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Best Radiology Technician Programs

Oct 19, 2021

What is a Certificate Program in Radiology Technician?

Radiologic technology is an evolving field of healthcare that utilizes specialized medical imaging equipment to diagnose and treat patients. Radiology technicians, or radiology technologists (used interchangeably), are the healthcare professionals who are trained to perform these digital imaging procedures and help ensure that doctors receive accurate and quality images.

The educational requirements to become a radiology technician vary by state and employer, but certificate programs are available in the field of radiologic technology and radiography to help prepare students for the career. Some of these certificate programs are short-term technical certificates or certificates of completion in a specific type of imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT), and may be designed for students who have already earned professional certification. Other certificate programs are a little longer and more detailed, such as a Certificate in Radiography or a Limited Medical Radiologic Technologist (LMRT) certificate program. Some of these longer certificate programs could help students qualify to take state licensing exams or the national certification examination from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Find out more about these certificate programs below.

What is the Difference Between a Certificate and a Degree in Radiology Technician?

Some of the main differences between a certificate and degree program for radiology technicians are the length, scope, and outcome of the programs. Although there are some bachelor's degree programs available in radiologic science, associate degree programs in radiologic technology are most common. While some of the longer certificate programs may be closer to these programs in length, traditionally certificate programs are much shorter than these 2-year degree programs. Associate degree programs in the field also include a broader and more well-rounded education as they include some general education courses in areas such as English, math, and the humanities. Finally, associate degree programs in the field usually qualify students to take the national board exam from the ARRT, whereas most certificate programs in the field prepare students for specific types of imaging certifications.

Should I Get a Certificate in Radiology Technician?

Students interested in working in the field of healthcare and helping patients may consider earning a certificate in radiologic technology. Those entering the field should like working with people, be interested in learning new and changing technologies, and willing to work in a fast-paced environment. Students who enjoy working with their hands and gaining practical experience will appreciate the hands-on nature of these programs. While some of these certificate programs are intended for those who are already certified with the ARRT, other programs may help prepare students for state licensure or ARRT certification to help students jump-start their careers and stand out to employers. Students may decide to pursue a certificate program if they are not ready to commit to a longer degree program in the field. Certificate programs usually save students time and money, as they are shorter than degree programs and require fewer credit hours, which means fewer tuition costs.

Career Options After Completing a Certificate Program in Radiology Technician

Radiology science professionals need different amounts of education for different positions. Those with a certificate in radiologic technology may begin their careers as radiology assistants before moving into more advanced positions. For instance, most careers in radiology require at least a 2-year degree, such as technician or technologist positions, and professional certification. These professionals primarily work as hospital radiology technologists, but could also work in doctor's offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and outpatient care centers. Radiology technician advancement opportunities are usually available in the form of management positions, but may require more education and/or experience. Below, we examine a few career options for those with a certificate in radiologic technology in more detail.

Radiologic or MRI Technologist

Radiologic technologists commonly need to have an associate degree and state licensure or certification. Requirements for licensure or certification vary by state, but certification is available from the ARRT. Some radiologic technologists may become MRI technologists, who may not need to be licensed or certified, depending on the state. MRI technologists usually need some prior work experience and can pursue certification from the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT). These professionals help position patients and equipment to get the best image possible using computerized equipment.

Dental Assistant

Some states require no formal education for dental assistants, but train them on the job. Other states may require an accredited training program and the passing of an exam. Dental assistants perform a range of clinical and administrative tasks, such as processing x-rays, cleaning equipment, assisting during procedures, scheduling appointments, and maintaining records.

Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

Although it is not human healthcare, veterinary assistants or laboratory animal caretakers help perform some basic medical care to animals. These professionals need at least a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Professional certification is available in the field but is typically not required. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers help administer first-aid and medicine to animals as needed, give immunizations, collect samples, and clean cages.

Continued Education After a Radiology Technician Certificate Program

Students who have earned an LMRT certificate in radiologic technology, but are not yet certified with the ARRT may consider earning an associate or bachelor's degree in the field. As mentioned, an associate degree is usually the minimum education requirement for a radiologic technologist. These degree programs are usually designed to be completed in 2 years and help prepare students for ARRT certification. Typically, these programs include didactic and clinical training for hands-on learning experiences. Bachelor's degree programs in radiologic sciences are also available and can help students further advance their careers in the field. These programs usually take around 4 years to complete and require about 120 credit hours.

Courses for a Certificate Program in Radiology Technician

Certificate programs in radiologic technology vary in the number of credits and types of courses that they require. Technical certificate programs may only require between 5 and 6 credits of courses and primarily consist of a core lecture class in a given type of imaging (such as MRI or CT) and practicum courses for hands-on learning.

