The diagnostic capabilities of MRI machines, X-rays and other medical imaging equipment are so vast and vital to modern medicine that health care facilities rely on them for some of the most important cases that come through their doors.
The technicians who run these machines must be carefully trained and highly skilled. Radiologic science degree programs work to ensure that each of their graduates has what it takes to produce the safe and accurate images that doctors and patients count on.
The individual facilities that employ radiologic technologists may assign their own specific tasks, but the general duties of the profession are fairly similar from job to job:
- Preparing patients for imaging procedures according to physican's orders
- Gathering patients' medical histories and answering questions about imaging procedures
- Protecting exposed areas of patients' bodies from stray radiation
- Adjusting and operating computerized imaging equipment
- Working with physicians to determine if captured images are relevant, complete and accurate
The sensitive nature of medical imaging procedure encourages employers to only hire applicants who have completed radiologic science degree programs. The most common level of education for radiologic technologists is an associate degree, but larger facilities may prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree or higher.
Coursework in radiologic science degree programs
The courses required on the path to radiologic science degrees tend to depend on the degree level and the institution where they're offered, but the fundamental aspects of the discipline are common among most of these health programs.
Here are a few subjects that radiologic science students can expect to see on their schedules at some point during their education:
- Radiation physics
- Radiographic positioning
- Imaging fundamentals
- Anatomy and physiology
- Basic pharmacology
- Radiation protection
- Medical terminology
Radiologic science degrees at the associate level are geared toward preparing technologists to operate equipment and work day to day in professional medical facilities. Individuals seeking greater responsibility or looking to assume leadership roles in the field of radiology typically go on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees.
Career outlook for professionals with radiologic science degrees
Employment in radiologic technology professions is projected to increase by 21 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which should result in around 41,500 new jobs in the field. An aging population, expanded access to health insurance and increased reliance on outpatient imaging centers are all cited as reasons for the rapid growth.
The median annual salary for radiologic technologists was reported by the BLS as $55,200 in 2013, well above the national average for all occupations. The bottom 10 percent of earners in the field took home wages of $37,570 in 2013, and the top 10 percent of radiologic technician salaries were reported at $78,440.
If job experience and additional education requirements are met, professionals with radiologic science degrees may also be able to transition into other careers in the healthcare field:
- Nuclear medicine technologists, whose job requires a few pharmaceutical responsibilities on top of a radiologic imaging skillset, earned a 2013 median salary of $71,120.
- Radiation therapists, who administer radiation for therapeutic rather than diagnostic purposes, took home median annual wages of $79,140 in 2013.
"Radiologic and MRI Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
"29-2034 Radiologic Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 15, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
"Nuclear Medicine Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nuclear-medicine-technologists.htm
"29-2033 Nuclear Medicine Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 15, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292033.htm
"Radiation therapists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiation-therapists.htm
"29-1124 Radiation Therapists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 15, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291124.htm
"Radiologic Technology Curriculum," Central Arizona College, http://www.centralaz.edu/Home/Academics/Divisions_and_Programs/Radiologic_Technology/Curriculum.htm
"Bachelor of Science Degree in Radiologic Science," University of Charleston, http://www.ucwv.edu/majors/radiologic_science/curriculum.aspx
"BS in Radiologic Science," Oregon Tech Online, http://www.oit.edu/docs/default-source/online-documents/Courses/radsci-required-curriculum.pdf?sfvrsn=4