Radiologic technicians are health care professionals who perform medical imaging procedures. Common medical imaging procedures include x-rays, computed tomography, mammography, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear medicine. As a radiologic technician, your primary responsibilities will include preparing patients for procedures, positioning the patients and machines correctly to produce the best possible images, adjusting and maintaining equipment, protecting yourself and your patients from unnecessary exposure to radiation and keeping patient records. The majority of radiologic technicians find themselves working in hospitals. However, there are also positions available in mobile medical imaging units, outpatient care centers, medical laboratories and doctor’s offices.
If you are interested in becoming a radiologic technician, the first thing you need to do is find a good school. Typically, programs for radiologic technicians lead to certificates, associate degrees or bachelor’s degrees. Many radiologic technicians choose to get degrees in the field of radiography. As of 2009, in the United States, there are 213 radiography programs that offer certificates, 397 programs that offer associate degrees and 35 programs that offer bachelor’s degrees.
If you have no experience working in a medical setting, you should consider getting an associate degree, which will take around two years. An associate degree will provide you with the minimum amount of training necessary to qualify you as an entry level radiologic technician; most employers won’t consider hiring a newcomer to the medical field who has no degree or only a certificate. In a two year associate degree program, you’ll learn things like basic medical terminology, how to use medical imaging equipment and how to manage patient records. You can expect to take classes in subjects such as radiation physics, principles of imaging, medical ethics, anatomy, physiology, radiobiology, pathology and radiation protection.
If you have dreams of eventually supervising or teaching, you should consider getting a bachelor’s degree instead of an associate degree. If you’ve already had experience in the medical field, then you may only need to get a certificate; for example, nurses who are interested in becoming radiologic technicians already have the medical experience, and all they need is the medical imaging training.
During your search for a school, one important decision you will have to make is whether you will be attending a physical school or taking online classes. You will learn the same material no matter which path you choose. Typically, students taking online classes never have to set foot in a physical location, but in this type of program, at some point, you will be required to get on-site training at a medical facility. The nice part about having online classes is that you can attend school from anywhere in the world. In addition, online classes are far more flexible than regular classes; since you don’t necessarily have set hours in which you have to be in class, you can tailor your schedule to your needs.
It’s a good idea to go to a school approved by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Attending an ARRT approved school is a requirement for getting certified by the ARRT. ARRT certification, while not mandatory, is something that all radiologic technicians should seriously consider getting. In addition, if you go to an ARRT approved school, you can rest assured in knowing that your program meets basic educational standards. The ARRT has its own criteria for approving schools, and it also approves schools that have been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE). Some criteria that the ARRT takes into consideration when looking at schools include what the curriculum consists of, what the teacher-student ratio is, the quality of the faculty, if the school has up to date equipment and well equipped facilities, if the students are provided with support services, the academic calendar, grading systems, student outcomes and student complaints against the program.
Visit the ARRT website to find a list of ARRT approved programs. Some excellent radiologic technician programs can be found at the
- University of Alaska in Anchorage, Alaska
- Cypress College in Cypress, California
- Kaiser Permanente School in Richmond, California
- St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, New York
- Florida State College in Jacksonville, Florida
- St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas
- Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont
Don’t just rely on ARRT approval; befriend some radiologic technicians and ask them for school recommendations. ARRT approval counts for a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you things like when classes start, if the program helps you with job placement, how much the tuition is and how much you’ll be spending on textbooks.