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Online Bachelor Degree Programs in Radiography

The field of medical diagnostic imaging continues to grow, with advances in technologies and an increase in the number of tests conducted annually. A bachelor's degree program in radiography prepares students in a broad range of imaging technologies. Although the interpretation of diagnostic images is left to radiology physicians, it is the responsibility of radiographers to determine whether the images are clear and cover the specified target area.

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Distance Learning Bachelor's Degree Programs in Radiologic Science

Radiographers, also known as radiologic technologists, work directly with patients to capture diagnostic images using X-rays, magnetic resonance, computed tomography and related technologies. They are trained to understand the requirements, hazards and limitations of radiographic equipment, as well as techniques necessary to produce precise and medically appropriate images. Radiographers also administer ionizing radiation to patients as part of a cancer therapy. A bachelor's degree in radiography is increasingly preferred in candidates for medical therapeutic and diagnostic imaging positions.

Applying to Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

The majority of online bachelor's degree programs in radiography are 2-year programs, and are also referred to as bachelor's degree completion programs. Applicants are expected to have earned up to two years of credits in an associate's degree program in medical technology or an accredited certificate program. Accrediting agencies include the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (www.jrcert.org) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (www.caahep.org).

Many schools also allow students with a license in radiography, work experience in medical imaging, a non-credit certificate in radiography or a bachelor's degree in another subject to earn credits by passing challenge examinations.

Advantages of Online Bachelor's Programs

Distance learning programs allow students with a personal computer, browser, media software and high-speed Internet access to view lectures and take exams at their own convenience, without having to travel to a physical campus. Online programs are often described as career-oriented because a student can continue to work while also earning an online bachelor's degree. Full-time programs are available for students wishing to complete a bachelor's degree program in 1-2 years.

Due to the hands-on nature of medical imaging and radiation therapy, all programs require students to spend several months working on-site in a clinical setting. Schools maintain links with clinical groups and actively help students find sites appropriate to their needs.

Sample Online Courses

In addition to a basic curriculum of mathematics, English and basic sciences, the core courses in a distance learning radiography bachelor's degree program include:

  • Sectional anatomy
  • Positioning
  • Radiographic biology
  • Principles of mammography
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Clinical ethics
  • Principles of radiation exposure
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI physics and procedures
  • Computed tomography mathematics

Possible Concentrations

Students may opt to concentrate their studies on clinical or non-clinical specialty areas. Clinical concentrations focus on a specific radiographic modality such as magnetic resonance, computed tomography, nuclear medicine, radiation therapy or ultrasound. Non-clinical specialties include administration, informatics and education, as well as a general science focus for students continuing on to further study in medical or dental school.

Some programs encourage radiography majors to earn a minor in health care administration to expand their medical horizons and increase their advancement potential.

Certification and Licensure

Many students will have received certification upon completion of an associate's degree or certificate program prior to entering a 2-year bachelor's degree program. A major certification agency for radiography specialties is the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), although other subspecialties are also supported by groups such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board.

To become certified in radiography or a subspecialty, candidates must first meet ethical, educational and clinical criteria and then pass an examination. To remain certified, radiographers must adhere to the ethical standards and earn credits through work in the field and completion of continuing education coursework. Certification is voluntary, but many employers prefer certified radiographers.

Most U.S. states require radiographers who work directly with the public to be licensed, but licensure requirements vary by state. Some state licensing boards rely on ARRT certification exam results for licensure.

Career Options

Most radiographers work in hospitals, but other job sites include medical laboratories, outpatient clinics and private physician practices. The workload is generally 40 hours per week, but some medical imaging specialists work longer hours, night shifts or week-ends, or must be available on-call. Radioactivity, hazardous particles, intense magnetic fields or large amounts of energy have the potential to expose radiographers to physical harm, although industry-standard precautions minimize these risks.

Jobs for radiographers may include the following:

  • Bone densitometry
  • Cardiovascular radiography
  • Mammography
  • CAT/MRI/PET scans
  • Radiation therapy
  • Sonography
  • General diagnostic radiography
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Angiography
  • Teaching
  • Equipment sales

Employment Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicted that job opportunities for radiographers would grow 17% from 2008 to 2018, faster than average job growth, due to increased testing of an aging population. The median annual salary for radiographers in 2008 was $52,210.

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