How Long Does it Take to Become a Radiologic Technologist
Those interested in a career in imaging and diagnostics often ask, “How long does it take to become a Radiologic Technologist?” The answer is that most people are able to complete all of the required credentials to enter this career in healthcare in less than two years.
The first step toward becoming a Radiologic Technologist (or “Rad Tech”) is to learn what exactly the career involves. Having a thorough understanding of what the occupation entails before aiming to enter this field can help learners better relate to course material. Furthermore, knowledge about the medical career itself helps ensure that a learner doesn’t complete half of an educational program before realizing this is not the career for them.
Researching the field, prospective Radiologic Technologists will learn that these imaging professionals provide an integral service in the field of healthcare. The responsibility of a Rad Tech rests in developing diagnostic images of patients within clinical settings. This is done through the use of an x-ray machine or other imaging equipment.
Then, these images are interpreted by a patient’s primary care provider or specialist — not by the Radiologic Technologists themselves. However, Rad Techs are tasked with ensuring that the images produced are clear enough and of high enough quality to be interpreted at all. While this may seem simple, being able to properly image a patient takes skill and experience.
In this career in healthcare, Rad Techs are asked to maintain imaging equipment and work closely with patients to ensure they are comfortable and informed throughout their procedure. Radiologic Technologists must also be able to abide by all safety standards and protocols put in place by their employer and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT).
2-Year Educational Programs
Once a prospective Rad Tech has learned a substantial amount regarding a career as a Radiologic Technologist, they must next decide on the educational program that best meets their needs. This involves deciding whether an in-class program or a distance education program is more aligned with a student’s schedule, lifestyle and way of learning.
Other elements of an educational program to consider include the curriculum, number of clinical hours required, location and tuition fees. Mandatory course load, scholarships and faculty information can also be used to make an informed educational division. Once a program has been selected, students can expect to take classes on applied radiography, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, physics and mathematics. They will also be immersed in classes specifically related to imaging, as well as general classes on ethics, English composition, diversity and inclusion and psychology.
Students can also expect to take an average of about 70 credit hours, spread out across four to six semesters. Typically this takes anywhere from sixteen months to two years to complete. Many programs are very flexible, able to assist students who simultaneously work full-time work schedules. However, finding a program accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) can be important, as some states require this an accredited program before licensure can be obtained. In these states, learners must obtain a state license before they can work as a Radiologic Technologist.
Ultimately, how long a program takes for a student to complete will largely revolve around their personal and professional schedules. For those with consuming schedules, distance education is normally the better alternative. There are also certain programs which offer a mixture of classroom learning and online, distance education classes. Overall, once an educational program has been completed, learners are extremely close to being able to practice first-hand in the field.
Advanced Programs and Credentials
Learners must realize that not every Radiologic Technologist follows the same path to achieve their career goals. For example, whereas some Rad Techs will obtain an associate’s degree in radiologic technology, others choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Others still will choose to take one educational path, yet they will make some additional stops along the way.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 63 percent of Radiologic Technologists have an associate’s degree while 24 percent hold a bachelor’s degree. Only 6 percent of Radiologic Technologists have a graduate degree. While this is because fewer Rad Techs opt to enroll in graduate degree programs than those in other careers, there also remains the challenge that there are few graduate programs in radiologic technology available. Check out this national Radiologic Technologist career outlook!
Furthermore, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers both the certification and registration required by some states. Beyond this basic certification, Rad Techs can opt to specialize in a range of different procedures. Some specializations include, but not limited to, bone densitometry, breast sonography, computed tomography (CT), mammography and vascular sonography.
As the field of radiologic technology continues to grow (the career is projected to increase by 9 percent in the coming years), education will help set colleagues apart from their peers. For instance, if two Rad Techs apply to the same position, the one possessing the higher degree most often has the clear advantage.
While this may not always be the case, higher education qualifications undoubtedly helps to prove a professional with even more knowledge and experience regarding the imaging and diagnostic field. This makes them more qualified, and therefore more highly sought out by recruiters and hiring managers. Thus, Radiologic Technologists who put forth the work to enroll in higher education often find that it proves rewarding in the end.
After completing a post-secondary education program, becoming licensed or certified and considering continued education, Rad Techs should consider the future of their healthcare career. While some Radiologic Technologists will go on to stay within the field, they will eventually seek out more managerial roles due to their financial benefit. Adversely, some Rad Techs choose to transition into the fields of either academia or research.
Furthermore, beginning one’s career as a Radiologic Technologist can act as a gateway into other imaging and diagnostic careers. For example, having a background in radiologic technology makes transitioning into a career as Bone Densitometry Technologist, Vascular Interventional Technologists, Nuclear Medicine Technologist or Sonographer a much easier. Radiology Technologists may also pursue specialized training in one of several areas like MRI, mammography, or computerized tomography.
A career as a Radiologic Technology will expose these professionals to working with radiology, opening the possibility to later become a Radiologist or Radiation Therapist as well. Radiologists are the field’s primary practitioners, and are often supported by Radiologic Technologists. Radiation Therapists are While Radiographers use limited quantities of x-rays to create a diagnostic image, Radiation Therapists deliver high doses of x-ray radiation to small, targeted areas to destroy cancer cells. Learn about the possible dangers of being a Radiologic Technologist.
For others, the more attractive option after initially gaining employment as a Rad Tech is to become a Radiology Assistant. This is an advanced practice role that has gained relevance and popularity within the last decade. While many of their duties are the same, the position of a Radiology Assistant requires the application of more critical thinking and judgment. Again, this advanced role requires a higher level of education than that of a Radiologic Technologist position.
Lastly, to best set one’s self up for the future competition within the field of radiologic technology, the ARRT offers a number of certifications. These certifications include ones in radiography, nuclear medicine technology, radiation therapy, fluoroscopy, bone density, and certain state-approved post-primary disciplines. Most commonly, professionals will be given the information they need to study, and then they will sit down to take an exam. Whether or not they pass the exam will determine if they became certified.
Ultimately, now is a great time to consider entering a career in healthcare as a Radiologic Technologist! If you aspire to work in healthcare, help make a difference in patient lives and constantly keep learning and evolving as a professional, you will love a career in imaging and diagnostics!
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook