What Is a Radiology Specialist?

Find out what radiology specialists do on the job, and check the education requirements for entering this career field. Review the licensure process for radiology specialists. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Duties and Responsibilities

Radiology specialists play an important role in the medical field. Their main task is to operate diagnostic equipment to produce radiographs. These radiographs are then inspected by physicians to find injuries or conditions causing illness. As a radiology specialist, your job is to supervise radiation procedures; you might use x-ray, computed tomography (CT), and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. Since radiation is harmful to the human body, you must know how to position a patient so the intended body area can be scanned and cover the rest of the patient with lead shielding to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure. Some radiation scans require the patient to drink or be injected with a solution that will optimize the radiograph's capture of specific vessels or organs.

Important Facts About Radiology Specialists

Median Salary (2018) $59,520 (for radiologic technicians)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 12% (for radiologic technologists)
Work Environment Hospitals; physicians' offices; medical and diagnostic laboratories; outpatient care centers
Similar Occupations Nuclear medicine technologists; radiation therapists; diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training

To become a radiology specialist, you'll first need to earn an undergraduate certificate or degree in radiography through a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Various training programs are offered by universities, hospitals and the military. These programs provide instruction on fundamental radiography techniques and protection, as well as on image processing and evaluation of radiographs. As part of your training, you may need to take courses in anatomy, radiobiology, medical terminology, medical law, and ethics. Certificate and associate's degree programs can take approximately two years to complete; bachelor's degree programs last about four years.

After becoming a radiology technician or technologist, you can become a specialist in an area of the field. You could focus on performing mammography or bone densitometry. In addition, you could become a CT or MRI specialist.

If you choose to get your education through the military, you will be expected to complete ten weeks of basic soldier training followed by 24 weeks of specialized radiology training. These programs often immediately confer the title of a radiology specialist.

Licensure and Certification

Most states will require you to obtain a license in order to work as a radiology specialist, which can involve passing an exam. Since regulations vary by state, you should check with your state's health board to find out what you'll need to do. You might also decide to earn voluntary specialty certification and become registered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Your ARRT credentials might also be sufficient for earning a state license. Employers tend to favor radiologists with formal credentials and experience, and they might offer you higher pay.

Once you become certified, you'll need to further your training through periodic continuing education; earning 24 credits every two years is the typical requirement. You'll find that it's important to stay informed on medical protocol and technological advances through workshops and seminars.

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