How to Become a Radiology Technician in 5 Steps
Radiology technicians use complex machines to perform medical imaging scans. Learn what it takes to become a radiology technician including the training needed, certification options and licensure requirements by reading below.
What Is a Radiology Technician?
Radiology technicians, also known as radiologic technologists, are health professionals responsible for the use and maintenance of medical imaging devices. They provide doctors with the results of X-rays, CT scans, and other types of medical scans, which are then used to help diagnose and treat illnesses. In addition to using the machines and ensuring they are correctly calibrated, radiology techs will interact with patients who are being scanned and must help them through the imaging process. This may involve covering areas of a patient that are not being scanned, taking notes and keeping records on patient information, and physically assisting patients into or out of imaging machines.
Because radiology technicians primarily work with machines that give off radiation, some health concerns may accompany this career. Radiology technicians must be very careful to follow safety procedures to avoid accidental exposure to radiation.
How to Become a Radiology Technician
Step 1: Learn About Radiology Technician Requirements and Prerequisites
As with many medical-related career fields, there are several requirements that applicants must meet before being admitted to a radiology technician degree program. Students may need to provide the results of a recent physical exam from a doctor, as well as a record of up-to-date vaccinations for certain diseases. Background checks regarding criminal history may also be required, as well as drug screenings.
Additionally, certain courses may be required as prerequisites before being allowed to enroll in a program. These might include math and science courses, as well as courses in English and medical terminology. Volunteering requirements may also exist, asking that students complete a certain amount of volunteer work with radiology, allowing a prospective student to experience the realities of the job before committing.
Step 2: Enroll in an Accredited Radiology Tech Training Program
Attending a school that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is recommended. Radiology tech programs are most commonly offered as associate's degrees, able to be completed in 2 years, though bachelor's programs in radiology do exist. Such programs include courses like:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Introduction to radiologic technology
- Radiographic physics and equipment
Radiology tech programs also commonly include a clinical component, offering hands-on learning opportunities at hospitals or other healthcare facilities nearby.
Step 3: Acquire Licensure as a Radiology Technician
In most states, you'll need to get licensure as a radiology technician to work in the profession. While requirements vary from state to state, generally it's necessary to pass a licensure exam and graduate from an approved program. There may also be requirements relating to practical experience, and sometimes certification is part of the process as well. Licenses must be renewed regularly, and typically have continuing education requirements that must be met to stay licensed.
Step 4: Obtain Certification (Optional)
It may be worthwhile to become certified even if your state doesn't require it because many employers prefer certified candidates. Certification for radiology technicians is typically done through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), using a credential called Registered Technologist (RT). Obtaining initial certification is done in one of five areas, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or radiography, which will depend on the focus of your degree program. Applicants for certification will need to hold an associate's degree or higher, have completed an approved educational program in the relevant field, meet ethics requirements, and pass the certification exam. Radiology technicians can receive certification in specialty areas as well, such as bone densitometry or mammography, after completing their primary certification.
Certification must be renewed each year, with continuing education requirements that must be met every two years. Continuing qualification requirements must be met every 10 years, to ensure certified techs keep up with changes in technology and the field of radiography.
Step 5: Begin Working as a Radiology Technician
As a fully licensed and certified radiology technician, you can now begin legally working in the field without being under someone else's direct supervision. Radiology technicians are commonly employed in hospitals, but may also find work in private practice offices, as well as dedicated medical imaging facilities. Radiology technicians should keep up with their continuing education and renewal requirements as they work, and may want to consider developing specialties to advance their careers.