One of the most important decisions any potential student will make is choosing the right school to attend. Class sizes, interactions with faculty and staff, costs, convenience, and fringe benefits all come into play. These considerations become even more important, though, when trying to become an x-ray technologist. X-ray techs work with unique and potentially dangerous equipment, and patients whose safety lies in their hands–so selecting the right training school is critical.
To that end, there are some key points to research thoroughly before making your decision:
Online or On Campus
Before beginning externships or sitting for exams, every potential x-ray tech takes several kinds of classes: general prerequisites such as composition, chemistry, and physics; general health care courses like medical terminology, patient care, and medical ethics; and classes specific to x-ray technology, including patient positioning and radiation physics. This is important because, while many traditional, bricks-and-mortar schools offer classes in all three categories, some classes may be best taken online. Online universities and colleges offer the same coursework available from traditional schools, but often with more flexible schedules.
Many students choose to take their prerequisite and health care course online, before enrolling in a traditional college for their field-specific work and externship, and vice versa. You choice will likely depend on convenience and other matters covered below.
Most x-ray tech jobs require a minimum of a certificate or an Associate’s degree in Radiology, available from a trade school, community college, or junior college. However, if you would like to pursue a higher-paying position, you may want to earn a Bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution. This option can work especially well if you have opted to take your health care and prerequisite classes at a community college, and have already graduated with your Associate’s degree in Health Care, Health Services, or Allied Health.
Whether to become an x-ray technologist or a painter, never attend an institution that is not accredited. The US Department of Education (DOE) licenses a select group of agencies to accredit, or give their stamp of approval to, colleges and universities that meet high standards for academic rigor and student preparedness for the workplace. Any school not approved by the DOE or one of its licensed agencies is likely not to give you the education you need, and degrees from such colleges are, by and large, worthless–employers look upon them as a sign of cutting corners and not taking the career seriously.
Furthermore, it is important to pick a program approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the organization that handles licensing and professional standards for x-ray technologists. Accreditation by the ARRT means that the program complies with all industry standards, and that you will be well prepared for your licensing test–administered by the ARRT, in most states–and career. To date, DOE agencies and the ARRT have accredited 213 certificate programs, 397 Associate’s degree paths, and 35 Bachelor’s degree routes.
So there are plenty of options available; all it takes is a little research and commitment to start on your way.