Radiology Assistant: Career Definition, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a radiology assistant. Learn about job duties, licensing and certification, education requirements and salary potential to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Radiology Assistant Do?

Radiology assistants are an advanced type of radiology technologist. They help radiologists manage and assess patients by performing radiologic procedures. These procedures may include taking diagnostic images used by physicians. When doing so they need to follow detailed instructions from physicians, prepare patients for procedures, implement proper safety protocol and operate computerized equipment. They are also responsible for calibrating and maintaining medical radiologic equipment. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree programs available
Education Field of Study Radiology assistant
Key Responsibilities Take patient medical history, operate diagnostic imaging equipment, help radiologist evaluate images
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in some states; voluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (for all radiologic technologists)*
Median Salary (2015) $56,670 (for all radiologic technologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is a Radiology Assistant?

According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the position of radiology assistant, which is an advanced role for technologists, was not mentioned until March of 2002 (www.asrt.org). In fact, the first educational program was not available until 2003. As a radiology assistant, you'll be an extension of a radiologist. You won't hold the responsibility of diagnosing illnesses; however you'll assist a radiologist by taking family history, describing a procedure, performing fluoroscopic procedures, ordering additional images and making preliminary judgments of images. You'll work in a hospital, outpatient facility or diagnostic imaging center.

What Are My Job Prospects?

Since the position of radiology assistant is relatively new, career data specifically for assistants isn't available; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected job growth of nine percent for all radiologic technologists during the 2014-2024 decade. This is faster than the average for all U.S. occupations and is due in part to an aging population that will continue to need more radiologic procedures. In addition, changes in federal health laws will mean more patients have access to health insurance and thus to medical care.

The BLS also reports that radiology technologists earned a median salary of $56,670 in May 2015, with 195,590 workers employed in the U.S. Most of these workers were employed in general medical and surgical hospitals (www.bls.gov).

What Should I Study?

You are expected to earn a bachelor's degree; however, more than half of the schools that offer radiology assistant programs offer a master's degree. These programs study research methods, radiology coding, healthcare principles, pharmacology, radiology procedures, medical reporting, ethics, anatomy and pathophysiology.

Are There Credentials?

Every state has different requirements for licensure. However, you can seek certification through one of the radiology organizations. For instance, the Certification Board for Radiology Practitioner Assistants offers a certification option specifically for radiology assistants, the CRPA (www.cbrpa.org). To attain CRPA certification, it's required that you already hold certification or registration from the American Registry for Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) (www.arrt.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several options for individuals interested in using medical equipment to help physicians with diagnoses. Diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists use special medical instruments to create sonograms for areas of the body including the heart and abdomen. Nuclear medicine technologist also operate imaging technology that creates diagnostic images. These professionals use radioactive drugs that cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas. Taking it a step further, radiation therapists administer radiation treatments to cancer patients.

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