Understanding Radiology Tech Programs Online

Learn how they work, who they’re for, and see top schools with online options

Radiologic technologists perform important work within the healthcare field, ensuring physicians receive clear diagnostic images so they can adequately care for patients and administer treatments for radiation therapy. In addition to general skills, these professionals can also specialize in areas of MRI, mammography, and many other sub-disciplines. Whether hoping to complete an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, this guide helps students explore their educational options, financial aid, and get a glimpse into the career and salary potential for radiologic technologists across the country.

Top Accredited Radiology Tech Programs Online (2019)

As more and more accredited online radiology tech programs pop up, students may feel a bit stressed about picking the right one. Fortunately, EduMed is here to help. We’ve identified the best online schools and programs for aspiring radiologic technologists. We’re listing the most affordable and comprehensive programs with the accreditation you need to begin a rewarding career in the field. We’ve also spotlighted three programs in full so you can begin to visualize your journey from start to finish. See who stands out in 2019.

Miami Dade College

Miami-Dade-College

In addition to eight campuses and 21 outreach centers in southern Florida, Miami Dade College also caters to students seeking flexibility by offering distance education programs. One popular option is the associate degree in radiography. This program, comprising 77 credits, usually takes six semesters – or two years – to complete. Once all course requirements are met, students can sit for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists’ Board Exam to become registered.

In addition to a range of general education topics, degree seekers complete major-specific courses in areas of radiographic positioning, radiographic technology, radiation biology, and new imaging modalities in radiology. Many of these classroom courses have attached lab or clinical classes to ensure learners get hands-on experience. Students may need to visit campus to complete these components, or they may be able take them at a site approved by the school near their residence. Prospective students should check with the admissions advisor to be clear.  In terms of cost, individuals living in the state of Florida pay an estimated tuition cost of $9,102.94 for the whole program, while those living elsewhere pay $30,993.27

Midwestern State University Texas

Midwestern-State-University

Although Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas primarily operates as a public liberal arts institution, the school provides several vocationally focused programs as well. The Department of Radiologic Sciences at MSU celebrates 47 years in 2019, making it an early adopter of this technology. The department provides a bachelor of science in radiologic technology for individuals who can take part in both distance education and face-to-face learning opportunities. The program receives accreditation via the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology and only accepts applications between July 1 and August 31 of each year.

Some of the coursework offered includes advanced medical imaging, radiologic imaging equipment, sectional anatomy, and radiobiology and protection. Degree seekers can also choose from a number of radiology electives to concentrate their knowledge in a particular area. To graduate in four years, students must take two summer classes before their junior and senior years. To offset the cost of attendance, the department offers the Joe Don Daniels and Waggoner scholarships specifically for radiologic technology learners.

Rasmussen College

Rasmussen-College

Although Rasmussen College maintains its headquarters in Minnesota, the school also has campuses in Florida, Kansas, Illinois, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and online. The radiologic technology associate degree can be completed in just two years of full-time study and receives accreditation from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Some of the topics covered in this program include radiographic positioning and anatomy, radiobiology and radiation protection, introduction to radiology and patient care, and advanced modalities in radiology. All told, students complete 108 credits – 76 of which relate directly to the degree. The remaining credits are used for general education topics.

From the day they enroll, program administrators work with students to prepare them to sit for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists examination. Rasmussen also pays the fee for this exam the first time they take it. Learners can complete the program mostly online and take advantage of Flex Choice self-directed assessments. This allows students who already completed some radiologic coursework to receive credit without needing to take and pay for classes.

How Online Radiology Tech Programs Work

When looking at radiology tech programs, prospective students quickly notice that most degrees are offered in a hybrid format. Learners can typically complete all general education and subject-specific courses that do not require hands-on lab work online, while externships and clinicals need to be completed in face-to-face settings. Students can get a sense of the types of classes they’ll take in each format below.

  • Available online

    Medical terminology. Usually taken in the first semester, this class familiarizes learners with common words and terms used within the medical profession, with emphasis on how understanding prefixes and suffixes, combined with root words, can help them ascertain meaning. Students also learn the definitions and pronunciations of each.

    Human Anatomy. This course introduces students to the human body, with emphasis on articular, circulatory, digestive, endocrine, excretory, integumentary, lymphatic, muscular, reproductive, respiratory, and skeletal systems and how they work.

    Communications. Because radiologic technologists work with many different types of doctors and patients, learning how to communicate clearly and effectively serves as a crucial skill. This class introduces topics in professional and compassionate communication.

    Principles of Exposure. Students in this class learn about the basics of x-rays and image acquisition, with specific focus on interactions between radiation and the human body, digital imaging, and beam attenuation characteristics.

    Radiologic Procedures. This class introduces learners to safe procedures for using radiologic techniques for the appendicular skeleton, abdomen, and chest while also teaching students about radiologic positioning, correct exposure, radiation protection, intensifying screens, and computerized radiography.

    Radiobiology. Often taken in the second year, this advanced class provides an in-depth study of topics such as radiation safety practices, how ionizing radiation provides somatic and genetic effects, radiation measurements and regulations, and radiation biology.

    Digital Imaging. Students covers common topics within digital medical imaging, including picture archiving systems, image processing, display and quality, principles of exposure, image acquisition, cassette vs. digital systems, and image quality standards.

  • In-Person Only

    Clinical externship. Similar to an internship, this course requires learners to spend a certain number of hours at an approved facility where they can gain real-life skills that they will use as a radiographic technologist. Although students do not need to visit campus for this class, they must visit the externship site weekly.