Longer certificate programs may require more than 60 credits of coursework, which is the traditional requirement for associate degrees. Coursework in these longer certificate programs provides overviews of various tools and techniques used in the field and provides students hands-on, practical experience through labs and clinical experiences or externships. A couple of examples of common courses for certificate programs in radiologic technology include:

Anatomy and Physiology

Students take a course in anatomy and physiology or human structure and function to learn about different parts of the body that they may need to take images of in the future. Students typically examine the different systems of the body, such as the skeletal and circulatory systems, to learn what structures are included and the normal vs. abnormal function of these areas.

Imaging Equipment

Students may take a general course in imaging equipment or courses that examine specific kinds of imaging equipment (usually this is in the case of a technical certificate). Students find out how these different pieces of equipment work and how various factors can affect the final image that is produced. In the case of a technical certificate, students often take a practicum course in the same specific kind of equipment to practice using it.

How Long Does a Certificate Program in Radiology Technician Take?

The time that it takes to complete a certificate program in radiologic technology varies by the type of program. Longer programs, such as a certificate in radiography, may take around 20 months to complete. Technical certificate programs or certificates of completion are usually much shorter in length and can be completed in one semester. Some programs may also provide students with different program length options. For instance, there is an LMRT program that takes 56 weeks to complete if students take day-time courses or 75 weeks to complete for evening courses. Factors such as course load each semester can also affect how quickly or slowly students can finish.

How to Choose a Certificate Program in Radiology Technician

There are not too many certificate programs available to prepare to become a radiology technician, so students' choices in schools and programs may be limited. When looking for a certificate program in radiologic technology, students first need to determine what kind of program they qualify for.

Students who have already completed an associate degree program in radiology technologist may pursue technical certificates to further specialize in the field and pursue professional certification. These students may also need to have an idea of what type of imaging they want to specialize in, such as MRI, mammography, or CT. Those looking to start their careers or trying to prepare for the ARRT or state certification may choose an LMRT program or certificate in radiography, but some of these programs may require applicants to have an associate degree as well. Students interested in taking an on-campus program may also need to consider the location of these programs when comparing the types of certificate programs available and find one that suits their personal needs, such as proximity to a place of work or living location.

Other considerations for these certificate programs are more logistical. For example, some programs may offer day or evening courses to allow students to work around their personal or work schedules. Many students on a budget will also need to consider the cost of earning a certificate and explore any available financial aid options that schools may offer.

How to Get into Radiology Technician Certificate Programs

The admissions requirements for certificate programs in radiologic technology differ from program to program. Technical certificate programs are usually designed for those who already have ARRT certification. Students may need to have the approval of the department to take these technical certificates. There is a certificate program in radiography that requires applicants to have an associate degree, but this degree does not necessarily have to be in radiologic technology.

Students interested in this program may need to have prior coursework in areas such as biology, algebra, and anatomy and physiology and have made a minimum grade of at least a 'B'. This program also requires at least 3 observation experiences of radiographic procedures and a detailed interview process before admission. There is also at least one LMRT program that requires applicants to have at least a high school diploma. Students also need to meet a minimum score on the school's Scholastic Level exam.

Cost of a Radiology Technician Certificate Program

The total cost of a radiology technician certificate program also varies by school and program. The total cost of a program consists of tuition, fees, living expenses, and other costs, such as books and materials. Technical certificates and certificates of completion generally cost less money because they are much shorter than traditional certificate programs. These programs could cost around $1,600. However, that price often does not include the price of books and may vary each year with tuition and fee rates, as well as the type of student, such as in-county students vs. out-of-county students.

Traditional certificate programs (including an LMRT certificate program) may also vary tuition rates based on factors such as student type. These programs are usually more expensive due to the length of the program. Some programs may charge as much as around $26,000 in tuition. Again, students should check what is included in tuition because some programs may or may not include the price of books in tuition rates. These programs also usually include various types of fees, such as technology fees or registration fees. Some programs may charge as much as $1,000 a semester in fees.

Certificate programs in radiologic technology often have costs in addition to tuition, fees, and normal living expenses, such as housing. For example, students generally need to spend some money on necessary program uniforms. There are also various costs associated with clinical work, such as required immunizations and travel to and from their clinical site.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources for Radiology Technician Certificate Programs

Financial aid is often needed to help cover at least some of the costs of earning a certificate program. Students enrolled in certificate programs can still fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but may not qualify for loans and grants from the federal government. However, schools may still want students to fill this out to help determine what other forms of financial aid they are eligible for, including loans. The FAFSA can also be a prerequisite for applying for scholarships.

Scholarships are a common form of financial aid and one of the more preferable sources since they do not have to be paid back. These awards vary in requirements, amounts, and how often they can be renewed. Some schools may offer general scholarships, such as academic merit awards or those based on financial need. However, students can also find a wide range of scholarships from outside organizations that are given for a variety of reasons. Often, students can find awards that are given specifically to their particular area of interest. In the case of aspiring radiology technicians, students can pursue scholarships that are offered by organizations such as the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). Students usually need to be a member of the group to apply, but awards are available to those in accredited certificate and degree programs in the field.

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