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What is a Radiology Technician and What Do They Do?

The healthcare industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Nearly every employment sector in that field is expanding and offering terrific salaries to qualified professionals. While many think of healthcare as being primarily filed with doctors and nurses, many other skilled workers are needed to deliver the best care to patients. Radiology is one of the fields that may be overlooked when considering a new career. These medical imaging professionals are a vital part of the health delivery process in that their technical skill and interpersonal acumen is necessary to diagnose a wide range of illnesses, injuries, and disorders.

Radiology technologists can begin their careers with a two-year associate degree, a professional certification, and state licensure. From that point, they can earn higher certifications and become licensed for more advanced procedures. Others may head back to a college or university for higher academic credentials. Please keep reading to learn more about this exciting and growing part of the healthcare industry.

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Steps to Become a Radiology Tech

A radiologic technician is a medical professional who operates imaging equipment for the purposes of diagnosing and treating injuries and illnesses. This is a field that blends technical skill with an ability to work with patients who may be experiencing extreme duress. Thus, this is a career that may be perfect for an outgoing, compassionate, but technically minded individual.

With that in mind, the job of a radiologic technologist is open to anyone who is willing and able to complete the training. Over the course of the training, students may be able to specialize in a specific imaging technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, x-rays, sonography, or mammography. The minimum training required to work as a radiologic technologist is an associate degree, but some earn a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree in the field.

In fact, it's possible to begin a career with an associate degree and the later return to school to become a full-fledged radiologic technologist, who earns as much or more than some medical doctors. Another option is to earn new certifications along the course of a career. Radiologic technologists who can pass the appropriate exams can earn licenses to work in pulmonary imaging, dental imaging, breast sonography, MRI, or vascular sonography, among many other options.

This page is designed to help aspiring radiologic technologists learn more about the career. Topics include radiology licensure, career opportunities, and salary data, among others. For those who are interested in becoming radiologic technologists, this is a terrific place to start exploring the possibilities.

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  • Step 1: Education Requirements

  • Step 2: Internship or Apprentice

  • Step 3: Licensing & Certifications

  • Step 4: Continuing Education and License Maintenance

steps to take radiology technician careers

Step 1: Education Requirements

Radiologic technologists must be licensed by their state. Thus, every radiologic technologist must complete a course of study that has been approved by their state's regulatory body. In general, radiologic technologists can complete a two-year associate degree which should satisfy their licensing board. However, students should confirm that their program is acknowledged by the state before enrolling. Some states may also accept a certificate from a qualified training program to work as a radiologic technologist. Again, these radiologic technologist programs should be vetted to ensure that they provide satisfactory instruction based on the requirements of your particular state.

Radiologic technologist certificate and degree programs can be found in traditional campus programs, online, and in hybrid radiology programs. Students who opt for an online radiologic technology degree program should be certain that they can schedule time for their schoolwork and that they have the discipline to stick to that schedule. They should also keep an eye on their eventual certifying examination with the AART, which may also satisfy state licensing requirements.

Note that the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) starts credentials with a primary track. This track requires an associate degree from a program accepted by the AART. For more information, the AART lists those programs on its website.

Step 2: Internship or Apprentice

Since radiologic technologists is such a hands-on profession that involves patients, an internship or apprenticeship is vital to long-term success. During these experiential learning periods, students learn nuances with regard to the machines they will use and how to work with patients. While it can be valuable to choose an internship or apprenticeship in their desired field, many students find that they benefit from experiences outside of their chosen area as well. Thus, a student who has their heart set on performing sonograms on pregnant women might benefit from working with elderly patients in a long-term care facility or time in an imaging clinic where they might work with a variety of technologies and patients.

Many radiologic technologist programs help students find imaging labs or other clinics that offer these learning experiences. Students may also find these programs by way of membership in a professional association. Those who use their membership to actively network within the field find that they not only land terrific learning experiences but great jobs, too.

Step 3: Licensing & Certifications

According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, 75% of all states require licensure to practice radiology in their state. While AART offers its own professional certifications, many states have adopted the AART's exams as part of their licensing criteria.

Radiology licensing boards may also require a period of supervised practice and a letter of recommendation. Students are urged to discuss licensing with their academic advisors. Since programs have a vested interest in their students achieving licensure, the curriculum should be geared toward passing the examination and they should help students otherwise meet state standards for careers as radiologic technologists.

Radiologic technologist students who aren't required to earn a state license will find that passing an AART exam and thereby earning a certification will have an easier time in the job market. Since student memberships are affordably priced, it can be invaluable to join.

Step 4: Continuing Education and License Maintenance

Radiologic technologists will also need to maintain their licensure according to their state's requirements. Most often, this involves paying a renewal fee and submitting some minor paperwork. Along with that, many states require that licensed radiologic technicians show proof that they have met their continuing education standards. These standards can be met by completing courses or attending approved lectures or seminars. Continuing education can be a way for radiologic technologists to not only maintain their current credentials but to also begin gaining knowledge towards a new certification.

Since not every state requires licensure, much less continuing education credits, radiologic technicians are urged to earn AART certification. To maintain that credential, radiologic technologists need to complete continuing education credits. AART requires that certificate holders complete a total of 24 credits for every two-year period. However, registered radiologist assistants must complete 50 credits every two years.

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Imaging professionals should consult the AART's requirements to be sure that they maintain their specific credentials. The AART's resources will also enable a radiologist to change their specialty area with new certifications. In fact, other professional associations for radiologic technologists offer options for certifications and continuing education.

Where Do Radiology Technicians Work?

Radiologic technologists work in a variety of environments, depending on their specialty. Some may work in the radiology department of a hospital, for instance, and others may find work for a radiology center as the only concern in that building. Others can work in doctor's offices, such as a sonogram specialist who works for a gynecologist. Radiologic technologists also work in imaging centers that provide a variety of similar services.

In fact, when a radiologic technologists chooses a specialty, this helps to determine where they will end up working. Those who prefer performing sonograms can seek out work with gynecologists and thus help steer themselves into smaller doctor's offices. Other radiologic technologists may choose to work more with elderly patients so might steer themselves towards x-ray work, which is more likely to be found in a long-term care facility or hospital. Those who prefer the hustle and bustle of a large hospital are in luck since nearly every radiology specialty is found in a hospital.

Why Choose this Career?

There are many reasons to enter healthcare as a radiologic technologists or technician. Many are attracted to the fact that their career will be dedicated to helping others in their quest to regain or retain their health. These folks enjoy working with technology, but don't necessarily want to spend all of their time staring at a computer screen. They will work with mechanical devices including sonogram devices, large MRI machines, and x-ray equipment. Radiologic technologists should also like working with people, even when they are experiencing distress.

On top of all of those reasons, this is a very good career from a pragmatic point of view. Radiologic technologists make good salaries and have terrific job prospects. The healthcare field is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation and it doesn't show any signs of slowing. Since radiology is an increasingly important part of diagnosing disease and injury, radiologists surely have a bright future.

Professional Organizations

  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
    This is one of the most important associations in the profession. AART's examinations are accepted by many states as qualification for licensure. Note that the AART has three tiers of professional certification that include specialties such as nuclear medicine, radiography, mammography, vascular sonography, and registered radiologist assistant, which is their top tier credential.
  • American Society of Radiologic Technologists
    Members of the ASRT are able to take advantage of valuable continuing education opportunities, a career center, and community discussion boards that can answer nearly any question. There are even career opportunities available for those who wish to transition into facilitating brilliant careers.
  • Association for Radiologic & Imaging Nursing
    Nurses who specialize in radiology and imaging need to join this professional association. They provide advocacy for members and the profession as a whole, continuing education opportunities, a career center, a certifying examination, and discounted, high-quality publications.
  • American Association of Dental Radiographic Technicians
    Members to the AADMRT are privy to members-only benefits that include a newsletter, educational resources, conferences, and opportunities to network and fellowship with colleagues. There are also student memberships available for those still in training.

Radiologic Technologist Career and Salary Outlook

Radiologic technologists have a bright future ahead of them. Given the explosive growth in healthcare, they can take advantage of terrific salaries, loads of job opportunities, and a field that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) claims is growing faster than average. Whether students are seeking radiology as a steppingstone to something else in the health-sciences field or a destination career, they are sure to be pleased.

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As for salary, the BLS reports that the median wage for radiologic and MRI technologists is currently over $63,000. Another source,, lists the average salary at around $55,000. This disparity may be due to a number of factors, so readers are urged to view these numbers as general guidelines. Individual employers are sure to offer their own unique compensation packages.

On the other hand, BLS shows higher figures for diagnostic medical sonographers, whose median salary is reportedly over $70,000. Their job opportunities are projected to grow by 12% through 2029 and their typical educational level is an associate degree.

For those who decide to return to school for advanced training, the option to become a radiologist emerges. Those professionals have at least a bachelor's degree, if not a master's degree or even a full medical degree. Payscale's research indicates that their average salary is over $300,000 per year. As for job growth, technologists are looking forward to great growth and opportunity. The BLS projects 7% growth for radiologic and MRI technologists through 2029.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is magnetic resonance imaging?

Magnetic resonance imaging is a tool used by radiologic technologists to form anatomy pictures and study the physiological processes of the body.

Where radiologic technologists work?

Radiologic technologists work in doctors offices, clinics, medical laboratories, private and public hospitals, and outpatient centers.

Do you need a bachelor's degree to be a radiologic technologist?

The minimum degree requirement for a radiologic technologist is an associate's degree. A bachelor's degree is generally preferred and can earn you more money and better job opportunities.

Are radiologic technologists required to be licensed?

Radiologic technologists are required to be licensed in every state.

What is the outlook for radiology jobs?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate for radiologic technologists is 9%.

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