One of the first questions that will probably occur to somebody who wants to become a radiology technician is “what degree should I get?” The answer is that there are a few different options, and they should be well understood before somebody gets into this career path. Let’s take a look at the degree options for becoming a radiology technician. We will move from the degrees that take the shortest time to complete to longer and more broad range ones.
Certificate programs are ones that offer credentialing at a fairly elementary level. These are the shortest programs offered and often range in length between 18 and 24 months, but may be even shorter for more specialized applications. The degree offered is often called a certificate in radiologic technology or something similar. These may qualify a student for limited application radiology work and possibly to sit for the AART exam (discussed below).
Associate Degree Programs
Degrees offered at the Associate (i.e. two year) level are some of the most popular and common radiology technician degree types. These degrees are offered at junior colleges and traditional four year institutions as well as through teaching hospitals and other medical facilities. They qualify people to begin working as a radiologic technologist or technician. They are attractive to many people because they hold the status of being an actual degree rather than just a certificate.
There is not just one Associate degree that applies to becoming a radiology technician. There are a wide variety of degrees that address radiology technology and usually depend on the particular college, university, or other institution offering them. They may be designated by such names as “Associate of Applied Science in Radiology Technology” but may go by more generalized sounding names such as ““Associates Degree in Healthcare Information Technology.” These degrees should focus fairly deeply on radiology, but may include some other areas as the name above suggests.
Bachelor’s degree Programs
Enrolling in Bachelor’s degree programs is also a common starting point for people getting into Radiology technology. These degrees often do focus on more than just x-ray technology. They may include courses in other medical diagnostic imaging technologies such as sonography (i.e. ultrasound), CT (computed tomography), and other areas of the allied health field as a whole.
Often these degrees are designated simply as Bachelor of Science degrees with majors that deal with radiology technology. For instance, Belmont University in Nashville Tennessee, a respected school for education in the field of radiology technology, offers a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in medical imaging technology. So again, this would include not only x-rays as a medical imaging modality but others as well.
By the time someone has a Bachelor’s degree dealing with the radiology technician field, they are well qualified for all sorts of relevant jobs. However a degree called a “Radiologist Assistant” (RA) degree is increasingly being offered for those who want to increase their skill level and salary. This qualifies a radiology technician to move beyond the more technical side of the profession – i.e. simply dealing with x-ray equipment and taking the films – and to assist radiologists in making diagnoses and dealing more extensively with patients. Since these are more skilled professions, they generally command a substantially higher salary. It is even possible to make in the neighborhood of $100k yearly as a radiologist assistant.
What Degree is Right for You?
In trying to determine what radiology technician degree is right for you, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration. Some criteria you might want to think about include the following:
This includes both assessing how much time you are able to devote to class work and clinical experience training and how long you are willing to spend getting educated in the longer term before starting to seek paid employment. Some people want to get to the work stage as quickly as possible, while others are quite content to spend four years getting a Bachelor’s degree and then begin looking for employment as a radiology tech in a leisurely way. A number of factors can affect this such as whether somebody is already working, whether they need funds sooner rather than later, and whether a flexible or more intensive schedule works for them.
In a general sense, the longer and more in depth the program somebody takes, the more of a knowledge and skills base it will tend to provide them with and the more opportunities they will have to branch out professionally into related fields. Shorter programs are often more focused and qualify somebody only for more specific work. So get a sense of how specific you want your skills and work to be – do you want to only x-ray broken bones or would you like to be an all around medical imagine professional that does x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound?
Though ideally it is not the most important factor in an educational decision, the amount of money you have to spend on college and the financial aid for which you are eligible can obviously affect your decision regarding degree type. Shorter programs are usually less expensive, but bear in mind that they may also have different financial aid requirements, so they are not always better from a financial standpoint. This is something specific that you will have to work out based on many specifics and on the programs that you are considering.
Think carefully about what degree type seems best in the area of radiology technology before embarking on a program. While you want to get well educated, it’s also important to get the kind of practical education that comes from working in the field, and this and some of the other factors mentioned above should all be weighed carefully so that you can select the radiology technician degree that is right for you. There are, as should be clear, a number of different options, both for an initial degree and for advancement, so it’s a good idea to check out a number of different options before you make your decision.