Radiology Technology Schools

What kinds of schools offer degrees in radiology technology?

You will find a wide array of educational institutions that offer degrees in radiology technology. These institutions include four-year colleges and universities, graduate schools, two-year community colleges, professional schools that offer certificate programs, and teaching hospitals. While many of these schools offer traditional, in-person instruction in a campus setting, distance education opportunities are available as well. Although the clinical component of your radiology technology education must be performed in-person, you will find online programs and universities offering online classes through which you will be able to complete your requisite coursework.

What should I study in school in order to fulfill the prerequisites for admissions to radiology technology school?

Admission to radiologic technology degree programs requires a strong background in the biological and physical sciences.  Specific prerequisites will vary

What kinds of courses will I take in radiology technology school?

A complete curriculum in radiology technology will include both an in-class, coursework component and a hands-on clinical component.  Aspiring radiologic technologists will take courses in various diagnostic imaging procedures, as well as the principles of radiographic positioning.  Because their work involves handling radioactive materials, they will also take courses in principles of radiation and the properties of x-rays.  An important aspect of the radiology technology curriculum includes coursework in radiographic exposure, radiologic pathology, and radiation protective measures.  To properly perform their job, radiology technologists must have a thorough understanding of human anatomy and biology, as well as the physics of radiation.  Therefore, any accredited radiology technology curriculum will include coursework in anatomy, radiobiology, and radiologic physics.  Coursework in computer science, digital imaging, and recent technological advances is also generally part of a complete curriculum in radiologic technology. 

Legal and ethical issues are crucial to the work of any healthcare professional.  Therefore, students in radiology technology degree programs can expect to take classes in bioethics and professional responsibility.

The clinical component of a radiology technology degree program involves working directly with patients in a healthcare setting.  Clinics provide students who are planning to become radiologic technologists with the opportunity to practice various diagnostic imaging techniques and procedures and interact with real patients and real members of their patients’ healthcare professional team. Most accredited radiology technology programs take two years to complete.

In radiology technology school, students will learn vital communication skills that will assist them in their interaction with patients and the other healthcare professionals that work side by side with them.  You may be required to take courses in psychology or social work in order to develop these skills. You will also develop the practical and critical thinking skills necessary to perform diagnostic imaging techniques and make reasoned decisions about patient care. 

As you advance in your study of radiology technology, you will learn about specific diagnostic imaging techniques and the medical procedures associated with them.  These may include CT and MRI scanning, venipuncture, fluoroscopy, sonography, and mammography.

What are some specialties within the field of radiology technology?

There are a number of specialties and sub-specialties within the field of radiology technology.  Each type of diagnostic imaging procedure requires a specific set of skills and knowledge that sometimes require specialty certification.  Radiology technologists who have the expertise necessary to operate more than one type of machinery will enjoy better career opportunities, as will those with the skill necessary to perform more difficult or more in-demand procedures.

Specialties within the field of radiology technology include the following:

  • Diagnostic Radiography:  Diagnostic radiography involves the use of basic x-ray imaging to examine bones, organs, and other internal structures of the body for the purpose of diagnosing illness or injury, evaluating a patient’s condition, and assessing the progression of a specific disease process or the effectiveness of a specific treatment.
  • Computed Tomography (CT Scan): A radiologic technologist who specializes in computed tomography develops expertise in administering the CT or CAT scan, a diagnostic procedure that uses ionizing radiation to produce cross-sectional views or “slices” of the interior structures of the body.  Computed tomography technologists can also use the diagnostic images achieved through the CT scanning process to construct additional images, generally in three dimensions, which provide important supplementary information that can assist in diagnosis.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Radiology technologists who specialize in magnetic resonance imaging use magnetic fields to align the nuclei of atoms within the human body and radio waves to alter the alignment so as to produce detailed two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of internal structures and systems.
  • Nuclear medicine:  A nuclear medicine technologist introduces radioactive “tracer” elements, known as radioisotopes or radiopharmaceuticals, into the body in order to visualize the internal structures of the human body.  The use of tracer agents allows the technologist to observe internal bodily processes and the function of organ systems.  Nuclear medicine technology is frequently used to obtain diagnostic imagery of the cardiovascular system and the kidneys.  Nuclear medicine also sometimes has therapeutic applications, particularly in the treatment of cancer, particularly thyroid cancer.
  • Fluoroscopy: Fluoroscopy involves the introduction of contrast agents into the human body in order to allow the monitoring over time through live motion radiography of organ processes.  Using agents that are sensitive to radiation allows the radiation technologist to visualize systems inside the body.  Fluoroscopy is often used to detect and diagnose obstructions in or ailments of the digestive system.  It can also be used to monitor devices inserted within the body, such as pacemakers and stents, and allows visual access to the internal structures of the body so as to allow implantation of these devices.
  • Ultrasonography:  Radiation technologists who specialize in sonography actually use high frequency sound waves rather than ionizing radiation or other radioactive materials to produce images of the interior of the human body.  Ultrasound techniques are frequently used when a patient’s condition prohibits the use of radiation given that it might pose special or unique risks.  For this reason, ultrasonographers are in high demand in obstetric and gynecological practices and in prenatal departments in clinics and hospitals.  Ultrasound is the preferred method of fetal monitoring throughout pregnancy.  Sonography also has applications in a wide variety of medical specialties, including pediatrics and cardiology.

  • Mammography: A radiology technologist who specializes in mammography uses low-dose ionizing radiation—basic x-rays—to visualize the tissues within the human mammary glands.  Mammography is key to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.  It can also be used to detect and diagnose other ailments, disorders, or injuries to the breasts, including benign cysts.
  • Bone Densitometry: Radiology technologists who specialize in bone densitometry use a technique known as dual-emission x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, which entails the aiming of two x-ray beams with varying levels of energy at the patient’s bones in order to measure bone mineral density.  DXA is most commonly used to detect and diagnose osteoporosis.   
  • Interventional Radiology:  Radiological technologists who specialize in interventional radiology use radiologic imaging techniques to visualize the interior of the body in order to perform minimally invasive procedures.  These procedures enable the performance of surgical procedures and implantation of medical devices without the invasiveness, pain, and long recovery period associated with open surgery.  Interventional radiology entails the use of x-rays, CT and MRI scans, and other diagnostic imaging techniques to enable surgeons and other healthcare professionals to navigate devices and instruments, including catheters, stents, and tubing, through organs and blood vessels.  Interventional radiologic techniques are also used in the performance of biopsies of internal organs.  Cardiovascular interventional radiography is a subspecialty within the field of interventional radiology that requires highly developed skills and extensive training.  Cardiovascular interventional radiologists perform or assist in procedures including angioplasty, embolization, stent and pacemaker placement, and thrombolysis. Interventional radiography provides medical professionals with viable, minimally invasive and less costly alternatives to major surgery and has led to a surge in outpatient procedures. 

  • Radiation Therapy:  Radiologic technologists who specialize in radiotherapy use radiation to treat disease rather than diagnose it.  Radiation therapy is most frequently used as a treatment for various forms of cancer.  Radiation when applied properly and in the correct dosages can shrink and sometimes destroy cancerous tumors within the human body.  Radiation therapy has both curative and palliative applications.  That is, while radiation is sometimes a cure for cancer, by itself or in combination with other forms of cancer, it can also be used to reduce pain in terminally ill cancer patients by mitigating the growth of malignant tumors.

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Radiologic Technologist Schools

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