An Associate vs. Bachelor's in Radiology
Becoming a radiologist requires following the path to becoming a physician, with years of college, medical school and residency. However, you can begin working within the field as a radiology technician with as little as an associate degree, typically offered from community colleges and technical schools. A bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university adds to your skill and marketability in the field.
Entering an associate degree program in radiology typically requires completion of high school or a GED certificate and application to the school. Applicants may need to obtain certain scores on a placement test or have taken science and math courses in high school including algebra, chemistry, biology and physics. Since programs include clinical work, you may also need to pass a criminal background check. To enter a bachelor's degree program in radiology, applicants usually need to have completed two years of general college education, obtained an associate degree or achieved certification from the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.
The basic radiology concepts such as equipment information, techniques and theory are covered in both levels of programs with courses like those from Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Courses cover such topics as introduction to patient care, radiologic procedures and clinical pathophysiology. Bachelor's program courses expand on these concepts in more depth. They often include courses such as those at the University of New Mexico: medical imaging theory, physics of computed tomography and medical language systems review. Both also include clinical work.
The biggest differences between an associate and bachelor's program in radiology relate to the time involved. Since an associate degree takes approximately two years to complete and a bachelor's degree takes four years, the bachelor's program includes more in-depth radiology coursework and practice. A graduate with a bachelor's degree typically has more hands-on experience during schooling than one with an associate degree because of these time differences.
An associate degree allows graduates to obtain ASRT certification and work as radiology technicians in hospitals, medical offices, clinics and mobile imaging stations. Although some employers use on-the-job training to familiarize radiology technicians with more specialized equipment like MRI, CAT scan, vascular scanning and mammography devices, you can also learn about these methods and pieces of equipment through a bachelor's program. For students seeking to become full radiologists, the bachelor's degree is needed to enter medical school.