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How to Become a Radiology Tech

From earning your degree to getting professionally certified, see what it takes to become a radiologic technologist.

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Two scientists, a man and a woman, analyze brain scan images on a monitor in a high-tech laboratory setting.

Whether conducting an ultrasound for first-time parents or performing a radiologic test to help doctors detect cancer cells to create a lifesaving treatment plan, radiologic technologists play an irreplaceable role in patient care. Most work in hospitals and provide the imaging data physicians need to make critical healthcare decisions. Radiology techs need to know advanced medical terminology and be able to interact with patients to provide top-notch medical care using state-of-the-art equipment.

You can become a radiology tech in just two years and potentially earn $62,000 or more in this in-demand career. Continue reading to learn more about the educational and licensure requirements necessary for entering this fulfilling profession. Additionally, you’ll find self-assessment questions to help determine if this career aligns with your interests and aspirations, as well as guidance on seeking employment opportunities after graduation.

STEP 1

Are You a Good Match for a Career as a Radiology Tech?

Before starting a radiology tech program, it’s important to assess if becoming a radiologic tech is the right move for you. Make sure this career aligns with your interests and skills by understanding the job duties and educational and professional commitments involved. You’ll also want to make sure the daily tasks align with your interests, so you’ll find fulfillment in the job. Ask yourself these questions to help determine if becoming a rad tech is the right career choice.

  • Do I enjoy working with a variety of people daily?
  • Can I adapt quickly to changing imaging requirements and harness creativity to get the job done?
  • Am I able to take feedback from doctors and other team members?
  • Am I willing to put in the work to gain a full and thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology?
  • Do I possess the communication skills needed to adequately convey information to both patients and healthcare providers?
  • Can I show empathy to patients who are often waiting on potentially scary news?
  • Can I work well under pressure and maintain my ability to do my job during such times?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, a career as a radiologic technologist may be a good choice.

STEP 2

Earn an Undergrad Degree from an ARRT-Approved School

You’ll need to decide if an associate degree or bachelor’s degree is your best option and if you want to earn your degree completely on-campus or through a partially online degree program. Whatever your choice, the program you attend must be approved by the ARRT. You should also consider schools accredited by JCERT, which signals that a school’s curriculum meets high standards that include educational innovation, quality and integrity. While JCERT accreditation isn’t required for a school to be approved by ARRT, all JCERT programs are AART approved.

On-Campus vs. Online Rad Tech Programs

Many radiologic technology programs are now offered partially online or in person. Which best suits your needs? If you already have a job and need flexibility, the partially-online pathway allows you to fit lectures and assignments into your schedule while in-person programs bring increased interaction with peers within established course times.

Both partially-online and in-person radiology tech programs include substantial hands-on learning in lab settings with imaging technology to teach the nuanced skills needed for the countless imaging scenarios you’ll encounter. In-person learning may, however, have more opportunities to practice with imaging technology. Our guides on radiology tech and MRI tech programs provide more information for helping you make the right decision regarding online or in-person learning.

Bachelor’s Degree vs. Associate Degree

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technologists only need associate degrees to qualify for licensure or certification. Many schools, however, now offer four-year radiology tech bachelor’s degrees in addition to the two-year associate degree route. Students wanting to enter the profession quickly typically opt for the associate degree since it takes less time. If you think you eventually want to pursue higher education or another medical profession, a bachelor’s degree may be the better option.

An associate degree provides foundational skills and leads to certification and securing a radiology tech position. A bachelor’s program, however, takes a deeper dive into both fundamental and advanced topics. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree may lead to higher-paying jobs or specialized roles within the field. Employers may look at bachelor’s holders more favorably when offering promotions into managerial roles.

STEP 3

Pass the ARRT Exam and Get Certified/Licensed

After graduating from a radiology tech program, you’ll need to become certified and/or licensed in your state before practicing. Individual states set guidelines for the certification/licensure process, so it’s crucial to review the requirements from your state board to understand what’s expected of you. Steps typically required include the following:

  1. Pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam.

Administered by Pearson VUE testing centers, the ARRT exam is administered to ensure that future rad techs possess the qualifications needed to perform radiologic imaging. The exam consists of 230 questions, and you’ll need to get a scaled score of 75 to pass. You can take the exam up to three times.

This AART exam guide provides additional details, such as those listed below, you’ll likely find useful.

  • The exam costs $225 each time you take it.
  • Over 200 testing sites throughout the U.S. administer the exam.
  • You must schedule the test within the 90-day window provided on your Candidate Status Report.
  • In 2022, 83.5% of examinees passed the test on their first try.
  1. Meet your state’s licensing requirements.

Licensing requirements vary by state. In Alabama, for example, graduates are not required to meet licensure requirements. Still, many employers require or prefer certification from a nationally recognized organization such as ARRT. In California, applicants must have either a diagnostic or therapeutic radiologic technology certificate, provide ARRT exam documentation, and include details on their educational program. Thoroughly review your state’s requirements early in the process.

STEP 4

Make Your Resume Shine and Prep for Interviews

Now that you’re ready to start working as a rad tech, take time to optimize your resume and prepare for interviews. The following tips and tricks can help you maximize your chances of landing your dream rad tech job.

How to Make a Standout Rad Tech Resume

  1. Use words like “licensed,” “certified,” or “bachelor’s degree” to help your resume stand out.
  2. List where you completed required training hours and provide nuanced descriptions of your tasks.
  3. Include a reference from your program/internship that will speak to your skills as a rad tech.
  4. If you received a top ARRT exam score, include this on your resume.
  5. If you’re a member of ASRT, include this detail and any related events/training.

Rad Tech Interview Dos and Don’ts

Do’s
  1. Compile a list of specific questions to show your interest in and knowledge of the role.
  2. In the absence of previous work experience, talk about what you learned in clinicals and how you plan to use that knowledge on the job.
  3. Brush up on the various types of imaging technologies and tools in use to be able to speak about them competently.
  4. Research the facility and learn some key points about it. You’ll want to show your interviewer that you are engaged and interested in working there and how you’ll fit in and contribute.
Don’ts
  1. Provide generic answers to questions about radiology or the company.
  2. Be afraid to ask what the hiring manager is looking for in a radiological technologist and talk about how your qualifications meet those needs.
  3. Forget to ask for feedback if you don’t get the job. This feedback can help you be successful in your next interview.

For more insider tips and advice for landing a great job in healthcare, read our guide to getting hired and guide to navigating job offers.

STEP 5

Consider Becoming Certified in a Specialty Area of Radiology

After working in the discipline for a few years, you may decide to complete one of the many post-primary certifications provided by the ARRT. These currently include:

  • Mammography
  • Computed Tomography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Bone Densitometry
  • Cardiac Interventional Radiography
  • Vascular Interventional Radiography
  • Vascular Sonography
  • Breast Sonography

An additional certification helps you build new skills and competencies within radiography. You also increase your knowledge and skillsets within an area of interest, improve your job prospects, and potentially earn a higher salary.

FAQs About Becoming a Radiology Tech

What do radiologic technologists do?

Radiologic technologists perform a variety of important duties throughout their workdays, both for their patients and other healthcare providers. They use various imaging methods, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to produce medical images. Their primary responsibility is to assist physicians in diagnosing and treating patients by capturing high-quality images of the body’s internal structures. They prepare patients for imaging procedures, explain the process, and ensure patient safety by following radiation protection guidelines. They also maintain and operate imaging equipment, adjust settings to optimize image quality, and collaborate with physicians to analyze the images for abnormalities or issues. They need to work well under pressure and be able to accept feedback. They play an important part in patient care and diagnosis.

How much do radiology techs make?

Radiology techs, especially those with a few years of experience, can earn salaries above the national average for all occupations. In fact, the BLS indicates that median wage was $65,140 per year as of May 2022. Those just starting their careers may earn less, but rad techs in the top 10 percent of earners make close to six figures annually.

Factors like education and experience levels, where you live, and where you work affect pay. Rad techs who take part in continuing education training often command higher salaries than their counterparts.

Percentile 10% 25% 50% (Median) 75% 90%
Hourly Pay $ 22.96 $ 27.57 $ 31.32 $ 38.49 $ 47.07
Annual Salary $ 47,760 $ 57,350 $ 65,140 $ 80,050 $ 97,940

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020

Are radiologic technologists in high demand?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that rad tech jobs will grow by 6 percent between 2021-2031, leading to the creation of nearly 17,000 new positions. With the baby boomer population – one of the largest in recent generations – growing older, more radiologic technologists are needed to conduct diagnostic tests for issues like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other illnesses. In addition, about 16,600 existing jobs will re-open each year due to career changes and retirement.

Employment
(2021)
Projected Employment
(2031)
Employment Change
(202-2031)
Job Growth Rate
(2021-2031)
264,000 281,000 17,000 6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How long does it take to become a radiology tech?

If you take the associate degree route, plan to spend two years completing all program requirements on a full-time basis. If you enroll part-time, it will likely take three years. Those completing a bachelor’s degree should plan to spend four to six years, depending on whether they enroll on a full-time or part-time basis. You’ll also need to factor in how long you plan to study before taking the ARRT examination.

Additional Resources on Becoming a Radiology Tech

Fortis University provides this insider look at how rad techs spend their days and what new graduates can expect on the job.

ASRT supports rad techs working in the industry by providing access to continuing education courses, industry news and publications, information on standards and regulations, and a career center.

ARRT both administers the official rad tech exam and provides continuing education credentials in specialty areas for professionals looking to expand their knowledge and skills.

In addition to national associations, such as this one in California, many states have their own societies and groups.

Joining this professional association provides access to academic journals and research, practice tools, events and conventions, and networking opportunities.

Many colleges have radiology student associations, like this one at Lone Star College, you can join to network and learn about jobs.

Check into the many scholarships and online resources for radiology tech students to help you save money on your education.