Online Radiology Technician Schools
Since employers prefer to hire radiology techs with formal training, most people in this career go through at least six to 12 months of training to earn a certificate. Beyond that, there are associate’s and bachelor’s degrees that can prepare you to work in the field of medical imaging in roles such as radiology technician, ultrasound technician, and diagnostic medical sonographer. Having a degree or certificate is less important than being licensed to work in radiography, though. Few medical facilities will hire radiology techs who aren’t licensed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
Admissions Requirements for Radiology Technician Programs
Admission to radiography programs requires, at minimum, a high school diploma or the equivalent. High school courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology are helpful. The programs provide both classroom and clinical instruction in anatomy and physiology, patient care procedures, radiation physics, radiation protection, principles of imaging, medical terminology, positioning of patients, medical ethics, radiobiology, and pathology.
One way to prepare for higher education in radiography is to learn more about what the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology expects from future radiographers. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology accredits most formal training programs for the field.
Formal training programs in radiography range from six months to four years in length, though most four-year programs will involve training in another related field as well, because that amount of training is more than is necessary to prepare a skilled radiology tech for certification. This means that an associate’s degree is very appropriate, but you may want to go for a bachelor’s or master’s degree if you intend to advance your career or move into another medical support staff job later on.
Safety Risks and Precautions for Radiologic Technologists
You might wonder about the safety of this career, considering you will be using equipment that emits radiation. Federal legislation protects workers and the public from the hazards of unnecessary exposure to medical and dental radiation by ensuring that radiologic equipment operators are properly trained. Under this legislation, the Federal Government sets voluntary standards that states may use for accrediting training programs and licensing individuals who engage in medical or dental radiography.
Since radiation exposure is cumulative, and small doses over time can build up to dangerous levels, people who work with radiation-emitting machines should all track their lifetime exposure carefully. This monitoring is often administrated by the hospital or other employer of someone who works with radiation regularly, and is accomplished by using wearable radiation detectors such as a ring or necklace with radiation sensitive film on it. X-ray techs are unlikely to experience dangerous levels of radiation because of the stringent precautions already in place in medical facilities, but monitoring exposure is still a good idea because the potential damage from even a small slip-up is high.
The ARRT offers certification for radiology technologists, and many states use ARRT’s tests for state licensure. To be eligible for certification, technologists generally must graduate from an accredited program and pass an examination. To be re-certified, radiographers must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years. This continuing education requirement is common in many medical fields. For radiology techs who want to move into a different field of medical support work eventually, taking courses online while maintaining a day job can be a great way to grow skills, and therefore career options, while avoiding extreme student debt.
Further Career Opportunities for Radiology Techs
With experience and additional training, staff technologists may become specialists, performing CT scanning, MRI and angiography, a procedure during which blood vessels are x-rayed to find clots. Technologists also may advance, with additional education and certification, to become a radiologist’s assistant, or even (with a great deal more training) a physician’s assistant.
Experienced technologists also may be promoted to supervisor, chief radiologic technologist, and, ultimately, department administrator or director. Depending on the institution, courses or a master’s degree in business or health administration may be necessary for a director’s position.
Radiology techs who enjoy working in a medical environment and want to move into a career with more diverse responsibilities will probably have to get more education, but there are other medical support staff jobs that can be as rewarding or more so, and have a little more vertical career growth potential, such as:
- Physician’s Assistant : Physician’s assistants work with doctors of any persuasion, from primary care providers to brain surgeons. While a physician’s assistant doesn’t need to complete medical school, you’ll need a lot of education and training to get the job. The pay for these positions can be up to twice that for a radiology tech, though, so the added investment in education might be worth it.
- Medical Assistant: A medical assistant is not the same as a physician’s assistant. In this career, you’ll perform routine duties in a doctor’s office that do not require a great deal of training. This may mean gathering basic medical information like height, weight, and blood pressure, or administering injections and other medications as prescribed by the doctor.
- Health Informaticist: The healthcare industry is experiencing a rocky transition from keeping records on paper to keeping them digitally, and the fledgling industry of health informatics is booming. People who know how to keep meticulous digital records, encrypt them, and store them in an accessible but secure manner are in high demand. This career is perfect for someone who is interested in computers and data management, and also health care.
The graph below shows the top five industries that employ radiologic technologists, in order of how many jobs each industry has available. It is easy to see that most people in this field will end up working in a general medical or surgical hospital.
How to Earn the Most Money as a Radiologic Technologist
A sure way to get more money in any given job is to take on more responsibilities, to the point that you are justified in asking for a raise because you are saving the facility money. Having diverse skills is a huge asset that can lead to greater pay in the long run. Specializing in a particular niche also has its perks though. If you have a skill that is rare and in high demand, multiple employers will likely want to hire you, and you’ll be able to demand higher wages.
For radiologic technologists, one specific way to earn higher pay is to learn to do sonography as well as radiography. Most medical facilities that hire radiographers will also have the capacity to do ultrasounds, and hiring one person who can do both will save them money.
How to Get Started as a Medical Imaging Professional
While it is possible to start working as a radiology tech immediately out of high school, that path probably won’t provide the best launch to your career. Getting some education first, and experimenting with different kinds of medical imaging while you’re in school, will give you a stronger resume, and the ability to learn other medical skills that will help you shift your career if you decide to after working in radiology for a while.
Choosing a training or degree program is an important part of the process, as your choice will affect how long you spend in school, and how diverse and comprehensive your medical imaging knowledge is. Since there aren’t a lot of full-on degrees for radiologic technicians, if you want an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely have to choose another emphasis as well. Combining this degree with a nursing diploma program, medical assistant training, or health information technology training is a great way to diversify your career options in the medical support field, and make yourself a candidate for employment in three of the most rapidly growing employment fields in the country.
The schools listed below provide accredited training and degree programs online in a wide variety of medical support fields. The schools themselves can provide more information about the length and cost of their programs, and other important info about their scholarship offerings and career services.
Choosing the Right Online Radiology Tech Program For You
Only an accredited degree or certificate program will help you get a job as a radiologic technologist, so choosing an accredited school should be your number one priority. After that, other factors can come into play, such as cost, time requirement, and convenience. When you’re choosing a school, talking to friends and family and anyone that you know who is in the profession you’re seeking can be good ways to decide what’s best for you. After that, it’s all about getting in touch with schools and finding out their specific pricing plans, semester (or trimester or quarterly) schedules, and other details. You can get in touch with a few accredited online schools that offer programs that prepare students for radiology tech jobs or other allied health careers by clicking the links below.