Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) Certificate Programs

While much of the discussion about the rapidly advancing pace of technological innovation over the past several decades has focused on communication technologies such as broadband internet, smartphones, and related products, the medical field has seen a similar wave of disruption brought on by new technologies. Among the areas in which technology has led to major changes in medicine is the field of diagnostics.

While much of the diagnostic work done by physicians and other practitioners just a generation ago relied on the reading of external symptoms, the medical imaging technologies of today allow insights that previous generations could only have dreamed about. While the medical application of X-Rays was discovered in the late 19th century, other methods of scanning and imaging the human body were developed much later.

Today, medical imaging is a wide and varied field that has moved far beyond its grandfather technology, the X-ray. Tomography, MRI, and ultrasound are just a few of the more commonly used imaging technologies that make up the toolkit of modern Western medicine. While MRIs can create complex images of activity in the human body, ultrasounds are a mainstay in obstetrics.

The vast amount of data and images generated by the many machines and scans that make up the world of medical imaging must be properly stored and sorted, however. Not only do physicians and researchers need to be able to access and cross-reference medical images at quick notice, but the images created must also be properly and safely stored. Some imaging systems, such as MRI, are very expensive to maintain and operate, and repeating an imaging process is often not possible. Additionally, privacy concerns reign supreme in medical information, and the safe and secure storage of medical images and related documentation is paramount.

What are Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) Certificates?

Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) refers to a set of technologies and practices developed to properly store medical images. Because of the complexity of this task, it has not only given rise to an entirely new industry, but several new professions as well.

Aside from the medical imaging professionals that operate ultrasound, MRI or other imaging devices, as well as the physicians who interpret their data, there is now a growing need for professionals who can store, sort, and archive the images and related information.

As their name suggests, Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) certificates are a means by which aspiring workers in this new field can distinguish themselves and learn the newest practices of their profession. While the field is still growing and developing, its processes for certification and licensure are still being created.

A PACS certification is the only widely accepted certification process in the world of medical imaging archiving. It is thus a great entry point for entrants into this profession, as well as a career booster for individuals who are already working in the field.

Who Can benefit from a Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) Certificates?

PACS certification is a viable route both for new entrants into the field of medical imaging as well as individuals who have already managed to gain some experience in this rapidly growing field. Because many medical imaging technologies are so new, and the need for archiving and digitization systems is so large, there is still quite a bit of room for self-advancement and self-paced training in this realm.

A PACS certification is doubtlessly the most efficient and widely accepted form of training in the realm of medical imaging, and is a viable option for anyone interested in starting or maintaining a career in this field.

Admissions Requirements for Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) Certificate Programs

The admission requirements for PACS certification programs will vary between institutions, depending on the focus of the programs as well as the university or college offering them. In some cases, schools will require that applicants to their PACS programs have completed their studies as radiologists, with at least a completed associate degree in a field closely related to medical imaging.

In other situations, PACS certification programs are offered through adjunct programs and do not require applicants to enter the hosting institution. A few basic requirements will apply to nearly all programs, however:

  • Completed high school degree or equivalency
  • Application documents and fees
  • Course transcripts (where relevant)
  • Letter of recommendation

Accreditation for Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) Certificate Programs

Accreditation is how universities, colleges, and other institutions in the United States are evaluated. Because of the huge number of learning institutions found across the world today, systems like accreditation serve to ensure that students will achieve the learning outcomes they desire and that are required by their future employers.

Accreditation bodies regularly consult with students, administrators, and faculty to ensure that a particular institution is adhering to the standards set forth by the accreditation organization and the institution itself. In the United States, accreditation bodies work regionally, and which accrediting organization is responsible for a relative institution is largely tied to which region of the country it is located in. The main accreditation organizations in the US are:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

Featured Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) Certificate Programs

Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Institute of Technology, or OIT, offers a stand-alone certificate program to individuals interested in obtaining their PACS certification. Individuals who are interested in enrolling in the PACS program at OIT do not need to be accepted into the institution, as the PACS program is administered on a standalone basis. Because of this fact, however, there is no financial aid available to entrants into the program, according to the OIT homepage.

  • Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six to 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $281 per credit

Harrisburg Area Community College

While Harrisburg Area Community College may sound like a very specific location, HACC, as it is better known, has moved significantly into the online learning space, and now offers many degree plans via its distance learning program. As such, HACC may be a good fit for students outside of the Harrisburg area, or even Pennsylvania.

HACC’s “radiology informatics associate in applied science” combines the PACS certification with a deep course of study in the field of radiology, and is thus the ideal fit for prospective students looking to attain multiple qualifications over the same course of time. In addition to preparing students for all three levels of PACS certification, HACC’s program also offers the opportunity to gain certification through the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII), provided they have worked in the field for a minimum of three years.

  • Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three years
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,198

Weber State University

Weber State University offers its PACS program through its School of Radiologic Sciences, and is focused on a streamlined and straightforward delivery of the required skill set for the PACS certification. In addition to the Picture Archiving and Communication Systems certification, Weber State’s courses can also be applied to the continuing education requirements set forth by the ABII and those of the American Association of Radiologic Technologists (AART). Weber State’s program is fully available online, making this a great choice for students searching for a remote learning experience.

  • Location: Ogden, Utah
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six to 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state tuition, $6,228 per year; out-of-state tuition, $16,644 per year.

Clarkson College

Clarkson College in Omaha, Nebraska is another viable option for prospective students looking to complete their PACS coursework in an online learning environment.

Clarkson offers students the opportunity to begin their coursework in the spring, summer or fall, making this a great choice for individuals whose schedules may be subject to change or who are already working and need greater flexibility in scheduling. Additionally, Clarkson students will qualify for the ABII examination upon competition over the 12 semester hours required by the program.

  • Location: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six to 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $632 per credit

Eastern Florida State College

Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa, Florida, offers the opportunity to attain a PACS certification to students pursuing a degree in medical imaging via its institution.

As opposed to a few other institutions listed here, EFSC’s PACS certification is only available to individuals already licensed as radiologists and in good standing with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board. As such, this program is geared towards professionals with a working knowledge of medical imaging technologies and their uses, and not a good fit for individuals who are just beginning their journey into the field.

  • Location: Cocoa, Florida
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state tuition, $2,496; out-of-state tuition, $9,739 per semester
Johannes Stitz
Johannes Stitz Writer

Johannes Stitz is a freelance writer and researcher based in the Southwest. He’s written about various topics in medical technology careers. Before turning to freelance writing, he spent nearly a decade in the arts as a booker and event manager.