What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Radiologic Technologist?

If you enjoy working with technical equipment and want the satisfaction – and high earning potential – of a career in healthcare without spending years in medical school, then a career as a radiologic technologist could be the perfect choice for you. Radiologic technologists are the healthcare professionals who perform diagnostic imaging examinations, like X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans. In hospitals, doctors’ offices, laboratories and outpatient facilities, these professionals interact directly with patients, run imaging equipment and work with doctors to interpret test results. Though higher education is necessary for this position, candidates can begin their careers with a certificate or associate’s degree.

A Radiography Education

For aspiring radiologic technologists, a postsecondary education is essential. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) accredits radiography education programs at the associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels as well as those that culminate in a graduate certificate. At any education level, radiography students should expect to spend time studying anatomy, radiation physics, pathology, patient care and image evaluation. In addition to learning course material in the classroom, radiography students will also go through clinical training to acquire some real-world experience before they graduate.

Most radiologic technologists start their careers with an associate’s degree program according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, a bachelor’s degree can help candidates stand out and give them a competitive edge when seeking the most desirable radiologic technologist positions. Radiography programs at the bachelor’s degree level may go into greater detail and provide a more in-depth background than those at the associate’s degree level. A bachelor’s degree in radiography can also prepare candidates for medical school, if they decide to become a type of doctor called a radiologist. Generally, professionals with bachelor’s degrees earn $2.4 million over their working lives compared to just $1.8 million for those with an associate’s degree, so choosing which level of degree to pursue is a major decision.

Other Requirements for Radiologic Technologists

In some states, the education is only one part – though an important part – of preparation for a career as a radiologic technologist. These states require candidates to hold a certification or license to work as a radiologic technologist. Typically, candidates must earn a passing score on a state examination or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)’s certification test.

There are plenty of reasons to pursue a career in radiography. Radiologic technicians can look forward to a 21 percent increase in job opportunities over a decade, compared to just 11 percent of growth expected for all occupations, according to the BLS. They earn a median salary of $54,620 per year, substantially higher than the $34,750 median annual salary for all occupations.

With enough experience, radiologic technologists can take a test to become certified to perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations, which can increase salary potential and career opportunities. The best radiologic technologists enjoy the work itself, including interacting with patients and using diagnostic imaging equipment.

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