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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Medical Imaging/Radiography

Majors Overview March 7, 2014

Associate of Arts (A.A.) degrees in medical imaging are usually referred to as radiography, but some do call it medical imaging. Taking images for diagnosis of medical conditions is what most beginning radiographers do. Students will be trained to use sonographic, x-ray, computer-controlled, and magnetic equipment. They will also learn how to care for patients they are imaging.

A.A. Programs in Medical Imaging/Radiography

Students enrolled in Associate degree medical imaging programs are imparted knowledge and skills in image evaluation, taking images, adjusting equipment, protecting themselves from radiation, positioning and caring for a patient, and anatomy. Those who graduate can sit credentialing examinations for obstetrical and gynecological sonography, as well as for abdominal sonography. With the credentials added to the degree, they can seek entry-level employment. Earning an Associate of Applied Science can be the first step to earning a bachelor’s degree.

Education Prerequisites

Admission criteria in most schools offering medical imaging programs require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Some schools waive the requirement and instead make applicants take placement tests in math and English. Applicants are required to demonstrate a fluency level in these courses on par with school standards before they are allowed to begin core coursework in the degree program. Some other schools require students to demonstrate their abilities in math, writing and reading, through passage of COMPASS college placement tests with minimum passing scores specified.

Coursework

Coursework can span 2-3 summers apart from the four semesters that an associate degree would typically require. Coursework may commonly include topic areas such as:

•Physics behind the equipment
•Head and vertebrae imaging
•Practicum
•Chest, extremities and abdomen imaging
•How different pathologies look on images
•Radiographic terminology
•Evaluating images
•Principles for producing radiographic images
•Healthcare skills
•Anatomy and physiology
•Patient and equipment positioning

Career Choices

Continued education or a specific amount of work experience may be needed to seek certain careers in medical imaging. Graduates may choose from several job options such as:

•Clinical applications specialist
•Sonographer
•Ultrasound technologist
•Registered vascular technician
•Radiology systems supervisor

Employment Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 21% has been projected for radiologic technologists during the decade from 2012 to 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)), with the best opportunities expected to be enjoyed by radiologic technologists holding multiple certifications.

Continuing Education and Certification Choices

Those who successfully complete medical imaging degree programs can seek credentials offered by various professional agencies. Certification or licensure is mandatory in most states for radiologic technologists (BLS). After they graduate, individuals will become eligible to take the exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) for the certified radiologic technologist (CRT) credential.

Certification is renewable every two years; this can be achieved by taking 24 hours of continuing education (CE) credits during the period. Certain organizations that offer CE credits are approved by the ARRT. Continuing education courses and services are offered by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), a widely-recognized professional agency, among others.

A wide array of medical imaging certifications is offered by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). The Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialty (OB/GYN) and the Abdomen Specialty (AB) are two credentials that new graduates of medical imaging programs are eligible to test for. These comprise two out of the five examinations they would need to pass in order to accomplish the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) credential. A list of approved continuing medical education (CME) providers is also maintained by the ARDMS.

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