How to Become a Radiology Technician in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for radiology technician. Get the facts about education, salary, licensure requirements and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Radiology Technician Do?

Radiology technicians photograph a patient's bones, organs and tissues according to a doctor's orders. This is typically accomplished by using x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Doctors then use these images to diagnose illnesses or injuries a patient may have. Radiology technicians ensure that imaging equipment is working properly, prepare patients for the procedure, position the patient correctly and operate the computerized equipment to get the best image possible. They will consult with doctors to see if images need to be redone, as well as update the patient's medical records. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a radiology technician.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Field of Study Radiography
Key Duties Use computerized radiologic equipment to take precise images of patient's bodies; take patient history; maintain medical records; consult with medical personnel to evaluate images
Certification or Licensure Some states require radiology technicians to be licensed or certified
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9%*
Median Salary (2015) $56,670*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Radiology Technician?

As a radiology technician, you take patients through the entire process of X-ray photography. Since you work with potentially hazardous radiation, you must take extra precautions to protect others from possible overexposure. This includes the use of gloves and lead shields.

Step 1: Research the Career Duties of a Radiology Technician

In your role as a radiology technician, you receive a patient's X-ray instructions from a physician and set up the X-ray room and equipment. You often explain to patients the procedure they're about to undergo. The patient and X-ray equipment must be properly positioned so the X-ray beam is focused on specific body parts. In addition, you help maintain machinery and ensure that supplies are readily available for use. Computerized equipment is used to process the radiographic images.

Step 2: Complete a Radiology Training Program

To become a radiology technician, you must enroll in a formal radiology training program and earn a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree. To ensure the best possible educational training, choose a program that has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

You will find that accredited 2-year associate's degree radiology programs in community colleges are the most common. The program of study is comprised of clinical and classroom instruction and include courses in medical imaging technology, radiologic science, anatomy and physiology, and radiation biology.

Step 3: Become Licensed and Certified

In most states, you must be licensed to become a radiology technician, but requirements are variable. You need to contact the health board in your state for licensing specifics. As for certification, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) provides voluntary certification in a variety of specialties. Several states use ARRT examinations for licensing purposes as well. To become certified, you must have graduated from an accredited radiologic technician program. You must also receive a passing score on the ARRT certification examination.

Step 4: Obtain Employment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiology technicians worked primarily in hospitals, but they were also employed in diagnostic imaging centers and private doctors' offices (www.bls.gov). The number of jobs in these areas is expected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024, due largely to advancements in medical technology.

Step 5: Consider a Specialty

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and mammography are three specialized areas of radiology that you might focus on. You could also select radiation therapy, nuclear medicine and ultrasound technology. By specializing, you could eventually advance into positions such as a radiology director or teacher.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Diagnostic medical sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists are all related positions in the medical field that require an associate's degree. Diagnostic medical sonographers focus on creating images of body tissue and organs, called sonograms or ultrasounds. Nuclear medicine technologists also create images of a patient, but they use radioactive drugs to cause a visual difference between normal and abnormal parts of the body. Radiation therapists specialize in administering radiation treatments for patients suffering from things like cancer.

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