The number of first-year students enrolled in radiology technology (RT) programs fell for the third straight year in 2010, reflecting a field with a low job vacancy rate where six-month post-graduation placement hovers around 75 percent, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT).
As part of the "2010 Enrollment Snapshot of Radiography, Radiation Therapy and Nuclear Medicine Technology Programs," the ASRT sent questionnaires to more than 1,000 directors of radiography, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine programs, soliciting responses from 629 participants.
The ASRT estimated that 15,948 students enrolled in radiography and 1,462 in radiation therapy technology programs in 2010, representing a 4.8 percent drop in radiography enrollment and a 2.9 percent fall in radiation therapy. Meanwhile, enrollment in nuclear medicine technology programs increased by 5.3 percent, though remaining substantially lower than radiography enrollment, at 1,534 new students.
The ASRT conjectured at several reasons for the slowdown. For one, nearly 11 percent of radiography program directors and 10 percent of radiation therapy directors indicated that they plan to decrease their programs' enrollments, while only 4.7 and 5.7 percent of directors for those programs, respectively, acknowledged plans to increase student enrollment.
"Radiologic science programs seem to be responding to the low vacancy rate in the current job market by decreasing enrollment numbers," said Myke Kudlas, MEd, RT, chief academic officer for ASRT, which is based in Albuquerque, N.M. "In addition, with the number of qualified candidates applying, programs can be more selective in who they admit."
A total of 18,012 applicants were turned away from programs in 2010 due to limited enrollment, with 56 percent of radiography programs and 51 percent of radiation therapy programs reporting full capacity (only 21 percent of nuclear medicine programs were filled). Meanwhile, in 2009, the ASRT found that 82 percent of radiography students, 77 percent of radiation therapy and 71 percent of nuclear medicine technology graduates were able to find employment in their fields within six months of graduating.