Radiologic technologists work in a high-tech, high touch and highly sensitive healthcare industry. Also known as radiologic techs, they frequently work with individuals being tested for symptoms and signs of diseases which means many times they work with people who are experiencing pain, are afraid, or may lack social support.
As a radiologic technologist, you get to be the person who can change the mood and perception of your patients even though your interaction is limited. You have to work closely with people, positioning them in the right places and protecting them from excess radiation exposure. Ensuring your patients are comfortable is an essential component of your work.
Therefore, radiologic technologists are in a unique position. They get to combine high-tech skills with soft people skills and in the process they have an opportunity to help people in a significant manner.
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Steps to Become a Radiologic Technologist
- Complete education requirements—most opt for an associate’s if you have no previous medical experience;
- Pass national ARRT certification;
- Qualify for state licensing, where applicable.
Can I Complete Radiologic Technologist Education Requirements Online?
Several accredited online radiology technology schools offer associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. However, note that most will eventually require you to report in-person for supervised radiologic technologist training.
Even if you choose an associate’s radiologic technology degree becoming a radiologic technologist is not easy. Not only will you have to complete higher-level science courses, but you’ll also learn about body imaging techniques and practice the correct patient body positions required to safely scan various body parts using different imaging equipment.
In general, all radiologic technologist programs include the following core subjects:
- Radiology theory
- Patient Positioning
- Patient Safety
Three different educational paths will all take on your way to becoming a radiologic technologist:
- A 20 to 24-month certificate program
- A two-year associate degree
- A four-year bachelor’s degree
Many programs now also require candidates to pass coding and medical office courses as these subjects have gained importance on the job.
Whichever radiologic technologist online school you choose, make sure your program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), the national organization dealing with the accreditation of radiological technological training programs.
Check your program’s accreditation at the JRCERT or American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) websites. This can prevent you from wasting a lot of time and resources in a program that is not properly accredited.
A certificate program is an excellent option if you have considerable experience with radiologic technology and are changing medical disciplines.
You can obtain a certification via a traditional program or through online courses. The program is usually available at technical schools, community colleges and some private hospitals. In the case of hospitals, you typically have to be employed by them already and they will provide you the training required.
The certificate program is usually an intensive curriculum and the course load is typically heavy. Prerequisites to acceptance to certificate programs usually include medical experience and medical ethics courses. The following programs can be completed 100% online.
- Fort Hays State University Certificate in Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Forsyth Technical Community College Computed Tomography and Magnetic Imaging Technology
- California State University - Northridge Concurrent Advanced Professional Development Certificates in Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging
A majority of radiologic techs earn their stripes via an associate’s degree. Associate’s degrees are offered in many accredited community and private colleges.
The coursework for an associate’s degree in radiologic technology is often quite loaded as compared to other associate level degrees. The workload is usually similar to a bachelor’s degree. Coursework will always involve regular classes and will be supplemented with laboratory work.
In addition to the basic courses outlined above, you will usually have to take a few other subjects, including pathology, radiation physics and ethics in the medical field.
- Mohawk Valley Community College Associate of Science in Health Studies - Radiologic Technology
- Minnesota State Community and Technical College Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology
A few universities offer students an opportunity to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Science. Additional courses compared to the two previous degrees include radiobiology and more advanced concepts in the basic subjects. A bachelor’s degree will most likely require you to complete a rotation in a radiology department at a clinic or hospital. Most will require students to already be registered as a radiologic tech. Bachelor degrees in radiologic technologies are great options for mid-career adults looking to re-tool or advance in their careers.
- Saint Joseph’s University Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science Administration
- Fort Hays State University Bachelor of Science in Medical Diagnostic Imaging
- Thomas Edison State University Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Sciences
- Midwestern State University Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science
Radiologic Technologist Certification & Licensing
Once you have completed your training and obtained a degree, you need to get certified from the national regulating body, the ARRT. To obtain this certification you will have to successfully pass an examination held by the ARRT within three years of completing your degree.
Every state has its own radiological technologist licensing regulations. The majority will require ARRT licensing, but you should check the requirements for the state in which you want to practice your profession.
Choosing a Specialty
Generally, you can specialize in a few different fields including computed tomography (CT), mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), medical sonography, cellular imaging, neuroradiology, musculoskeletal and medical imaging.
