How to Become a Radiologic Assistant: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a radiologic assistant. Research the job duties and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in radiology. View article »

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Video Transcript

Become a Radiologic Assistant

Also known as radiologist assistants (RAs), radiologic assistants do many of the same tasks as radiologic technologists, but are also trained in more advanced procedures. They work alongside radiologists and maintain equipment, produce images, evaluate the quality of images, and report observations to the radiologist. A great deal of their work is accomplished while standing. In addition, they might have to turn or lift patients needing assistance.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's or master's degree
Degree Field Radiologist assistant
Experience 2 years of experience required for radiologist assistant programs
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in many states; certification typically required for licensure; specialty certifications available
Key Skills Interpersonal, technical, and math skills; attention to detail; physical stamina
Salary $58,120 (2015 median for all radiologic and MRI technologists)

Sources: American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Radiology Assistant Programs

Becoming a radiologic assistant requires a bachelor's or master's degree in the field radiologist assistant. Additionally, two years of experience is usually required to be eligible for radiologist assistant programs. Licensure is required in many states. Certification is typically required for licensure. Specialty certifications are also available. The key skills for radiologic assistants include interpersonal, technical, and math skills, along with attention to detail and physical stamina. In 2015, radiologic and MRI technologists earned a median annual salary of $58,120, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Career Steps

Now let's check out the career steps for radiologic assistants.

Step 1: Complete a Radiologic Technologist Program

To become a radiologic assistant (RA), students must complete a program approved by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology or another accrediting agency recognized by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Radiologic technologist programs can award a certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree. Although, a minimum of an associate's degree is needed to obtain ARRT certification. Programs include a mix of didactic classes and clinical experience.

Step 2: Apply for Certification and Licensure

Graduates of radiologic technologist programs must become certified and licensed in order to work in some states. Applications for taking the certification exam may be submitted three months before the expected graduation date. Candidates with passing scores can apply for licensure in their respective states. Once certified and licensed, they may begin working as registered radiologic technologists.

To really shine in your program, gain experience. Two years of full-time work experience is required before applying to most RA programs. During this time, radiologic technologists may gain experience in maintaining and operating equipment, producing images as advised by the supervising radiologist and keeping patient records.

Step 3: Complete an RA Program

RA programs typically require two years of study beyond the radiologic technologist education. Programs may award a bachelor's or master's degree. The first year of the program is made up mostly of coursework in anatomy and physiology, advanced radiology procedures, radiographic positioning, healthcare leadership, and advanced image evaluation. The second year is focused on supervised clinical experience in various areas of radiology.

Step 4: Complete a Preceptorship

The ARRT requires graduates of RA programs to complete a preceptorship before applying for certification. A preceptorship requires certification candidates to be supervised by a radiologist and complete at least 500 cases. During this time, they will be trained in a variety of specific procedures. The supervising radiologist must attest to the candidate's competency in all of the required areas. Candidates may begin this work experience while enrolled in an RA program, but the preceptorship cannot be counted as part of the requirements for the RA program.

Step 5: Obtain Radiologist Assistant Certification

Candidates must apply for and pass an additional ARRT exam in order to qualify for RA certification. The exam is computer-based and is longer than the exam for radiologic technologists. Both multiple choice questions and case study questions are included. Once a passing score is earned, an individual can begin practicing as a Registered Radiologist Assistant (R.R.A.).

Step 6: Apply for Licensure

State licensure varies and is different than certification. However, the requirement for licensing in some states is passage of the ARRT exam. In addition to completing an RA program and passing the ARRT exam, many states require applicants to be certified in advanced cardiac life support.

It is important to complete continuing education requirements to maintain certification and licensure. Registered radiologist assistants complete 50 credits of continuing education every two years in order to keep their certification current. States also usually require a renewal process for licensure.

Step 7: Consider Further Education and Specialty Certification

Individuals wishing to gain advanced knowledge in a specific area of radiology may consider options, such as earning a Computed Tomography Advanced Certificate. In an advanced certificate program, students complete clinical practicums to develop expertise in the field. In addition to completing further study, radiologic assistants can demonstrate proficiency in this specialty by earning a Computed Tomography (CT) Certification through the ARRT.

To recap, with a postsecondary education, certification, and licensure, a radiologic assistant can earn about $58,000 a year to work alongside radiologists and maintain equipment, produce images, evaluate the quality of images, and report observations to the radiologist.

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