Radiologic science is the study of medical imaging, which is the proper term for creating visuals of the inside of a body. If you think of an X-ray machine or a ultrasound picture, those are both methods of medical imaging. Medical imaging can be used in procedures as simple as the X-ray of a broken toe or as complex as oncological radiation therapy.
Online radiological science degree and degree completion programs can allow medical imaging professionals to pursue further education and specializations within their field. Read on for more information about degree options, specializations and the career outlooks for graduates of radiological science programs.
Our rankings were made to take the guesswork out of choosing an online program in radiologic science. OnlineColleges.com has developed a unique methodology to evaluate programs in radiologic sciences based on factors that matter to online students — like in-state tuition costs and how many degrees in the field were awarded in recent academic years. Our data was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS); for more details on our methodology, see the bottom of this page.
Beth L. Vealé, PhD., RT(R)(QM)
Professor, Radiologic Sciences
Midwestern State University
Beth L. Vealé, PhD., RT(R)(QM)
Professor, Radiologic Sciences
Midwestern State University
Q: What qualities make Midwestern State University's online radiologic sciences program so outstanding?
A: There are several factors that contribute to this. To begin with, Midwestern State University is very supportive of online programs. Our online students really matter. We make sure we are available for our students. Our online students comment that when they call, we are there.
Class size is another factor. With 30 students in each course, we can ensure each one receives individualized attention. When our students raise concerns, we listen. In fact, the transition from an entry-level associate degree to baccalaureate degree program grew out of a request from our students. They were spending four years of study only to come out with an associate degree. The degree itself has really transformed from a vocational, technical degree to a research-based bachelor's degree.
Our professors are another factor. All of our professors are registered radiological technicians. Several professors still practice. They serve on national boards. They work with national and state legislatures to address concerns related to radiology programs and to stay at the forefront of the industry. Our professors serve as expert consultants and are active in publishing and research. Our professors make sure our courses stay up-to-date on current research and practice. When students take our courses, they bring back to their own practice what they have learned. This has lead not only to positive changes in their practice, but also to promotions and new job opportunities.
Finally, the nature of our online program means we are not bound by walls. We make connections all over the country and all over the world.
Q: What support does Midwestern State University offer their online student body?
A: Our online students get the same support that our on-campus students get. The online program actually allows for more one-on-one interaction between students and professors. Our online students have access to all the same opportunities as our on-campus students. If they are in the area, their student ID can get them into university activities and concerts.
As far as our online courses, the university provides an online orientation. Then, there is an online orientation specific to our program. Once you are in our program, we provide easy access to all our university services. Using the D2L portal, students can access services including financial aid and our online bookstore. Even the library has online support that connects students directly with librarians. We have tried to make things as accessible as possible, so that students reach the services they need in as few clicks as possible.
We offer online advising. Students are connected with one advisor who stays with them throughout the course of the program. When students first apply, they receive a degree plan. We believe all of our students are important and we will even help them access resources in their own community — not just within our university program. Our support system is great. Our secretaries are so knowledgeable and able to help if, for instance, a degree plan goes missing. They can provide a new copy and connect the student to their advisor to make sure things stay on track.
We even provide support after graduation. I've run study sessions and helped prepare students for their registry exams. There is not much we won't do for our students. We have high standards and we hold our students to them. But, we are flexible, too.
Q: How does the online program differ from the on-campus program?
A: The online program is a completion program for technicians already working in the field. Whereas, the on-campus program is an entry-level baccalaureate program and includes lab classes be completed at the university. Online students are able to complete their lab courses by observing and practicing with registered technologists in their own facilities at work.
In some ways, our online students have it better than our on-campus students. Online courses are capped at 30 students, as opposed to 50 or 60 on campus. And, I have noticed that online students are often more willing to ask questions of me than their on-campus counterparts. Online courses allow me to pinpoint students who are having issues and offer targeted support. Online students also have the flexibility to schedule how and when they take the course. They are not bound by the university's hours or vacation schedules. With our online proctoring program, our students can take exams at any time of day or night. And, they know they can always reach me if they have any trouble.
Finally, I feel like teaching online has made me a better teacher. The nature of online courses means my materials and course must be highly organized. It makes me more specific and more proactive.
