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How to Become a
Radiologic Technologist

Begin a new career path in allied health

A radiologic technologist, also known as a radiographer, rad tech, or ARRT R.T. (R) X-ray technologist, performs X-ray exams and other diagnostic imaging procedures. These images are then reviewed and interpreted by doctors to help diagnose and treat injury and illnesses.

If you are interested in technology, anatomy, and science, as well as hands-on patient care, a career in radiology may be a great fit.

Here are four steps to become a radiologic technologist:

  1. Research and understand the role
  2. Earn a degree
  3. Pass the ARRT National Registry1
  4. Find your specialty
Rad tech guiding patient through X-ray procedure

1. Understand the role of a Radiologic Technologist

A radiology tech (short for “technologist” in this article) is a medical professional who performs diagnostic imaging exams, such as X-rays. Radiology techs may also study and test to add additional modality credentials to their license after they become ARRT radiographers. Some post primary specialties listed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) are Bone Densitometry (BD), Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR), Mammography (M), and Vascular Interventional Radiography (IR).

Radiology techs work closely with radiologists—doctors who interpret the results of the images. They may also work with a radiology tech assistant or aide, who helps transfer patients and position them for their images.

What does a radiologic technologist do?

Some key duties of a radiology tech include:

  • Preparing the exam room and imaging equipment, which includes machines and shielding devices to protect patients
  • Explaining the exam procedure to patients and providing instructions for the exam, such as asking them to remove jewelry and items with metal, and answering any questions they may have
  • Positioning patients for the imaging exam and calibrating or adjusting the equipment as needed
  • Operating computerized equipment to capture images
  • Checking the clarity of images and preparing them and other information for the radiologist to review
  • Working with physicians to evaluate images and determine if more are needed

Depending on their specialty and after becoming registered as a radiologic technologist by the ARRT, an RT may continue their education with an advanced modality such as the ones listed above. Depending on the post primary specialty, radiology techs may also: 

  • Administer small amounts of radiopharmaceuticals to patients, which helps their tissues, organs, and bones to be seen more clearly on an exam
  • Administer radiation doses to a patient as part of cancer or other disease treatment
  • Use sound wave technology to get images of a patient's tissues and organs
  • Measure a patient's bone mineral density

Important note on “radiologic technologists” vs “radiologic technicians” 

These are different roles! “Technicians” cannot perform many of the same exams “technologists” are educated and qualified to perform. Technicians can take a short course and get certified as a Basic Machine Operator (BMO), but technologists must earn an associate degree to become qualified to perform a wider variety of exams technicians cannot perform.

What skills are needed to become a radiologic technologist?

In addition to having completed a radiology program and earning your associate or bachelor’s degree, the following soft skills are important: 

  • Attention to detail
  • Collaboration
  • Communication, both written and verbal
  • Empathy
  • Organization
  • Problem solving ability

Where do radiologic technologists work?

Radiology techs typically work in hospitals (operating rooms, emergency departments, procedural suites, and specialized imaging departments), clinics or doctor’s offices. However, radiology techs may also be found working in stand-alone facilities that specialize in diagnostic imaging, medical labs and even nursing homes.

Many radiology techs work 40 hours a week, but depending on their employer, their shifts may vary in length from long to short. Some radiology techs travel to different locations or states to work for a temporary period, based on the needs of the particular employer.

How much do radiologic technologists make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for radiologic technologists and technicians is $75,250 per year ($36.18 per hour). Keep in mind this figure includes additional specialty modalities.

What is the job outlook for radiologic technologists?

The job outlook for radiology technologists is positive; overall employment of radiologic and MRI technologists is projected to grow 6% from 2022-2032, faster than the average for all occupations.*

2. Earn your degree in an ARRT approved radiologic technology program

To become a radiology technologist, you’ll need to earn either an associate or a bachelor’s degree.

  • Associate degree: Radiology technologists need to have at least an associate degree in radiologic technology to work in entry-level positions in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. These programs are typically two years and include health science courses, such as anatomy and physiology, as well as courses specific to radiology. It’s important to attend a school that has met the requirements of the ARRT. This will allow you to take the National Boards and become registered and credentialed as a Registered Technologist in Radiography R.T.(R). All employers require this.
  • Bachelor’s degree: It’s not mandatory to have a bachelor’s degree to work as an entry-level radiology technologist; however, techs may choose to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in radiology to advance their career and prepare for specialized or supervisory positions.
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3. Become certified

To work as a radiologic technologist, states require candidates to pass the ARRT exam at the end of their radiography program. This is a national licensing requirement. There are additional state license requirements after submitting proof of ARRT passage. The requirements vary from state to state. 1

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers a variety of exams to certify and register individuals in medical imaging, radiology, and related procedures.

