Radiologic Technologist Career Overview
Updated August 25, 2022
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Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging exams on patients. They enjoy generous starting salaries and strong job prospects through 2028.
This guide covers radiologic technologist careers, including degree and certification options.
|Median Annual Salary||$59,520|
|Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028||9%|
|Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028||19,000|
|Average Entry-Level Education Requirements||Associate Degree|
|Annual Salary of the Highest 10%||$86,350|
|Annual Salary of the Lowest 10%||$40,630|
Source: BLS.gov: OOH, May 2018
What is a Radiologic Technologist?
Also called radiographers, radiologic technologists capture images of patients to assist physicians in diagnosing illnesses and injuries. These professionals use radiation to perform diagnostic imaging tests, unlike MRI technologists, who specialize in magnetic resonance imaging diagnostics. Radiologic technologists may specialize in areas like computed tomography (CT) imaging or mammography.
Most radiologic technologist jobs require an associate degree. Prospective radiologic technology students should look for programs with accreditation through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Students may need to complete an accredited program to qualify for certification or licensure, which most states require. While requirements vary by state, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) awards certification in many specializations.
- Computed Axial Tomography Technologist
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scanner Operator
- Radiologic Technician
- Registered Radiologic Technologist
- X-Ray Technician
What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?
Radiologic technologists assist physicians in performing diagnostic imaging tests, including X-rays, CT scans, and mammograms, using a radiation-based photographic process. Radiologic technologists may help diagnose issues such as broken bones, soft-tissue damage, and abnormal growths.
Roughly 60% of radiologic technologists work in state, local, and private hospitals.
Some radiologic technologists specialize in a type of diagnostic imaging, such as CT scans, computed axial tomography (CAT) scans, or mammograms. CT and CAT scan specialists may require patients to drink a formula that enables physicians to see soft tissue and organs on the final image. Radiologic technologists who specialize in mammograms focus on performing comprehensive diagnostic imaging tests of breasts, looking for soft tissue abnormalities, such as tumors.
Roughly 60% of radiologic technologists work in state, local, and private hospitals. The next-highest concentration of radiologic technologists work in physicians' offices, with the remainder of these professionals working in medical and diagnostic labs, outpatient care centers, and the federal government. Radiologic technologists need technical skills to operate and maintain the complex machinery used in diagnostic imaging, as well as soft skills to ensure patients' comfort throughout the procedure.
Radiation Therapists vs. Radiologic Technologists
Radiologic technologists and radiation therapists both need at least an associate degree to enter the field, and both types of professionals rely on radiation technology to do their job. However, radiologic technologists capture radiologic images of patients for diagnostic purposes, while radiation therapists provide radiation therapy to patients with a diagnosis such as cancer.
MRI Technologists vs. Radiologic Technologists
Both MRI technologists and radiologic technologists need at least an associate degree, and both types of professionals create diagnostic images of patients' internal organs, muscles, bones, and soft tissue.
MRI technologists do not need a license to practice in most states, and they use magnetic resonance technology to create images. In contrast, most states require radiologic technologists to hold certification or licensure, and they use radiation, rather than magnetic resonance, to take diagnostic images.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
Students considering a career as a radiologic technologist should pursue a degree or certificate through a program accredited by JRCERT. Programmatic accreditation through an organization like JRCERT enhances employment opportunities and often helps students earn credentials in less time than a program without accreditation. Students often specialize in an area of radiologic technology, leading to roles like registered radiologic technologist, CT scanner operator, or x-ray technician.
Most states require professional radiologic technologists to earn licensure or certification through ARRT. AART offers primary certification in radiography as well as in specialties like computed tomography and mammography. Some radiologic technologists may receive on-the-job training to gain experience while pursuing certification or licensure to practice in their state.
Vocational schools and community colleges typically offer one-year certificate programs in radiology or radiologic technology. Students who complete a JRCERT-accredited certificate program may qualify for entry-level employment depending on the certification requirements in their state.
Core coursework explores topics like medical terminology, radiobiology, and principles of imaging. Programs also typically include an internship that gives students hands-on training in the field. Graduates may pursue an associate degree or entry-level employment in some states.
Associate Degree Programs
Most radiologic technologists hold an associate degree in radiology. Radiology associate degrees typically take two years to complete and include general education, core, and major coursework in subjects like advanced imaging, pathology, and patient care. Students may also complete a clinical practicum to gain hands-on career training.
Graduates prepare to take the ARRT exam to qualify for certification or licensure in their state. Even in states that do not require certification or licensure, employers typically prefer to hire radiologic technologists with an associate degree.
Professional Licensure and Certification
Most states require radiologic technologists to hold certification through ARRT. Candidates can pursue credentials in one of 13 specialties, including registered radiologist assistant, radiography, and computed tomography. Though state requirements vary, most employers prefer, if not require, radiologic technologists to hold licensure or certification.
To earn certification, candidates must hold an accredited associate degree, complete a training program in didactic coursework and clinical experience, and pass a national exam. Radiologic technologists must meet annual continuing education requirements through the American Society of Radiologic Technologists to maintain their credentials.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you go to school to be a radiology tech?
Most students pursue an associate degree in radiologic technology, which takes roughly two years of full-time study to complete, though some online programs offer accelerated options.
How much does a radiologist tech make?
Radiologist technicians earned an annual average salary of $59,520 in 2018, which is in line with the average salaries of many diagnostic imaging professionals.
What is the difference between a radiology technician and radiologic technologist?
The primary difference is education. Generally, technologists hold an associate degree or higher, while technicians only need a diploma or certificate.
How do I become a radiologic technologist?
Radiologic technologists need at least an associate degree in radiography and state-issued certification or licensure to practice.
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