Any specialization will necessitate additional training and ARRT certification.
Continuing Education Requirements
As a radiologic technologist, you have to be certified by the ARRT. Moreover, once your education is complete and you have obtained your ARRT certification, you cannot sit back and relax.
Similar to many professional jobs, you will have to undertake continuing education to retain your ARRT certification. You need to complete 24 credit hours over a biennium reporting period, regardless of the type and number of ARRT certifications you possess.
X-Ray Tech(nologist) vs. Radiological Technologist
X-ray technologists are limited in the scope of their work. They can normally only perform x-rays of the chest and limbs, including hand, wrist and foot.
You can become an x-ray tech, short for x-ray technologist, by following a specific course designed to allow you to take x-rays. Generally, the subject material is simpler and shorter than radiologic technologist education. It takes, on average, 14 months to complete an x-ray technologist course versus two years to obtain a radiology technologist associate’s degree.
Radiologic technologists perform the work of an x-ray technologist, but also perform many other types of body imaging work, such as MRIs, CT scans and so on, depending on the certifications they have obtained from the ARRT.
These two titles are not to be confused with radiology technicians who service the imaging equipment.
Why Become A Radiologic Technologist?
Certified radiologic technologists perform human diagnostic imaging. This is a lot more complicated than it sounds. Radiologic technologists have to be trained in multiple disciplines, including ethical behavior because they have to effectively communicate with patients. In this industry, you will come in contact with many vulnerable people, who are afraid about what the results of their testing might reveal.
Patients can be extremely emotional and some may even be fearful of the imaging process. For instance, patients with claustrophobic feelings might be unwilling to go in an MRI chamber and might be quite fidgety once in there.
As a radiologic technologist, your job will not only be to know how to use the equipment and how to position a person, but also how to manage patients, how to calm them down and alleviate their fears. This is a challenging job, but it can be very rewarding when you are able to successfully get through a session by calming a particularly antsy patient.
Some important qualities you should have if you are thinking about a career as a radiologic technologist include the following skills:
Math Skills – You will need to use precise calculations to know the right doses of chemicals you need to mix for imaging procedures.
Physical Stamina – You will have to frequently work long hours standing on your feet and moving around patients who need some mobility help or to simply get patients in the best position for an image.
Attention to Detail – You must follow specific instructions to the letter to obtain clear and usable images as well as to keep your patients safe from unnecessary radiation exposure.
Technical Skills – You will have to learn how to use complicated pieces of machinery with ease and efficiency.
Interpersonal Skills – As mentioned previously, dealing with patients, many who might be traumatized, will be a big part of your daily work routine and you need to have the patience and skills to comfort people and get images that are usable for diagnostic purposes.
Radiologic Technologist Salary
A radiologic technologist career path provides an excellent source of income, especially when you consider that you only need a two-year associate’s degree and a professional certification to be successful.
The US National Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average pay in 2014 for radiologic technologists was over $57,000 (representing approximately $27.50 per hour). That’s fair compensation for a career that does not even require a bachelor’s degree.
When starting out, you can expect to earn closer to $37,600. Pay can rise to a handsome $80,000 for the top 10% of radiologic technologists in the country.
A career as a radiologic technologist has an excellent outlook for people looking to go into this field. The 10-year job outlook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9% growth in the industry from 2014 to 2024. This may not sound like a lot, but this growth rate is faster than the average growth rate of all professions.
Almost 60% of jobs in this field are located in general medical and specialized surgical hospitals and radiologic technologists working in this domain can expect an average salary of $58,610.
You can also work in the offices of physicians, medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers and within the Federal Executive Branch. The last category carries the highest average salary at $60,040, but it is also the one that employs very few radiologic technologists. Only 2.5% of all radiologic technologists worked in this field in 2014.
The salary for radiologic technologists in California are the highest, averaging just over $73,500. Within California, there are approximately 670 radiologic technologists working in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan area and they bring in an average salary of $92,410, the highest average for any metropolitan area in the United States.
However, the city that employs the largest number of radiologic technologist is New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division. There were 7,060 radiologic technologists working in this metropolitan area in 2014 and they made an average salary of $70,890.
If you are more of a country boy or gal, then Northeastern Oklahoma may suit your fancy since the 250 radiologic technologists working in this neighborhood made an average salary of $93,560.