Become an Imaging Technician
Diagnostic imaging utilizes various imaging technologies, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-ray, nuclear medicine scanning, and sonography. Imaging technicians and technologists maintain equipment, prepare patients for imaging procedures, produce the images, and maintain patient records. They also might provide preliminary analysis of images, although supervising physicians ultimately provide diagnoses. Imaging technicians might spend many hours standing and they might need to lift or move patients.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree is the most common|
|Degree Field||Radiologic technology, nuclear medicine technology, sonography|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure is required in some states; certification is optional, but preferred by some employers|
|Experience||Clinical training is required|
|Key Skills||Attention to detail, team work, problem solving, interpersonal skills, ability to perform precise procedures and follow protocols|
|Salary (2015)||Varies by specialty; $58,120 (median annual salary of radiologic and MRI technologists); $68,970 (median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; CareerOneStop, U.S. Department of Labor.
Let's trace the steps required to become an imaging technician
Earn an Associate's Degree
Aspiring imaging technicians must complete a formal training program in an area of imaging technology, such as radiologic technology, nuclear medicine technology, or sonography. To be eligible for certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) imaging technicians must hold a minimum of an associate's degree. Students should choose a degree program that's accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. These programs typically combine courses in medical ethics, medical terminology, patient care, and anatomy, with general education courses. Additionally, students complete a clinical education component to learn how to use imaging equipment in a clinical setting. Some programs provide the option of developing a more specific specialty. For example, in the case of sonography, students might have the option to specialize in imaging a specific part of the body. Examples of specialties include cardiac sonography, vascular sonography, or obstetrics and gynecology sonography.
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Certification through ARRT requires completion of an accredited program and passage of a national examination. Exams are discipline-specific and usually consist entirely of multiple-choice format questions. The exams are offered at computer-based testing centers across the U.S. A candidate only needs to take the exam that relates to the specific technology in which he or she wants to be certified. Exam scores are available within two to three weeks. Once a candidate has passed the exam, he or she is added to the registry of certified technologists and can use the title Registered Technologist (R.T.).
Nuclear medicine technologists also might choose to be certified by the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board, and sonographers might choose to be certified in a particular specialty by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Obtain State Licensure
Licensure is a common requirement for imaging technicians, especially those working in radiologic technology. States that require licensure often accept ARRT certification as proof of professional competency. However, some states have their own exams that candidates must pass. Technicians should check with their states to find out about specific licensing requirements.
Meet CE Requirements
To maintain certification with the ARRT, imaging technicians must renew their registration and pay a renewal fee annually. Additionally, every two years, technicians need to provide documentation of meeting ongoing continuing education requirements. These requirements include completion of 24 units of approved continuing education units or passing an additional examination in another specialty, which has the added benefit of allowing a technician to add the new specialty to his or her credentials.
- Join a professional organization. Organizations such as the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography give members access to continuing education opportunities. Members may also receive other benefits, such as networking opportunities, industry publications and updates, job search tools, and discounts on products and conference fees.
Advance in Your Career
Imaging technicians can broaden their scope of practice by becoming certified in additional technologies. For example, radiologic technologists have the option of becoming radiologist assistants. This requires completing additional coursework, either at the bachelor's or master's degree level. Radiologist assistants work directly under the supervision of a radiologist and are given more responsibility than technologists.
To recap, imaging technicians need at least an associate's degree in an area of imaging technology, such as radiologic technology, nuclear medicine technology, or sonography. Certification and state licensure might required or preferred by employers.