Online degree programs for radiology are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level; however, the most common programs are offered at the bachelor’s degree level. Undergraduate programs are usually designed to prepare students for careers as radiologic technicians or radiation therapists, and are typically offered as a bachelor’s degree. Some master’s degree programs also exist as well for individuals hoping to eventually become a radiologist. An online degree in radiology can be the perfect fit for individuals hoping to pursue a long-term career in health care, while not having to provide direct care to patients.
Radiology Course Work Basics
Online colleges for radiology offer both associate and bachelor’s degrees at the undergraduate level. Associate degree programs usually require that students complete general education requirements before beginning courses specific to radiology. General education courses include foundational learning courses in mathematics, natural and life sciences, composition, English, and basic computing. Students must also complete degree specific courses such as introduction to radiology, imaging equipment and quality assurance, and radiographic procedures, among others.
Bachelor’s degree programs usually require that students complete additional basics such as additional social and life science courses, foreign language, and history. Bachelor’s programs in radiology will also provide a more in-depth look at the field that will include a number of advanced courses in radiology that can include the following:
- Fundamentals of Patient Care: This course teaches students the skills needed for the management and care of all patient populations while in a clinical environment, including pharmacology, infection control, sterile techniques, and vital signs, among others.
- Intro to Radiography and Protection: In this course, students are introduced to how a diagnostic imagining department works, their basic environment, radiation safety and protection, medical law, and ethical practice.
- Principles of Radiographic Exposure: This course introduces students to principles related to image production and evaluation as they relate to materials used and the actual physical process.
- Radiographic Procedures: This course, which is usually accompanied by several others on the subject, introduces students to anatomy, physiology, terminology, and imaging procedures on different parts of the body.
- Ethics and Law in Radiology: This course allows students to explore the various ethical and moral issues experienced by today’s health professionals. Students are introduced to legal terminology, concepts, and principles linked to clinical practice.
Experienced professionals already working in the field, or those who are interested in becoming a licensed radiologist, can further their education by pursuing a master’s degree in radiological science. These programs are designed to prepare students to practice effective medical imaging techniques in the field. Students will eventually need to earn a medical doctorate and become licensed to practice as an independent radiologist, so the best online colleges for radiology master’s degree programs will prepare students for the rigors of a doctoral program, and will also require that students complete a significant amount of radiologist-directed clinical experience.
Careers for the Radiology Graduate
Two popular careers for graduates of an online radiology program include radiologic technologists and radiation therapists. Radiologic technologists work alongside doctors and nurses to perform diagnostic imaging tests on patients, such as x-rays. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), radiological technologists held about 219,900 jobs in 2010, with 61% of the workforce being employed by state, local, and private hospitals. In most cases, radiological technologists must have some form of formal training in the form of a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree, along with a state license or certification. Employment of radiological technicians is expected to increase by 28% through the year 2020. The BLS also reports that the median annual wage of radiological technologists was $54,340 in May 2010.
Radiation therapists work with doctors and other medical staff to administer radiation to patients to treat cancer, as well as a few other diseases. According to the BLS, there were approximately 16,900 jobs for radiation therapists in 2010, with most working in healthcare facilities specific to cancer treatment. In most cases, they will need either an associate or bachelor’s degree specifically in radiation therapy, along with a state license. Employment for radiation therapists is expected to grow by 20% through the year 2020, the BLS reports.