How to Become a Radiation Technician in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for radiation technicians. Learn about job duties, education requirements, licensing and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Radiation Technician?

Radiation technicians, also called radiologic technologists or radiographers, are allied health professionals who take x-ray or computed tomography (CT) pictures of patient bodies for medical diagnosis purposes. They specifically look at patients' internal tissues and bones to help physicians diagnosis certain conditions or disease. They are aware of mixtures that patients can take in order to soften tissue that will be viewed on the images. Technologists may seek certification in several specialties, including mammography.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required Postsecondary certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Radiography, radiologic technology
Key Responsibilities Prepare patient for imaging exam; guide patient through procedure; help physician analyze images; follow safety rules to protect patient and self from radiation
Licensure/Certification Required License and/or certification required by some states
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 9%*
Average Salary (2015) $58,520*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Radiation Technician Do?

As a radiologic technologist, you explain imaging procedures to patients, position them properly for image capture and take precautions to eliminate unnecessary radiation exposure. You also position the imaging equipment and control the contrast and detail settings. You are responsible for updating patient records and retaking any images if necessary.

Step 1: Complete a Radiography Program

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most practicing professionals have completed associate's degree programs in radiography, or radiologic technology (www.bls.gov). Certificate programs are also commonly available. Courses in these programs typically cover anatomy and physiology, image production and analysis, positioning, radiologic equipment operation and patient care. In addition to classroom training, you'll complete clinical training and gain experience working with patients.

Step 2: Investigate Licensure Requirements

According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), about two-thirds of states require licensure of radiographers (www.arrt.org). Each state sets out its own regulations, so you'll need to consult the health board where you're located to find out your state's specific requirements, if any.

Step 3: Pursue Certification

You may obtain voluntary certification from the ARRT. The BLS notes that many employers prefer to hire certified applicants. Requirements for certification include graduating from a program approved by the organization and passing an examination. Passing the ARRT exam is also tied into licensure requirements for many states.

Step 4: Find a Job

After graduating from a radiography program and becoming credentialed, you can seek employment. You may work in a hospital, doctor's office, medical laboratory, diagnostic imaging center or outpatient care center.

Step 5: Consider Furthering Your Education

Bachelor's programs in radiologic technology are available and commonly designed as degree completion programs for registered radiographers. These programs are often available online and may include administration and leadership topics in the field. Schools also offer dedicated certificate programs in specific imaging areas such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which allow you to specialize and gain additional ARRT certification in the respective area upon graduation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers include diagnostic medical sonographers, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists. All three careers require at least an associate's degree. Diagnostic medical sonographers take images of patient's organs and tissues in the form of sonograms or ultrasounds. Radiation therapists use radiation treatments to help patients with various diseases, such as cancer. Nuclear medicine technologists distinguish between normal and abnormal areas of a patient using diagnostic images and radioactive drugs.

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