One of the benefits of studying to become an x-ray technician is that you have many different options for school. You can choose the path that best suits your needs based on your financial resources, time availability, schedule restrictions, and educational goals.
As a future radiologic technologist, you have the option of attending a brief certificate program that will give you the knowledge you need in a short period of time. These programs tend to be between nine and ten months, and may require you to attend school full-time. Between class, lab work, and your clinical rotations, you may be asked to dedicate as much as 40 hours a week to school activities. Also, depending on the school, you may need to have availability during some evenings or weekends. Because the program is shorter than an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you will jump right into radiology classes in your first semester. You will take courses related to imaging procedures, radiologic equipment, patient care, human anatomy, and image production. You might also take some courses in ethics and law and pharmacology. Your studies will also include clinical rotations that will give you hands-on practice in your chosen field. The benefit of this schooling option is that you can graduate in under a year and move on to start earning salary, but the schedule may not allow you to work or make other commitments during your time enrolled in the program. You will also concentrate more on topics in radiology and less on general studies subjects.
Associate’s Degree Programs
Associate’s degree programs generally take about two years to complete. The exact length of time you will be in school might depend on where you go and your schedule of classes. If you go part-time it will, understandably, take longer to complete the program, but if you go during the summer months you can shorten your time in school.
As an associate’s degree candidate, you will be required to take general studies classes such as math, communications, English, and information technology. You may also be required to take multiple science classes, such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and physics. These courses are considered “prerequisites” that you must complete to qualify for an associate’s degree. You may also be required to complete a portion of these classes before you can move on to radiologic topics such as patient care, medical law and ethics, imaging, positioning, or your clinical externships. One of the benefits of an associate’s degree program is that the general studies classes you take can benefit you in your professional life and can give you a solid educational basis should you ever choose to switch careers. The downside is that it will take you longer to complete your program, especially if you choose to go part-time, and thus will keep you out of your desired career for two years or more.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
If you are looking for a more traditional school experience, you can always choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree. These programs are similar to associate’s degree programs in that both mandate classes in both general studies and radiologic topics. However, because bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete, you will be offered more comprehensive coverage in all subjects. You might spend your first year studying exclusively general studies classes like humanities, arts, and social sciences. During the second year you would move on to radiological technologist classes and start doing your clinical rotations so you can get real-life experience. However, because you are getting a bachelor’s degree, you might also take more classes in general health and science topics. In fact, some schools may allow you to graduate with both a certificate in radiology and a bachelor’s in an area like health science. Or, you might choose a concentration and get more experience in management, education, communication, or computer science. You might also have an opportunity to learn more about a specific component of radiology, such as x-ray, CT, MRI, or ultrasound. These programs take much longer and will keep you out of your field for at least four years – longer if you can’t go full time – but prepare you extensively for both radiologic careers and other opportunities within the healthcare industry.