Maybe you’re interested in working with patients in health care, but not sure how much education it will require. X-ray technicians – also known as radiologic technologists -- are trained in specialized equipment and assist patients who require medical imaging. As a radiologic technologist, you also have the chance to specialize in a particular imaging area, such as mammography or bone density. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists notes that there are around 1,000 accredited educational programs for this field in the U.S. The length and cost of radiologic technology schooling depends the program: Certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Even after you’ve finished your education, you'll likely need to earn a license by passing a standardized exam and completing continuing education throughout your career.
Radiologic technology certificate programs are often based out of a hospital and may take one or two years to complete. If you’re considering enrolling in a certificate program, take note: Starting in 2015, students will need to graduate with an associate’s degree to take the primary certification exam through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Associate’s Degree Programs
All degree programs designed to prepare you for a career as a radiological technologist include instruction in anatomy, radiation safety, physics and biology. According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, an associate’s degree helps you build communication skills, cognitive abilities and psychological knowledge that all lead to high quality patient care. You’ll complete your associate’s degree program at a technical school or community college in about two years.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
A bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology typically takes about four years to complete, and is offered through universities and colleges. Both types of degree programs include a clinical experience component in which you’ll work on a team of health-care professionals. However, a bachelor’s program may be a good choice if you’re hoping to eventually take on a managerial or supervisory role, or move into a teaching position after gaining some work experience.
Job Outlook and Salary
Radiologic technologists should see a 28 percent growth in employment from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the average for all jobs, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though you’ll still have a shot at a position in a hospital, you can also expect to find opportunities in doctors' offices and imaging centers due to a growing trend towards outpatient care. Radiologic technologists and technicians took in an average salary of $56,760 per year in May 2011, according to BLS data.
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.