    Radiology Positioning Lab. Typically offered on-campus rather than at an approved facility, this hands-on course helps students build skills in human anatomy, radiographic positioning, and how to provide appropriate patient care during examinations and x-rays.

    Radiographic Positioning Clinical. Students home in on the nuances of positioning, with focus on topics such as angiography, arthrography, cholangiography, hysterosalpingography, and myelography. Students also learn how to alter techniques if a patient has experienced injury or trauma.

Levels of Radiology Tech Programs Online

Individuals interested in studying radiologic technology online can choose from several degree levels to fit their academic needs. While individuals just starting out on a professional career path often pick the associate or bachelor’s degree to get their foot in the door, those who have worked in the field for several years and want to climb the career ladder may decide to pursue a master’s degree. Consider which fits your current needs best as you read about each below.

Associate Degree in Radiology

Online associate degrees in radiology exist for individuals who want to quickly enter the field and begin working. These programs typically take two years and teach students the foundational principles needed to sit for the ARRT certification exam. This degree prepares individuals for entry-level roles and typically entitles them to introductory salaries. Students complete approximately 60-80 hours in general education and major-specific topics, depending on the program.

Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences

Master of Science in Radiologic Sciences

Accreditation & Licensing for Radiologic Technologists

Attending an accredited school represents an important step in the journey to becoming a radiology tech, as individuals who don’t may find it challenging to transfer credits, compete against other job candidates who attended an accredited school, and, if necessary, receive licensure. Learners should look for institutional and programmatic accreditation. In the former, regional and national accreditation exists, with regional considered the more rigorous option. Students should also seek out programmatic accreditation, which is reviewed below.

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)

As the only programmatic accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation for radiology and radiologic technology, JRCERT exists as the arbiter for on-campus and online programs. Prospective students can use JRCERT’s database to find an accredited program.

The American Registry for Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT)

For radiology techs who want to specialize in MRI, ARMRIT acts as the only MRI technologist registry and certifying organization. After passing the exam to receive certification, individuals can also post their resumes and review an active job board for open positions.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

Since its inception, ARRT has registered more than 330,000 qualified individuals working in interventional procedures, medical imaging, and radiation therapy. The group provides 13 credentialing options, all of which focus on specialization areas within radiology. In order to qualify, applicants must attend an ARRT-approved degree program, demonstrate moral character, and pass the examination. The test is computer-based, with most questions provided as multiple choice. Learners receive a preliminary score on the day and a final score within three weeks. To keep their certification, individuals must seek annual renewal, fulfill continuing education requirements every two years, and meet continuing qualifications requirements every decade.

Specializing as a Rad Tech

In addition to valuable skills and knowledge gained from a general radiography technology degree, the field also provides the opportunity for individuals with specific interests to concentrate their knowledge in a subfield. Some of the most popular are highlighted below.

1. Angiography. For individuals who enjoy detail-oriented work, angiography might be a great specialization for them. This area uses x-rays to see inside blood vessels, chambers, and arteries. Angiographers eliminate images of bones and other organs so the blood vessels are more easily seen.

2. Bone Densitometry. Also known as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, this type of radiography measures bone mineral density as a way of checking for bone loss. These services are used regularly by osteopaths.

3. Cardiovascular Interventional Radiology. A fascinating specialization, individuals in this field use x-ray technology during procedures to help physicians see within chambers of the heart. This type of radiology is often used during angioplasties.

4. Computed Tomography. A fascinating option for individuals who enjoy a challenge, individuals who specialize in this area work to capture usable images of parts of the body that are usually difficult to reach.

5. Fluoroscopy. Similar to cardiovascular interventional radiology, fluoroscopy is used in real time to help physicians see inside the patient during a procedure. Individuals must know how to use x-ray imaging, fluorescent screens, and video recording devices.

6. Mammography. Individuals who pursue this specialization capture radiation imagery that helps diagnose illnesses and diseases in breasts. Students must learn about a special type of low dose x-ray used to identify cancer cells.

7. Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Also known as MRI, this specialization teaches students to understand magnetic resonance signals and how these can be manipulated to create images that allow for accurate diagnoses.

Paying for Online Radiology Tech School

While many individuals who decide to study radiologic technology dream of making salaries well above the national average, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the funds on hand to pay for a degree out-of-pocket. Fortunately, students can find many alternative ways of paying for a degree even if they do not have enough money in their savings.

Prospective learners should start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In addition to becoming eligible for federal grants, loans, and work study funds, many colleges and universities use the information provided on these forms to award institutional and programmatic scholarships. Distance students should also research outside scholarships from local and national radiographic organizations, private foundations, hospitals and other healthcare organizations, nonprofits, and state and local governments. Students looking for more advice about how to avoid substantial student debt should check out EduMed’s comprehensive guide on financial aid.

Salaries & Career Growth for Radiologic Technologists

Before pursuing an online radiologic technology degree, prospective distance learners want to know how they can expect their career to progress and what salaries they can expect to earn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technologists earned median annual salaries of $60,070 in 2017, while those in the top 10% of earners brought home $97,460 each year. Positions for these professionals are expected to grow by 13%, meaning 30,300 new roles are projected to be added to the existing 241,700 between 2016 and 2026.

When compared to other roles at this level, positions for diagnostic medical sonographers are set to grow by 17%, while jobs for nuclear medicine technologists and veterinary technicians will grow by 10% and 20%, respectively. If individuals want to progress in their careers after a time, those who go back to school for higher education can earn even higher salaries. Radiation therapists earn $80,570 while registered nurses earn $70,000.