How to Become a Radiology Assistant in 5 Steps
Discover how to become a radiologist assistant. Learn about radiology assistant programs and certification requirements, along with job outlook and salary information, to find out if this is the career for you.
What Is a Radiology Assistant?
As a radiology assistant (RA), you'll assist the radiologist with patients undergoing invasive radiological procedures. Duties may include monitoring patients during and after procedures and making initial observations of diagnostic images for the radiologist. You'll likely take down patient medical history and explain procedures to patients. The table below provides detailed information for this career:
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree AND an accredited radiology assistant educational program|
|Education Field of Study||Radiological sciences|
|Key Responsibilities||Assist doctors during and after procedures, evaluate diagnostic images, communicate procedures to patients, document patients' medical histories|
|Licensure/Certification||State licensure and certification requirements vary|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)||12% (for all radiologic technologists)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$59,520 (for all radiologic technologists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Duties and How to Become a Radiologist Assistant
As a radiology assistant, you'd perform radiologic examinations, evaluate images and provide conclusions to radiologists. You would be responsible for maintaining and calibrating radiologic imaging equipment, as well as making sure patients are prepared for imaging procedures to ensure radiologist get the exact images they need. You should also be aware of and follow the different safety procedures associated with using radiologic equipment. In this career, like many other medical careers, it very important to keep detailed medical records of patients.
Step 1: Pursue Your Radiologist Assistant Education Requirements Early
If you're still in high school, you can begin preparing for college and for the career. Many high schools encourage shadow days, where you can spend the day with a radiology assistant observing his or her daily tasks. Most college prep programs train you in college writing, college-level science courses and college-level English courses. Otherwise, you can focus your studies on sciences and health electives.
Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Radiology Assistant Degree
Graduation from a baccalaureate degree program, such as the Bachelor of Science in Radiological Sciences is required to become a registered radiology assistant. Programs generally include coursework in nuclear medicine, anatomy, healthcare management, radiology protocol, patient care and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Step 3: Complete an Advanced Program
RAs must complete an accredited radiology assistant educational program consisting of classroom instruction and supervised clinical training. Typically, programs are two years in duration and contain courses in pharmacology, imaging, patient assessment, radiologic biology, radiological safety, fluoroscopy, research methods, medical terminology and instrumentation.
Step 4: Meet State Licensing Requirements
According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), you should check with the licensing authority in the state you plan to work to obtain licensure protocols (www.arrt.org). Every state has individual requirements, though some states accept the ARRT certification exam results as a licensing requirement.
Step 5: Obtain Certification
You can consider one of two options for receiving radiology assistant certification. The first option is the industry standard, the ARRT certification. To obtain certification, you must complete an accredited RA program and clinical experience of radiology procedures. To sit for the exam, your record must be free from felonies and misdemeanors. You can also earn certification through the Certification Board for Radiology Practitioner Assistants (www.cbrpa.org). To sit for this exam, you must already be an ARRT-registered radiology assistant and a graduate of an RA program.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
You could also pursue a career as a physician assistant, who specializes in any medical field where providing technical and diagnostic assistance. A few of these fields include family medicine, emergency medicine and surgery.
Some other related alternative careers include magnetic resonance imaging technologists, diagnostic medical sonographers and nuclear medicine technologists. Magnetic resonance imaging technologists prepare MRI equipment and make diagnostic MRI images. Diagnostic medical sonographers use ultrasound technology to also create medical diagnostic images for physicians. Similarly, nuclear medicine technologists use radioactive drugs and specialized equipment to detect abnormal and malignant growths.