the opportunity to complete a bachelor of science degree in radiologic science. Additional courses as compared to associate degrees and certificates include radiobiology and more advanced concepts of basic subjects. 

An online bachelor’s degree may require a rotation in a radiology department at a clinic or hospital. Many could require students to be registered as a radiographer before admission. 

Bachelor degrees in radiologic technologies are great options for mid-career adults looking to re-tool or advance in their careers, expanding salaries, work opportunities, and job satisfaction.

Radiologic Technologist Certification & Licensing

Once you have completed your training and obtained a degree, you need certification from the national regulating body, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Obtaining this certification includes successfully passing an examination held by the ARRT within three years of completing your degree.

Every state has its own radiologic technologist licensing regulations. The majority will require ARRT licensing, but you should check the requirements for the state in which you will be practicing your profession.

Choosing a Specialty

You can specialize in many different radiologic technology and science areas.  Specialty, or post primary acquisition comes after earning these primary credentials:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Radiography
  • Sonography
  • Vascular Sonography

Deciding where to specialize your radiographer career can depend upon salary, or you may focus on personal considerations.  Do you prefer more or less patient interaction?  High or low levels of paperwork?  Slow or fast-paced environments?  Cardiac or vascular intervention?  In the healthcare field, there is always room to improve and branch out.  When choosing specialties, it is important to ask questions and engage with colleagues, leading to enhanced knowledge of the following postprimary options outlined by the ARRT:

  • Bone Densitometry
  • Breast Sonography
  • Cardiac Interventional Radiography
  • Computed Tomography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mammography
  • Vascular Interventional Radiography
  • Vascular Sonography

Any specialization will necessitate additional training and ARRT certification.

Continuing Education Requirements

What happens once you become a radiologic technologist, have found your specialty and are earning the salary you want?  The lifelong learning requirements of a tech’s career begin.  Sustain your professional competencies through:

Keep an eye out for continuing education deemed mandatory by your state or employer.

Earn a Degree in Radiologic Technology

With this information in mind, you are ready to pursue your career as a radiologic technologist.  Take on the competitive and fast-paced healthcare industry and become a positive affecting asset to the radiology field.  Research accredited online radiology degree and certificate programs with GetEducated to find the academic tools you need for educational success.

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