What are Radiologic Technologists?
Radiologic technology programs help prepare healthcare professionals to safely operate X-ray and other high-tech equipment. Through the use of various computerized machines, radiologic technologists produce images of areas of patients' bodies that radiologists want to examine for diseases and injuries. After analyzing these pictures, technicians determine whether additional images are needed, and they typically include detailed accounts of each intervention's findings in patient records. These professionals communicate with patients to explain procedures and position their bodies as needed. For more information, see our radiologic tech career page.
Radiologic Technology Program Overview
Radiologic technology schools may offer campus-based, online or hybrid programs that combine offline and virtual instruction. Programs typically include both classes and clinical training to equip students with practical experience. Coursework could include anatomy, pathology, patient care, radiation physics and protection, and image production and evaluation. To prepare for radiologic technology programs, high school students could take courses such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, mathematics and physics.
Radiologic Technology Program Types
Radiologic technology programs such as the following are available to those interested in the field:
- Certificate: Typically lasts six to 12 months, depending on the program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This option may suit healthcare professionals who already possess associate or bachelor's degrees and have experience in patient care.
- Associate Degree: Usually lasts two years for full-time students. This is the most common educational path to radiologic technology careers, according to the BLS.
- Bachelor's Degree: Normally lasts about four years and combines general education and radiologic technology classes.
Prospective radiologic technologists should look into certification and licensure requirements in their states of residence. Most states require graduation from programs accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) and certification exams from the state or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Continuing education is typically necessary to renew one's license. State health boards can provide additional information on licensing requirements.
Radiologic Technology Course Descriptions
Even though radiologic technology programs vary, certain courses are often part of the curriculum, such as the following:
- Orientation to Radiation Science Technologies: Introduces radiographic terminology, X-ray protection and production, patient care, computer and application operation.
- Digital Image Acquisition and Display: Explains the components and operation of digital imaging systems found in radiology, including image acquisition, archiving and retrieval.
- Orientation to Radiologic Technology: In a clinical setting, demonstrates the application of radiant energy in the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and diseases.
- Patient Care for Imaging Technology: Considers the physical and psychological needs of patients and their families, including emergency procedures and infection control protocols.
- Law and Ethics in Medical Imaging: Discusses ethical behavior with regards to clinical practice. Legal and professional standards, misconduct and malpractice could be discussed.
- Radiographic Pathology: Looks into the diagnosis of disease through diagnostic imaging examinations.
Radiologic Technology Specialties
At radiologic technology schools, students may specialize in different areas, such as the following:
- Mammography: Use of low-dose X-ray technology to examine the breast
- Computed Tomography: Examination of cross-sections of the body via CT or CAT scans
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Use of MRI equipment, including powerful magnets and radio waves, to create detailed pictures
Professionals in the field may pursue radiologic technology certificates in more than one specialty, notes the BLS.
Related Career Options
Radiologic technology studies could open the door to different career options in healthcare, which might require additional education or experience. Prospective technologists can learn more information about career options by investigating the jobs below.
- Cardiovascular and Vascular Technologists: Assist doctors in diagnosing and treating heart and blood vessel ailments in patients, including dangerous blood clots. The BLS notes that associate degree programs offer training in invasive or noninvasive techniques.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: Use sound waves to perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients, such as pregnancy ultrasounds. Generally these specialists have an associate or bachelor's degree in the field, or a certificate in addition to other healthcare experience.
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists: Prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients undergoing imaging scans to differentiate abnormal areas of the body, including tumors. States commonly require a formal training program in nuclear medicine technology and may also require licensing.
- Radiation Therapists: Administer radiation to treat diseases, including cancer, and follow safety procedures. According to the BLS, most states require a license and formal training in this specialty, which may include topics such as radiation oncology and patient education.
Links to Sources and Associations
These organizations could provide additional information on radiologic technology:
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, http://www.arrt.org
American Society of Radiologic Technologists, http://www.asrt.org
ASRT Education and Research Foundation, http://www.asrtfoundation.org
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Radiologic Technologists," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, http://www.jrcert.org