Online colleges for radiologic sciences engage students in a wide variety of learning opportunities to help them build skills for this allied health care field. Students may want to look for radiologic sciences programs that incorporate curriculum set by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and that also help students to prepare for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists examination.
Students can pursue online education for radiologic sciences from the certificate to the bachelor's degree level. Program requirements vary depending on the the specific type of program that is pursued, with longer programs often having more clinical components and general education requirements.
Radiologic technologists may need vastly different skill sets based on the type of equipment they use, but generally speaking, the following list of skills are beneficial for radiologists regardless of the machinery they utilize.
Radiologic technologists are the third largest group of people working in health care, followed only by physicians and nurses, according to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART). Certification in a specific radiologic technology field can assure working professionals, employers and patients that a person is capable of providing high levels of care, also according to the AART.
Certification may be necessary to obtain licensure and work in a state. The AART reports that 75 percent of states have licensing requirements, some of which include certification or test scores. After certification, technologists may be able to list a recognizable, professional credential after their name, such as "CNMT" for anyone certified as a nuclear medical technologist through the Nuclear Medical Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
Certification requirements vary depending on the certificate being pursued, but most require applicants to obtain a specific type of education, such as an associate degree from an accredited institution, and to pass a qualifying examination. Often, radiologic technologists start their careers by seeking certification in a field such as:
As time passes, radiologic technologists may want to pursue certification in additional or more advanced fields, such as computed tomography, cardiac vascular radiography or bone densitometry. Continuing education is required to stay certified, often through more coursework.
Degree completion programs offer working professionals a bridge to a college degree, allowing them to use the experience they have previously earned as the foundational learning for a shorter, more focused program. This can be an easy way to advance your education without letting your hard work at an associate degree, a certification program or a relevant career go to waste, making your resume more attractive to possible employers and opening the door to certain specialties within your field.
Radiologic science education requires hands-on skills practice. Therefore, most degree completion programs require prospective students to have a solid background in radiology prior to applying. In some cases, lab courses and practice are completed at the student's work site under the supervision of a fully credentialed, registered technologist. Occasionally, online degree completion programs will require students to participate in a formal externship as well.
From a Certificate... to an Associate Degree
Associate degree completion programs offer a degree pathway for professionals holding limited practice certificates or who are graduates of non-degree granting hospital programs. As of 2015, ARRT requires at least an associate degree to be eligible for primary certification and registration in many of the radiologic sciences fields.
From a Bachelor of Science... to a Master of Science
A master’s degree is appropriate for professionals interested in advanced practice, administration or radiologic science education. While not technically a completion degree, some programs will allow radiologic professionals to apply continuing education credits toward their master's degree.
From Radiologic Technologist... to a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences
Prospective students of a bachelor's degree completion program should have completed an associate degree or hospital-based training program. Radiologic technologists may use degree completion programs in order to specialize their practice into women's imaging, MRI, or a similar area; move into senior positions; or transition into management or administration.
From Radiologic Technologist... to a Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
This completion program is specifically geared towards radiologists interested in becoming diagnostic medical sonographers. As with the more generalized radiologic sciences bachelor's program, students will generally need to meet the following requirements:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, strong overall job growth is predicted for radiologic science careers over the next decade. This trend is driven by the increased availability of healthcare coverage that stems from the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicare. Furthermore, as the baby boomer generation ages there will be an increased need for medical imaging to both diagnose and treat their ailments.
There are a number of specialties within the radiologic sciences. Each requires specialized skills and training. Below you can see the career outlook for several jobs in this field.
There are a number of specializations within cardiovascular technology including echocardiographers, EKG technicians and cardiovascular technologists. Each of these professionals perform different tests to the heart to help diagnose and treat patients.
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers certification in a number of specialties in addition to the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) credential. Sonographers need a combination of formal education and clinical experience to be eligible to take the certification exams. Employers generally prefer to hire certified sonographers. The BLS notes that job prospects are strongest for sonographers holding multiple certifications.
Radiation therapists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics or physician's offices. Most states require additional certification from ARRT for radiation therapists. Radiation therapists may further advance their careers with additional education and a certification as a medical dosimetrist.
The majority of radiographers and MRI technologists work in hospitals. Others work in medical laboratories or outpatient clinics. While not all states require certification, most employers prefer to hire technologists certified by ARRT or the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists.