How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
Many people are unaware that it takes only two years to become a Radiologic Technologist. The only prerequisite is that you have received your high school diploma or GED. You will find that the field of radiology presents many interesting paths and advancement opportunities. So, if you have ever wondered how to become a Radiologic Technologist, read our simple steps and start by requesting information from schools. Click on the scenario below that describes your situation and learn about the steps to become a certified Rad Tech:
- High School Students & Recent Graduates
- Existing Health Care Employees
- Existing Medical Imaging Employees
Becoming a Radiologic Technologist
For High School Students & Recent Graduates
1. Tailor Your high school curriculum to gain foundational knowledge for the radiologic sciences.
Schools accepting students into radiology programs like to see that students have had some exposure to science courses, specifically physics and biology, and that there is a general understanding of anatomy, mathematics, and basic computer skills. If you have already graduated and have not taken these courses, it is still likely that you will be accepted into radiology programs; however, students who have this knowledge base are likely to get through the program with more ease. If you are still in high school, you may want to look for volunteer opportunities at your local hospital. Having volunteer work on your resume is always a positive and if you can find opportunities that are health care related, you will have the opportunity to visit the radiology department. Use this time to get acquainted with the work environment, talk to the practicing radiologic technologists, ask questions, and use this time to be sure you are a good fit for a job in the field of radiology.
2. Research and choose a school that offers a radiography program.
Start by requesting information from schools that interest you. You will need to decide if you want to attend a radiology school near you or in your general area, or if you are open to relocating. Compare and contrast the programs offered, check out course lists and find the program that suits your personality and needs. We have put together a list of radiology schools for you to begin this critical first step. Write out a list of questions when researching schools, so you can accurately compare and be sure you are making the right choice. Examples of questions you may want to ask a school representative are:
- Will this program prepare me to take the ARRT Exam and become a fully licensed Rad Tech?
- Are their classes available at night, weekend, online, or is there a hybrid option for online and on campus study?
- What is the tuition costs and other costs such as textbooks, supplies, or housing expenses in the area if you plan to relocate
- When do classes start?
- Does this program provide practice with radiology equipment or real life training and job shadowing?
- Is there help with job placement at the completion of the program?
3. Determine the Degree Level you want to pursue and enroll in and complete a radiology program.
Once you have talked to school admissions representatives from the schools of your choice, pick a radiology degree program that is aligned with your goals. If your goal is to become a Radiologic Technologist, then you will need to complete a program that will prepare you for the ARRT exam. You must pass the ARRT exam in order to get the title of Radiologic Technologist, or RT, as it is commonly referred to in the field. Most people opt to complete a radiology associates degree program prior to taking the exam. One of the benefits of this career path is that it does not require a bachelor's degree. Obtaining a bachelor's degree in radiology is usually pursued by those looking for lead or supervisory positions and can be accomplished later in your career, if you decide to take on a higher level role. Completing a radiology associates degree is sufficient to get you into this field and to prepare you for the ARRT exam, which is why it is the most common path. Passing the exam will make you a much more competitive candidate for employment and will appeal to a much wider range of employers. If you look through job postings for medical imaging positions, you will see that most of them are looking for those who have the credentials which will ensure them of your level of knowledge and skill.
Associates Degree's usually take two years to complete; however, there are some exceptions to this rule. You should expect to take a set of core classes such as anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, then proceed to the more specific courses such as x-ray technology, patient positioning, and image quality. You can find a detailed account of what to expect from your radiology program on the radiology courses and radiology training pages. You will find that most programs will be similar due to the fact that there are set standards for educational requirements set by national accrediting bodies such as JCERT. Once you have completed your degree program, you will be ready for the ARRT exam.
4. Become certified through the ARRT and complete any licensing requirements your state has.
The ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists) is an optional certification; however, it is rapidly becoming a requirement of most employers. The ARRT offers an initial radiology certification, then administers a recertification every two years. Recent studies by the ASRT have indicated that over 90% of first time test takers pass. The test is meant to ensure a nationally recognized standard of skill and knowledge surrounding radiologic sciences and practice. Those who have taken the test have indicated that if you have successfully completed a radiology program, you should have all the necessary knowledge to complete the test with ease. This, however, does not mean that you will not need to prepare for the exam. The ARRT and ASRT web sites have information that will help you decide what to study prior to the exam.
5. Prepare your resume and apply for radiology jobs.
Once you've completed your radiology program, you will need to put together your resume and begin searching for radiology positions in your area. Be sure to leverage the relationships you developed in school. Some school programs will actively help you with this process; some schools have developed relationships with major employers in the area and actively participate in their efforts to fill positions with qualified graduates. Be sure to stay in contact with your instructors and peers during the job search process as many jobs are obtained through the process of referrals. You will also want to search for positions on sites like craig's list or radrounds.com. Get a list of hospitals, medical imaging labs, and physicians who employ radiology workers and stay tuned to new jobs being posted each week.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist - For Existing Health Care Employees
1. Use your exposure to the health care system to explore a career transition into radiology.
As an individual who already works in healthcare, you have the benefit of understanding the work environment and the relationships to those who work in radiology every day. Take some time to get to know the people in the radiology department and ask if you can spend some time observing or job shadowing as circumstances allow. Ask them about some of the challenges and rewarding aspects of their job. Talk to the management team about what they are looking for in a candidate for future opportunities in their department.
2. Research Schools offering radiology programs that fit into your schedule and financial circumstances.
Many who want to make a change in their career will want to continue working while they complete their radiology education program. It is for this reason that many schools offer flexible schedules including night, weekend, and online courses. Start by researching radiology schools that will work with your scheduling constraints. We have put together a full directory of radiology schools for you to gather information from or you may want to start by looking for radiology schools near you. Many employees have temporarily altered their schedules at work in order to accommodate their school schedule. This might mean that you will need to work a later shift on certain days in order to take any necessary day courses. Most employers are flexible and will help accommodate your educational needs and aspirations.
3. Enroll in and complete a radiology program - Look for course waivers you may qualify for as an existing health care employee.
As an existing medical professional you may have already completed some of the core requirements of a typical radiology program. For example, most students who have completed Medical Assistant or Phlebotomy programs have already taken courses on medical ethics, medical terminology, and records management. Some schools may allow you to skip these courses if you can show that you have already taken them coupled with your experience on the job. In fact, even if you have not taken certain courses, you may be able to get a waiver due to your job experience. This; however, varies by school, so you will want to ask a school representative about their waiver policies. Keep in mind that some radiology courses such as medical ethics may be tailored for radiology professionals, so you may have to complete them anyway. Remember that advancing your education and skill set takes sacrifice, so be prepared to have a heavier work load for while and just remember that a small period of heavy work load will be worth it when opportunities for advancement or a career change become a reality for you.
3. Become certified through the ARRT and complete licensing requirements for your state.
Once you have completed your radiology program, you will need to get licensed through your state and pass the ARRT exam. Once you pass the exam and register, you will be able to carry the official title of Radiologic Technologist or RT as it is called in the profession. Currently, 38 states require that you be certified through the ARRT and the rest of the states are jumping on the bandwagon. If your state does not require certification, you will still need to become licensed to work in radiology. To find out if your state requires certification and to to get the details, go to our radiology certification page.
4. Update your resume and seek positions in radiology. As a current health care worker, you have a network of people who can help.
Once you have completed your radiology program, it's time to update your resume and start the job search. The first and most obvious place to begin your job search is to look for positions with your current employer. As an employee of a hospital, for example, you have the benefit of being able to introduce yourself to the hiring managers and make it known that you are seeking a position in the radiology department. It is highly recommended that you begin putting the word out about your career aspirations well before you have completed your degree. Many employees have jobs waiting for them to fill once they have completed their degree and certification. Even if you cannot secure a position through word of mouth networking, you will find that these people will become allies in your job search.
Existing Medical Imaging Employees & Limited X-Ray Tech's
If you are already working as a Limited Scope X-Ray Technician or if you are currently working in a medical imaging center as an assistant or in an administrative role, you may want to take the next step and become a certified Radiologic Technologist or RT. People looking for professional certification do so for many reasons including better compensation, expanded job roles, or simply to open up greater possibilities in your medical imaging career. If you fall into this category, you will still need to complete the necessary formal education such as a radiology associates degree or an eligible certificate program that the ARRT recognizes in order to be eligible to take the ARRT exam and become certified and registered as an RT. You will; however, have the benefit of job experience and knowledge that you can apply to your studies, which will make the process much less challenging.
Fast Track Radiology Programs
Some radiology workers may want to expand their education and skill set by pursuing a radiology bachelor's program. Radiology bachelor's degrees are pursued for many reasons, but usually it is for those who want to take on the role of a supervisor or lead Radiologic Technologist. Some choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in order to become more proficient with advanced imaging modalities or to fulfill the prerequisite for enrollment in a Radiologist Assistant (Masters Degree) program. Some schools offer what is commonly referred to as a fast track program in which most of the courses can be taken online or in a hybrid form of online, campus based, and clinical study. We are currently featuring Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences online bachelor of science program, which offers a distance learning program for students who have already completed their associates degree. The program is tailored for working professionals who are seeking a higher degree level, while maintaining their current work schedules.