Medical Imaging Degrees: Program Options & Certification

A medical imaging degree can help you take the next step in your career path.
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Radiologic Tech Career Facts

Which Medical Imaging Degree do I Need?

There are many ways to pursue careers in healthcare. For medical imaging professionals such as radiologists, sonographers and radiologic technicians, most earn an associate’s degree but that is not the only option.

Medical imaging technicians can also choose between:

  • a certificate
  • an associate’s degree;
  • or a bachelor’s degree

Regardless of your choice in degree, Medical imaging and radiology technology is a career path that gives you the opportunity to work directly with patients in the diagnostic process so you can be an integral part of helping them feel better.

In a radiology career, you will be responsible for the imaging tests needed for diagnosis and treatment.

Depending on the exact specialty you want to pursue will have a big impact on which medical imaging degree you need to pursue.

This page will help explain the different degree options to help you choose the right medical imaging degree for your career.

Medical Imaging Degrees

While many people seeking a radiology tech career hold Associate’s degrees, this is not the only way to work in the field. Knowing what is involved at each education level can help you decide the best path for your career.

This section will explain the varying medical imaging degrees that you can pursue.

Medical Imaging Certificate

A certificate or diploma is frequently available through a vocational school and at some community colleges. This program is not a formal degree program and instead focuses only on the knowledge and skills needed for radiology technology. A certificate program can take between six months to a year to complete. This can be a good way to start your career quickly.

Medical Imaging Associate’s Degree

An Associate’s degree is a two-year degree usually available at community colleges. Some four-year universities may also offer these programs. Along with the knowledge and skills required for radiology technology, this degree program will include the general education requirements for an Associate’s degree. This can be a good way to have a solid foundation for your career.

Medical Imaging Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s degree is a four-year degree available at four-year universities. This degree program also includes general education requirements for completion. Going through this program takes longer, but allows for greater depth of information and better understanding of how the career fits into the bigger picture of healthcare. While this program takes longer to complete, it is effective for those who are planning long-term careers in radiology technology, including upward mobility opportunities.

Medical Imaging Classes

Though each certification or degree program has its own requirements for completion, the general information included for radiology specialties includes:

  • Pathology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Physics
  • Patient care

Most programs also include hands-on clinical hours to prepare you for working with patients in a healthcare setting.

How Long is Medical Imaging School?

Depending on which medical imaging degree path you choose, below are the duration of each option.

  1. Certificate – Generally speaking medical imaging certification takes 9 months
  2. Associate DegreeĀ – This education program takes about 2 years including your clinical experience.
  3. Bachelor’s DegreeĀ – This education program takes about 4 years.

Depending on how fast you want to enter the workforce, how much financial aid you have, and how much you need to earn will help you choose the best educational route to become a medical imaging technician.

Accredited Medical Imaging Programs

Accredited programs are dependent on the radiology specialties.

  • Radiologic technician programs are accredited by the Joint Review Committee in Radiologic Technology.
  • Sonographic technicianĀ programs are accredited by the Commission in Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs, which works with the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
  • Cardiovascular Technology is overseen by two accrediting bodies, the CAAHEP and the Joint Review Committee on Education in Cardiovascular Technology

An accredited program for your radiology tech career can make the difference between having a dream of working in healthcare and making it a reality.

Whether you seek a certificate or earn your Bachelor’s degree, your education program is the first step to starting the career you are looking for.

Here are some other medical imaging professional organizations that you may want to research:

  • The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS)
  • American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)
  • Society of Nuclear Medicine Technologists (SNMT)
  • American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)
  • Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI)

Radiology Certification and Licensure

Certification or a license is required in most states to practice as a radiologic technologist. Right now 2/3 of states have regulations requiring radiology certification for radiologic technologists and radiology technicians.

Attending and completing an AART accredited program in radiologic sciences or medical radiography meets the educational qualification needed to submit an application to sit for the nationally recognized certification exam provided by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Obtaining Radiology Certification With ARRT
ARRT is the organization that provides the ethical requirements, certification process, and annual continuing education for radiologic technologists.

There are 11 specialties or post-primary radiology certifications offered by ARRT. First applicants must register with ARRT in the correct discipline in order to be eligible.

  • Bone Densitometry (Bone density X-ray)
  • Mammography (Breast X-ray)
  • Sonography (Ultrasound)
  • Cardiovascular-Interventional
  • Radiography
  • Computed Tomography (CT Scan)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Quality Management (Quality Assurance in Radiology)
  • Vascular Sonography (Imaging veins and arteries)
  • Cardiac-Interventional Radiography (Assist physicians with minimally intrusive image-guided procedures)
  • Vascular-Interventional Radiography (Assist physicians with minimally intrusive image-guided vascular procedures)
  • Breast Sonography (Imaging internal structures of breasts)
  • Radiologist Assistant (An advanced radiologic technologist working directly with a licensed radiologist)

Radiographers must complete continuing education and maintain an annual registration with ARRT. While you are an ARRT Registered Technologist, you will hold the credential R.T. Maintaining your certification requires 24 hours of CE credits (continuing education) every 24 months or 2 years. So, that is 1 hour of CE per month.

ARRT certification shows state licensing boards, federal regulators, and employers that you have met the nationally recognized standard for radiology and medical imaging professionals.

Medical Imaging Programs Certificates Schools and Careers

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