Radiology technicians deal with many practical aspects of x-ray imaging in hospitals, private physician practices, and diagnostic laboratories. The basic outline of radiology technician training is as follows:
Completion of an Educational Program
The student completes an educational program at whichever level they find most suited to their situation and educational goals (some possible degree types and programs are discussed below). Most radiology technology educational programs are accredited by the joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Many states stipulate JRCERT accreditation as a legal requirement for radiology technology education.
Educational programs in radiology technology have both a classroom and clinical portion that must be satisfied. The clinical component of an educational program consists of practical experience in use of x-ray machines in terms of both simple use and maintenance and adjustment. This clinical portion is done at hospitals, medical labs, or other care facilities which partner with the educational institution. Sometimes health care facilities where the clinical practicum is satisfied are themselves educational institutions (teaching hospitals, etc.) or the college itself has facilities and equipment that allow the practicum to be satisfied.
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, AART for short, administers a certification exam that is a widely accepted credentialing certification standard within the field. Completion of an educational program that the AART deems acceptable in breadth and scope is a prerequisite for sitting for the AART exam. The result of successful completion of the exam is AART certification.
Certification and Licensing
States differ as to the legal requirements for the practice if radiology related fields, but the majority of them require radiology technicians to be licensed. Often AART certification is used as a prerequisite for licensing. Other states may administer their own certification exams as a licensing prerequisite. AART certification puts a radiology technologist into good standing from an employment point of view, regardless of whether or not it is literally required by the state in which a radiology technologist practices.
Radiology technician training occurs at a number of different levels and at a variety of institutions. These represent various degrees of educational depth with which a student explores radiologic technology.
The following is an overview of some of the training options for radiology technology:
Certificate programs can take anywhere from a few weeks or months for highly specialized radiology programs to 18 to 24 months, which is more usual. The very short programs are allowed by some states as acceptable training for extremely limited radiology applications. The longer certificate programs may last up to 2 years, just as in the case of an Associate degree, but yield a certificate rather than a degree proper. These kinds of programs allow students to begin practicing radiology technology at a basic level and are usually offered at career schools, community colleges and technical schools.
Associate degree programs go into greater depth than certificate programs and yield an Associate degree. These degrees may differ from school to school, but they must include both classroom work and a clinical practicum portion. The AART has specifications as to what a program must cover in order for a student to be eligible to take the certification exam upon the program’s completion.
Bachelor degree programs generally last four years. Not only so these programs go into depth concerning radiologic technology, but they often also cover related areas such as CT scanning, ultrasound, and medical imaging in general. These programs are offered by traditional academic colleges, medical schools, and technical.
Bachelor’s degrees relating to radiologic technology are recommended for individuals who wish to diversify and practice additional medically technological fields in addition to x-ray work. They give a student the latitude to branch out, and this is one of the main reasons for getting them rather than an Associate degree, though the latter are quite popular.
In selecting an educational program for becoming a radiology technician, an individual should investigate the school’s reputation and background, the degree levels, types and programs it offers, its accreditations, the availability of financial aid, and whether or not it is a program that is likely to be AART approved. The large majority of programs will fulfill AART exam prerequisites (the fact that they are JRCERT accredited generally sees to this), but it doesn’t hurt to check anyway.
Though it is not possible to complete the entirety of a radiology technician program online, some educational institutions offer various sorts offer distance learning programs for the classroom portion of radiology technician training. Sometimes that is all such schools offer, being “online colleges” that are aimed at fulfilling this part of the training and then directing the student toward other institutions that can satisfy the practical clinical segment or supplement the online program in other ways (such as, for instance, with laboratory type classes). Since online cams do exist, those interested in pursuing online education in radiology technology are advised to check the backgrounds and general reputation of online schools.