What is a Radiological Science and Technologies Degree?

Degree programs in radiological science and technologies prepare students for careers as radiologic technologists. These professionals, also known as radiographers, use medical diagnostic equipment, tools, and instruments to capture images of the organs, bones, and tissues inside the body. They also analyze and interpret these images in consultation with doctors and other medical team members.

In addition to learning imaging procedures and image interpretation, students take foundational courses in anatomy and physiology, physics, and pathology. They also learn how to maintain imaging equipment, prepare patients for imaging procedures, and protect patients from harmful radiation.

Program Options

Certificate in Radiological Science and Technologies – Varying, Typically Short Duration
Most certificate programs in radiological science and technologies are designed for individuals already employed in the healthcare sector, who wish to add radiography to their resume. The curriculum covers the basics of the field from the perspective of individuals with a certain medical familiarity.

Associate Degree in Radiological Science and Technologies – Two to Three Year Duration
The associate degree is the credential that most radiologic technologists hold. Programs are made up of courses in the major and general education courses in subjects like English, mathematics, and psychology.

Here is a snapshot of the core courses in the associate curriculum:

  • Health and Safety – infection control, radiation safety, patient care
  • Professional Practice – ethics and professional behavior
  • Image Acquisition and Quality Management – factors affecting image quality, hands-on experience using radiographic imaging systems
  • Radiographic Imaging of the Appendicular Skeleton – radiographic positioning of the appendicular skeleton, capturing images using anthropomorphic phantoms (large body-shaped cylinders with organ, bone, and tissue simulation inserts)
  • Research in Healthcare – theory and practical skills for conducting research activities
  • Specialized Radiographic Procedures – for a variety of clinical settings, performing vein puncture
  • Specialized Imaging Systems – use of fluoroscopic systems, computed tomography (CT) systems, and mammographic systems in clinical settings
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Procedures – evaluating CT procedures of the head, spine, extremities, chest, abdomen, and pelvis; examining cross-sectional images; identifying skeletal structures and soft tissues with and without contrast enhancement
  • Pathology and Adaptive Radiography – adapting radiographic procedures based on patient condition; pathologies (diseases) associated with the appendicular long bones and joints and axial skeleton, thorax, abdomen, and nervous system
  • Radiographic Positioning of the Axial Skeleton, Thorax, and Abdomen – further radiographic positioning in the laboratory setting
  • Inter-professional Healthcare Education – improving patient care as part of a medical team, the roles of different professionals
  • Clinical Applications – professionally supervised clinical education at diagnostic imaging departments, including patient care, radiographic positioning, equipment use, radiation protection, and image assessment; clinical rotations including imaging of skeletal, digestive, respiratory, urinary, and reproductive systems; imaging procedures for vascular/interventional studies, bone mineral density, and mammography

Bachelor’s Degree in Radiological Science and Technologies – Four Year Duration
Bachelor’s programs in radiological science and technologies accomplish two objectives. Like an associate program in the discipline, they prepare students for a career in radiography. But they also give graduates wider options by fulfilling the pre-med bachelor’s degree requirement to apply for medical school.

Degrees Similar to Radiological Science and Technologies

Clinical Laboratory Science
Degree programs in clinical laboratory science prepare students to work as laboratory technicians, who use chemicals and other substances to test body fluids and tissues for the purpose of diagnosing diseases. The curriculum combines chemistry, biology, and medicine.

Cytotechnology is the study of cells and cellular anomalies. Cytotechnologists use a microscope to examine slides of human cells to uncover evidence of abnormalities that may reveal inflammation, infection, or disease.

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, of the complex collection of interacting cells, known as the brain.

Nuclear Medicine Technology
Nuclear medicine technology uses radioactive drugs or radiopharmaceuticals to help diagnose and treat illnesses. Programs in the field include courses in anatomy and physiology, physics, medical microbiology and immunology, radiobiology, and pathophysiology.

There is no distinct pre-medicine degree. ‘Pre-medicine’ or ‘pre-med’ is merely a term that students planning to go to medical school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring doctors enter med school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees. A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory. In other words, a pre-med student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to medical school.

Respiratory Care
Respiratory care programs prepare students for careers as respiratory therapists. The curriculum focuses on how to diagnose and manage cardio-pulmonary disorders. Training includes performing CPR, using ventilators, and providing oxygen therapy.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to their skills in the areas of anatomy, radiography, and patient care, graduates of radiological science and technologies programs leave their studies with several transferable skills:

Attention to Detail
Radiologic technologists must capture clear and high-quality images of organs, bones, and tissues. This imagery is crucial to patients’ medical diagnosis and treatment.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Working with patients on a daily basis calls for someone who is not only adept at monitoring patients’ physical comfort, but sensitive and responsive to the emotional stress they may be experiencing. Empathy and compassion are essential.

Observation, Analysis, and Critical Thinking
Radiologic technologists must be able to correctly analyze and interpret the images they acquire.

Physical Stamina
Radiologic technologists are often on their feet for long periods and may need to lift and move patients who need assistance.

Teamwork and Collaboration
Radiologic technologists are part of a team of medical professionals, who share information and work together for the well-being of the patient.

Technical Skills
Radiological technology is an evolving field of medical science. It is, as the name implies, technology driven and complex. Anyone working in the field must be comfortable adapting to changes in computer software and technical equipment.

What Can You Do with a Radiological Science and Technologies Degree?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 60 percent of all jobs in the radiology technology field are at hospitals. Other possible employers include private clinics and practices, public health clinics, research laboratories, and imagining equipment sales and training.

In the hospital environment, technologists may work in a variety of areas, including:

  • Emergency
  • Operating Rooms
  • Mobile Radiography – radiography perform outside of hospitals – for example, in nursing homes
  • Fluoroscopy – medical imaging that shows a continuous X-ray image on a monitor, like an X-ray movie
  • General Radiography

Some may specialize in one or more of these areas:

  • Computed Tomography (CT) – combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around the body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the body’s bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues
  • Angiography / Cardiovascular Technology – releases a special dye into the coronary arteries to make the blood vessels visible via X-ray, allowing doctors to see how blood flows to the heart
  • Mammography – an X-ray imaging method used to examine the breast for detection of cancer and other diseases
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues inside the body
  • Nuclear Medicine Technology – uses radioactive drugs to produce images that help diagnose and manage disease
  • Sonography – uses high frequency sound waves to develop ultrasound images of the organs, tissues, and blood flow inside the body
  • Software Applications
  • Management and Training


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