Radiology technicians go by many names: radiologic technologists, radiologist technicians, radiology techs, radiographers, and rad techs. These medical professionals work with radiologists to image patients and determine if they can use these images for a diagnosis.
What Do Radiology Techs Do?
Rad techs take X-rays and other radiology-based images of patients to aid the radiologist in a diagnosis. They take the patient to the imaging room, position them correctly, inspect them for anything that could interfere with the process, and apply shields to protect their vital organs from excess radiation exposure.
Some radiographers specialize in computed tomography (CT) scans, bone densitometry, or mammography. Other specializations constitute separate careers, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), sonography, nuclear medicine, or cardiovascular interventional radiography.
Radiology technicians work with radiologists and doctors to create high-definition images of specific parts of a patient’s body. Other duties include:
- Reviewing the patient’s medical history
- Minimizing radiation exposure in the office
- Calibrating X-ray machines
- Sterilizing the imaging equipment
- Organizing the records and images and giving the information to the doctor
- Following government regulations and safety protocols
- Evaluating images with physicians
- Providing a drinkable mixture that reveals the soft tissue in an X-ray
Radiology Technician vs. Radiologist
Radiologists and radiographers work together on diagnostic imaging. The technicians perform the tests while the radiologists interpret the results. From there, the radiologist can work with other physicians to determine the necessary treatment for the patient.
Radiologists often perform radiation treatment, and they undergo more training to gain a vaster understanding of how imaging works. They are doctors who will examine patients, so they need to attend medical school, serve an internship, and take residency.
The career trajectory for radiologic technologists shows a 7% growth between 2019 and 2029. This value is faster than the average for all occupations (4%). About 14,200 job openings appear each year for radiology techs.
How Do I Become a Radiology Technician?
Radiology technicians need a college education, licenses or certifications, and experience to enter the field.
You will need to earn your high school diploma or GED to become a radiographer. If you are still in high school, try to focus on your physics, biology, math, and chemistry courses to gain a comprehensive background. You can also volunteer at a clinic to gain some experience in the medical field.
Most radiologist technicians have an associate’s in radiography or a bachelor’s degree in radiologic science. Some get master’s degrees, which can qualify them for teaching, supervisory, or administrative jobs.
Classes prioritize human anatomy, radiographic pathology, patient care, imaging procedures, and radiologic physics. After graduation, the student will train at a clinic, hospital, or medical center to receive the necessary qualifications to work at a medical facility.
License and Certification
Most states will require a license or certification from either the state board or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Some employers may expect both.
You will need to match education requirements and pass an exam to earn your ARRT certification. Once you receive it, you must continue your education with radiography courses every two years to keep the certification valid.
Additional certifications in mammography, MRI, nuclear medicine, CT, or cardiovascular intervention can expand your skillset and open more career opportunities.
How Much Does a Radiology Technician Make?
Radiology technicians make a median annual wage of $61,900. MRI technologists earn more at $74,690 each year, and those certified in radiologic and MRI make $63,710.
Radiographers make more than the average health technician and employee from all occupations ($45,620 and $41,950, respectively). The top 10% earn $92,660 or more, and the bottom makes $42,180 or less.
The industry pay breakdown is as follows:
- Federal government: $69,960
- Outpatient centers: $66,780
- Hospitals: $62,850
- Diagnostic labs: $61,410
- Doctor’s offices: $56,340
Are Requirements Different from State to State?
Over 75% of states require licenses to work as radiologic technologists. Some necessitate certification from the ARRT to consider giving you a state license. ARRT does administer some state licensing exams so that you could take both from the same resource.
Skill Sets Required to Become a Radiology Technician
The skills required to become a radiology technician include:
- Kind and supportive communication abilities
- Physical strength and endurance to stay on their feet all day and move the equipment and patients
- The ability to follow instructions verbatim to operate complex machines safely
- Math and physics skills to calculate how much radiation a procedure emit
Rad techs can advance in their career by earning an ARRT certification and state license. From there, they need to take biannual courses to maintain their certification and keep their knowledge fresh in the changing technological climate.
You can undergo training to become a radiation therapist and earn $86,850 a year. This medical career often requires a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy and a certification from the ARRT.
Radiology Technician to Radiologist
Radiology technicians work closely with radiologists, but they need many more years of training to become one.
Radiologists have bachelor’s degrees, generally in pre-med. If you got your degree in radiologic science, you might have a leg up. You will need to pass the MCAT to qualify for medical school. Since you have experience in radiology, you will have an advantage compared to some other students.
Next, you attend medical school for four years. You will need to pass the USMLE as well. After, you complete a residency at a hospital where you receive hands-on training. This training lasts between four and five years, where you will work directly with fully-employed radiologists.
After residency, you enter a fellowship program for one to two years to learn about radiology subspecialties, such as:
- Musculoskeletal radiology
- Interventional radiology
- Diagnostic radiology
- Radiation oncology
Lastly, you apply for a state license and become board-certified. Now, you can work as a radiologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions concerning how to become a radiology technician.
Is It Hard to Become a Radiologist Technician?
You only need an associate’s degree, but your courses will cover complex subjects like pathology, radiation physics, patient care, anatomy, and image evaluation. Most programs have you work alongside professionals in addition to classroom work.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Radiologist?
It takes about two to four years to become a radiology technician, but around 13 years to become a radiologist.
Do Radiologic Technologists Make Good Money?
Radiologic technologists earn a median salary of $61,900, which is about $20,000 more than the average for all occupations.
Interested in a Career in Radiology? Check out These Job Listings
Did you like this how-to article? Check out a few of our other career guides below.