Pursuing a career in the medical field can be a daunting endeavor. Most career paths require multiple years of education, residency hours, and clinical experience. Medical imaging, however, is a thriving health care sector that allows people with a passion for helping others to enter the field quickly.

Those interested in medical imaging will find an abundance of highly rewarding opportunities. For example, a great career path to consider is becoming a radiologic technologist. Here’s everything you need to know about this thriving career path, how to become one, and whether it’s the right fit for you.

What is a Radiologic Technologist?

Radiologic technologists take up a large portion of the professional medical field. In fact, according to the American Association of Radiologic Technologists, “Radiologic technologists make up the third-largest group of health care professionals—surpassed in number only by physicians and nurses.”

Radiologic technologists acquire images of patients’ bodies using medical imaging equipment. These images help doctors diagnose and treat patient diseases and injuries. Radiologic technologist’s use various types of equipment, depending on their specialty, such as X-ray, MRI, CT, fluoroscopy, or sonography equipment.

While these responsibilities are similar to other medical imaging positions, there are additional responsibilities that prospective radiologic technologists should be aware of. In some cases, they inject patients with radiopharmaceutical agents to ensure detailed images. Unlike some other medical imaging positions, radiologic technologists may assist in the treatment side of patient visits as well. For example, they can help physicians perform procedures—such as angioplasty or stent insertion—or administer therapeutic doses of radiation to treat diseases such as cancer.

Image removed.

How to Become a Radiologic Technologist

If this sounds like an exciting career option, here’s a look at the steps you’ll need to take in becoming a radiologic technologist.

1. Complete Your Primary Education

Even though becoming a radiologic technologist doesn’t require medical school, education is still a vital part of entering the field. For most job postings, radiologic technologists are required to hold at least an associate’s degree from an accredited institution or program. This two-year program option offers medical imaging professionals the foundational skills needed to enter the field quickly. Students must complete specialized coursework, as well as over 1,000 clinical hours working with patients under faculty supervision.

2. Fine-tune Your Skills

An associate’s degree will certainly help aspiring radiologic technologists obtain an entry-level position, but it will only get you so far. Those hoping for professional growth and career advancement should consider earning a bachelor’s degree.

To current technologists, this additional education might seem like a waste of time, but according to Emsi Burning Glass data, over one fourth of radiologic technologists have a bachelor’s degree or higher as of 2022. This is largely due to the fact that bachelor’s degree programs give medical imaging professionals specialized skills that many employers look for in higher paying roles.

Horizontal bar graph showing the top skills included in radiologic technologist job postings; Radiology 100%, Radiography 56%, Basic Life Support 39%, Radiation Protection 29%, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) 22%, Patient Positioning 20%, Fluoroscopy 20%

Source: Emsi Burning Glass 2022

According to Emsi Burning Glass data, some of these skills include:

  • Radiology: Imaging with X-rays and other high-energy radiation
  • Radiography: Taking radiographs to assist in medical examinations
  • Basic Life Support: Providing care that first-responders, healthcare providers, and public safety professionals offer to others
  • Radiation Protection: Reducing radiation exposure using simple protective measures like proper distance and shielding

3. Get Certified

Certifications are essential to becoming any kind of technologist or technician in medical imaging. This is often the last step for many aspiring radiologic technologists since work experience isn’t typically required for these roles. According to Emsi Burning Glass data, 62 percent of radiologic technologist job postings don’t have experience requirements listed in the posting.

Instead, many employers look for applicants with relevant education and the necessary certifications and licensures. Some of the most common qualifications include:

  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) Certification: According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, more than 330,000 technologists hold ARRT credentials. This certification recognizes individuals who are qualified to perform the duties in their medical imaging role. Prospective employers, state licensing agencies, and federal regulators all consider an ARRT certification a verification of current professional standards.
  • Radiologic Technologist/Technician Certification: ARRT has several certifications that acknowledge individuals qualified to perform specific roles. For example, the Radiologic Technologist/Technician certification and registration recognizes individuals who are qualified to become a radiologic technologist. All employers require their technologists to hold ARRT certifications like this one.
Horizontal bar graph showing the top qualifications included in radiologic technologist job postings; American Registry Of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) Certified 15,620, Certified Radiologic Technologist/Technician 1,283, Registered Technologist 507

Source: Emsi Burning Glass 2022

Is a Radiologic Technologist a Fulfilling Career?

Becoming a radiologic technologist can be a relatively quick process, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fulfilling career. Here are some benefits of becoming a radiologic technologist/technician.

High Salary Potential

According to Emsi Burning Glass data, the median salary of radiologic technologist positions is $66.9K. Since this is more than most medical imaging careers, becoming a radiologic technologist has relatively high earning potential.

Graph showing the advertised wage trend of medical imaging careers; $35K in March 2021 $58K in April 2021, $50K in May 2021, $42K in June 2021, $56K in July 2021, 53K in August 2021, 63K in September 2021, 59K in October 2021, 57K in November 2021, 47K in December 2021, 44K in January 2022, 64K in February 2022, 52K in March 2022

Source: Emsi Burning Glass 2022

Increased Job Opportunities

No matter what career path you pursue, it’s important to choose a position that has promising job growth and increasing opportunities. According to Emsi Burning Glass data there has been a gradual increase in the number of unique job postings over the past year. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms these findings, citing that the overall employment of radiologic technologists is projected to grow around nine percent in 2020–2030.

Graph showing the job posting trend of radiologic technologists; April 2021 (797), May 2021 (924), June 2021 (952), July 2021 (859), August 2021 (874), September 2021 (861), October 2021 (953), November 2021 (1,161), December 2021 (1,212), January 2022 (946), February 2022 (1,093), March 2022 (1,195), April 2022 (1,231)

Source: Emsi Burning Glass 2022

Take the Next Step Toward Your Career as a Radiologic Technologist

Getting the right education is the first step to a fulfilling career as a radiologic technologist. The bachelor's completion program in medical imaging at Regis College is designed specifically for registered and registry-eligible technologists in all medical imaging modalities.

Gary L’Abbe, the director of Regis College’s medical imaging bachelor’s completion program, describes the medical imaging program as “flexible and accommodating,” making it an excellent option for students who want a self-paced and completely online education. It also provides a career ladder for working medical imaging professionals pursuing career enhancement, clinical management positions, and education and leadership roles.