If you’re thinking about applying to radiology tech programs, you probably already know the many vital roles these professionals play. Not only do they help provide physicians with the critical information needed to understand different illnesses, but they’re also key in making life-saving diagnoses. On top of being absolutely essential to the healthcare system, there are many solid reasons to pursue an education and career in radiology technology, including the relatively low barrier to entry.
Unlike many medical careers, becoming a rad tech doesn’t mean earning a four-year degree. With both certificate programs and associate degrees existing to prepare future radiology techs, you can earn your credentials in as little as one year. But before you can enroll, you need to know what’s required first. By understanding the requirements early in the process, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed when deadlines start arriving. Keep reading to learn about general and program-specific admission requirements, how to stand out as a candidate, and where to get support along the way.
General Admissions Requirements
Applying to a radiology tech certificate or associate program typically comes after you’ve been accepted into the school, most commonly a community college. Known as a decentralized admissions process, this ensures you meet the educational requirements at every step. Other schools prefer a centralized approach, meaning you submit one application to the school that includes details needed to ascertain your preparedness for the program. Some admissions professionals may come back and say you need more of certain prerequisites, for example.
Whether you apply to a school and program separately or use only one application, understanding general admission requirement plays a key role in ensuring the committee remember you and your application. Review the requirement outlined below carefully to ensure you understand the expectations fully.
Radiology Tech Certification & Associate Programs
Before you apply to a certificate program, you must be accepted into the school offering it. The basic requirements are generally the same regardless of who offers the program. Acceptance into a community college involves meeting basic requirements, lining up your finances, and identifying your prerequisites.
Community College Requirements
Though every school is unique, most community colleges have the same basic requirements for acceptance. In general, you must:
- Complete an admissions application
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Fill out financial information
- Submit official transcripts
- Submit ACT/SAT scores
- Take a placement exam
- Verify your residency status
You may also need to meet with an advisor to discuss your application and accompanying documentation and create a plan based on your test scores and goals. If you’re a high school graduate, your GPA usually is not a factor for acceptance into a community college. Instead, testing will be used to guide your educational plan. For schools with a more selective admissions policy, you may need letters of recommendation and an essay or personal statement to secure admission.
Lining Up Finances
The cost of attending a community college typically falls between $5,000 and $15,000 per year. Certificate programs like radiology tech usually cost between $2,500 and $10,000. Keep in mind that many programs have required costs in addition to tuition. In allied health programs, for example, students may need to pay for uniforms, background checks, and medical equipment they’ll their classes.
Since these schools and programs are usually quite affordable, many students pay out of their pockets as they progress through their education. Some students utilize payment plans offered by their institutions. This isn’t the case for everyone, though, and additional funds often are needed. Begin lining up your finances by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which tells you what federal funding (i.e., loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study) you qualify for. Searching for scholarships is always a good idea, too, as is checking for tuition reimbursement plans through your employer.
Identifying Your Prerequisites
The prerequisites for a degree or certificate through a community college are usually minimal. Many community colleges have open enrollment, so the courses you took in high school or while obtaining your GED might not impact your degree program. Still, you do have to take placement tests, and having a solid background in some areas (e.g., math and English) can help you do well on those. Lower scores on placement tests may result in remediation, which can extend the time to get your degree or certificate.
Radiology Tech Program Admissions Requirements
Getting accepted into a school doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be accepted into your program of choice. While some schools allow you to apply for the school and program with one application, others require two separate processes with program admission coming after school admission and after checking off program prerequisites. There are also differences between the requirements for certification in rad tech, often offered through a hospital or other healthcare facility, and those offered through a community college.
Requirements for a Certification in Rad Tech
Certificate programs are typically less expensive than degree programs, and some hospitals offer them at their facilities or in conjunction with a local college or university. In most cases, these rad tech programs exist for those with other healthcare degrees or certificates to earn this additional certification. Every program is different, but most rad tech certificate programs have similar admissions requirements.
Minimum Application Requirements
The minimum requirements for acceptance into a rad tech certificate program include:
- Having a college GPA of 2.75 or higher
- Being at least 18 years old
- Being able to participate physically in the program
- Having an associate or higher degree
You may need to write an essay on why you want to become a rad tech, take a placement test if your degree is over 10 years old, and complete an interview. Once accepted, some programs require that you pass a criminal background check.
Prerequisite coursework for a rad tech certificate program typically is completed during your associate degree program. That coursework likely includes:
- Advanced math
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Speech and/or English
- Psychology, sociology, or ethics
- Human growth and development
- Introduction to radiology
You’ll also likely need to have earned at least a C in each of these courses to be eligible for the program.
