Congratulations, you’ve just graduated from a radiologic technology program. Your proud relatives swarm around you, admiring your graduation gown and peeking at your degree. Your aunt remarks on how nice it is that you’ve finally jumped over all the hurdles and are now ready to enter the job market. Unfortunately, you have to tell your aunt that it’s not quite over yet.
What your aunt doesn’t realize is that you have yet to be licensed and certified as a radiologic technician. Most people tend to confuse licensing and certification, but they are two different things. Licensing is done by the state; when the state licenses a radiologic technician, it means that the state is granting the technician authority to practice within that state. Licensing requirements differ from state to state. For example, in some states, you need to submit your licensing application before you start working, and in other states, you just need to submit the results of your licensing exam. Licensing is mandatory in many states. Around two-thirds of the states require radiologic technicians to be licensed; some of these states include New York, California, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina and Washington.
Certification, on the other hand, is a voluntary process. Radiologic technicians are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The ARRT grants a certificate to eligible radiologic technicians. To keep the certificate valid, you need to register it every year with the ARRT. Certification gives you the right to use the title Registered Technologist (R.T.) after your name; however, if you don’t renew your certification through the registration process, you will not be allowed to continue using that title.
Although licensing and certification are not the same, they share one important thing: Many states utilize ARRT certification exams for state licensing purposes. This means that the same exams are being administered for both licensing and certification purposes. If you live in a state that requires licensing, then you may as well get certified since you’re taking the test anyway. If you live in a state that doesn’t require licensing, you should still get certified because employers prefer to hire certified radiologic technicians over uncertified ones.
Currently, the ARRT offers certification in the fields of radiography, radiation therapy, sonography, nuclear medicine technology and magnetic resonance imaging. To become ARRT certified, you need to meet three requirements. The ARRT calls these requirements “The ARRT Equation for Excellence.” The first requirement has to do with your education. To be eligible for ARRT certification, you must attend a school that has been approved by the ARRT. Either the ARRT will approve the school based on its own criteria, or it will accept schools that have already been approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the United States Department of Education. When evaluating schools, the ARRT takes into account things like the curriculum, faculty, facilities, fiscal capacity, student support services, student outcomes, recruiting and admissions practices and record of student complaints. The education requirement also covers the issue of continuing education; if you want to maintain your certification, you need to take continuing education classes throughout the rest of your career.
The next requirement has to do with ethics: You need to comply with the ARRT Standards of Ethics to be eligible for both initial certification and ongoing registration. Violations that may disqualify you from being certified include misdemeanor charges and convictions, felony charges and convictions, military court-martials, disciplinary actions by a state or federal agency and honor code violations. The third requirement has to do with examinations: You need to pass ARRT exams in the fields of your choosing. Only once you have achieved these three things will the ARRT certify you.
Currently, the ARRT only requires you to attend an approved school; the type of degree you receive is not important. However, starting in 2015, all radiologic technicians will need to have an associate degree at a minimum in order to be eligible for certification. The degree need not be in the medical imaging field, which means that people who have already have degrees will only need to undergo training or get certificates in order to qualify for ARRT certification. The ARRT created this requirement because it felt that general education degree requirements contributed to important things like cognitive and communication skills, psychological insights and sociological understanding. People who will get certified before 2015 don’t have anything to worry about; the degree requirement will not affect them.