Requirements for an Associate in Rad Tech
Community colleges are most likely to offer rad tech associate degrees. After completing general education and program prerequisites, you can then apply to the rad tech program. Some schools allow for concurrent applications to the school and program. Most rad tech programs generally have admissions requirements similar to the following.
Completed Application Form
In addition to a high school diploma or GED and the documentation you submitted when you applied to the school, you may also need to do the following to be admitted into a rad tech program:
- Complete a program-specific application
- Confirm completion of general education requirements
- Anatomy and physiology
- Confirm completion of program prerequisites
- Complete a background check and drug screening
- Complete a series of required immunizations
- Get certified in CPR
Having a complete application and meeting any GPA requirements in the courses you take before program entry can help strengthen your chances of admission.
Many rad tech programs want you to have a cumulative GPA in the ballpark of a 3.0 or higher and at least a C or better in program prerequisite courses. The equivalency of any transfer credit is usually determined by the admissions office. For competitive programs with limited space, the higher the GPA, the better your chances of being accepted.
College Entrance Exams
In most cases, you won’t need to take another entrance exam for admittance into a rad tech program since you probably already took one or more to be admitted into the school itself. Some allied health programs do require the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills), though, to make sure you’re ready for higher-level healthcare-related programs.
In addition to general education (e.g., college algebra, English comp, and speech) courses required for most community college programs, you’ll also have program prerequisites to take before you’re admitted into a school’s rad tech program. Those usually include:
- Biology with a lab
- Anatomy and physiology with a lab
- Medical terminology
Note that you may need to take multiple levels of these courses for some rad tech programs. Also, consider that some programs incorporate general education and program prerequisites into the program plan itself. In these cases, students are accepted into the school and the program concurrently and then follow a very specific academic and clinical experience plan.
Other Things to Think About
Even with just two options—certificate or associate degree—amds minimal requirements for becoming a radiologic technician, there’s still a lot to consider with the application process. Before you apply and enroll in a program, also factor in how transfer credits, accreditation, licensure, and certification can impact your decision.
Transfer credits come from previous college coursework, and they can help you meet general education requirements and program prerequisites. While not all schools accept transfer credits, most do, and this can shorten the time you spend earning your degree. Even if your previous coursework is not related to healthcare, it may still count as credit for general education coursework. Some schools provide course equivalency guides to help determine if coursework transfers. To be certain, however, discuss any potential transfer credits with an admissions counselor for the school and/or program. The process typically requires that you submit official transcripts for your school to have on record and to help match any potential qualifying transfer credits.
Regional accreditation helps you know that an institution meets minimum standards of quality. It also determines which of your credits will transfer to another school, which is important if you plan on continuing your education. Plus, attending an accredited school qualifies you to receive federal student aid.
Programmatic accreditation indicates a specific program meets the established standards for a particular field. Accreditation matters in healthcare because it helps ensure students—many of whom will make life-or-death decisions in their jobs—are properly educated and trained by qualified faculty through a high-quality program. Employers often will not hire you if you did not graduate from a properly accredited program and school. Additionally, you may not be able to obtain licensure and/or certification if you attended a program that was not properly accredited.
Any community college you attend should be accredited by an agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Any rad tech program you choose should be certified by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JCERT). This is the only agency the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA recognize for accrediting both traditional and online rad tech programs. You can find accreditation information on your school’s website or through CHEA and JCERT.
Licensure, Certification, and Registration
Many states require licensure for radiologic technicians, so be sure to check your state’s requirements before enrolling in a rad tech program since you may need one that specifically prepares you for licensure in the state where you plan to work. Steps for licensure vary by state. In addition to licensure, you can also seek certification and registration through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
You don’t necessarily need to be certified and registered with ARRT to work as a rad tech, though. Some employers do require this certification and registration, and some states have it as part of their licensure process and utilize ARRT tests to help license their rad techs. Even if it’s not required, ARRT certification and registration come with benefits, including standing out to employers and having the potential for more advanced certifications. You can earn ARRT certification by meeting certain educational requirements, completing clinical work in a specific area of focus, and passing a written exam. You’ll also need to renew your certification every two years by completing continuing education courses.
American College of Radiology (ACR)
ACR empowers members through advocacy, quality and safety, and innovation. It provides clinical resources and offers lifelong learning opportunities.
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
ARRT offers credentials and oversees education, ethics, and exam requirements.
American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)
ASRT advances and elevates the profession through continuing education, publications, and a career center.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this site allows you to explore what a radiologic tech does. You can also find out about the career outlook and explore available training programs.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
This article examines the path to becoming a rad tech. It also describes a day in the life of a rad tech.
Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
JCERT accredits radiology programs and helps you find an accredited institution as well as understand certification eligibility.
Ron Jones, a phlebotomist turned rad tech, shares his knowledge from over 25 years in healthcare through educational resources and by mentoring new rad techs and those interested in rad tech.