4. Choose a specialization

Radiology technologists may choose to further their education and specialize in different areas, including:

  • Bone densitometry: Bone densitometry technicians measure bone density by using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) or CT scans. They are used to diagnose osteoporosis and determine the risk of bone fractures.
  • Cardiac-interventional radiography: Cardiac-interventional radiography technologists work with fluoroscopic equipment to take images of the heart and the blood vessels surrounding it. Techs may also help doctors and other medical staff with procedures such as biopsies, stenting, angioplasty, thrombolysis and more.
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan): CT techs administer patients with a contrast material that highlights internal organs, bones, soft tissue, and blood vessels to provide three-dimensional images. CT scans help diagnose muscle and bone disorders, such as tumors and fractures, show the location of a tumor or blood clot and help guide procedures.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI technicians operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to create diagnostic images to help identify issues in the brain, musculoskeletal problems, sports injuries, and spinal conditions.
  • Mammography: Radiology techs who specialize in mammography administer mammograms, which help identify diseases such as breast cancer.
  • Vascular interventional radiography: Vascular interventional radiology techs capture real-time, active images of the blood vessels using fluoroscopic equipment. They also help physicians with minimally invasive, image-guided vascular procedures, including angioplasty (using a balloon to help open a narrow or blocked artery), placing stents to open arteries or thrombolysis (breaking up blood clots).
  • Nuclear medicine: Nuclear medicine radiology techs inject very small amounts of radioactive materials, or radiopharmaceuticals, into a patient and then use a scanner or camera to capture images so physicians can examine their organ function or structureThis allows physicians to see where blood is flowing and can identify issues, such as tumors. Nuclear medicine scans are often used to diagnose problems in the brain or heart.
  • Sonography: Sonographers, or ultrasound technicians, use high-frequency sound waves to produce visual images of organs, tissues, or blood flow inside the body. While sonography is often associated with pregnancies and OB/GYNs, it is also used to view organs in the abdominal area.

Frequently Asked Questions

The biggest difference between a radiologic technologist and technician is their level of education and scope of responsibilities.

Technologists (also called radiographers) typically hold an associate or bachelor’s degree and carry extended capability to perform many kinds of diagnostic imaging procedure: x-rays, CT scans, sonograms, mammograms, etc. With an associate degree you may cross train into these types of specialties. Cross training may be done on the job or on your own and does not require an additional degree.

Technicians are more limited in what procedures they can perform depending on the state in which they practice. Technicians generally do not have a degree and often have no formal training. In the state of Florida, technicians are considered to have limited scope and may not work in hospitals or emergency rooms.

Radiologic technologists operate X-ray machines, and with additional training use digital mammography machines, computed tomography (CT) machines, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners and other types of medical imaging equipment. Radiographers may also specialize in fluoroscopy or angiography.

The job description for a radiologic technologist can include:

  • Preparing the patient for the exam by explaining the procedure.
  • Positioning patients so that the parts of the body can be appropriately radiographed.
  • Setting controls on the machine to produce images of the appropriate density, detail, and contrast.
  • Placing the imaging plate under the part of the patient’s body to be examined and make the exposure.
  • Using a computer to develop and manage x-ray images.
  • Providing basic patient care.
  • Performing trauma and surgical x-ray procedures.

Radiologic technologists are on their feet for long periods of time and have to help or lift disabled patients. Although there are radiation hazards present, these are minimized by proper radiation protection practices, including the use of lead aprons, and other shielding devices. In addition, technologists wear badges that measure radiation levels in their work area and detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime dose. Technologists must be able to move, push, and manipulate equipment. They must also be comfortable working on a computer.

Work environment

Most full-time radiologic technologists work about 40 hours a week. They may, however, have evening, weekend, or on-call hours. In a hospital setting, technologists may work a full-time night shift or weekend shift, and alternating these shifts may be required. Opportunities for part-time and shift work also are available and new graduates may start with a PRN status, with variable days and hours.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technologists earn an average salary of $75,250 per year ($36.18 per hour).* In the state of Florida, the average salary is $59,570 per year ($28.64 per hour). Average pay depends primarily on where you work, your level of experience and where you practice.

If you’re just starting as a radiology tech straight out of college, expect to build some experience before reaching the average. Prove yourself as an excellent radiologic technologist, continue striving to be the best, and you’ll have the potential to keep improving your pay.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the need for radiologic technologists will rise 6% from 2022-2032, higher than the national average across all occupations.*

The BLS cites the growth of the baby-boom population as a key factor in driving up demand for medical imaging, increasing the importance of available radiologic and MRI technologists.

No, you cannot earn a degree in radiologic technology 100% online. However, you can complete your general education classes online on your own schedule.

Our goal is to empower you to excel in your new career. The hands-on experience at Herzing’s on-campus lab and clinical sites are crucial to fully prepare you for your first job in your chosen field.

While radiologic technologist and radiologist sound like similar careers, they are actually quite different. A radiologist is a doctor who interprets medical images, such as X-rays and MRIs, diagnoses patients and recommends treatment. A radiologic technologist is typically supervised by a radiologist and supports the doctor and other members of the healthcare team by performing the diagnostic imaging procedures.

Radiologists must also attend medical school. Radiologic technologists, on the other hand, can begin their career after completing a two-year associate degree program in radiologic technology. With additional experience and education, they can go on to specialize in areas like mammography, MRI or cardiovascular imaging.

A career as a radiologic technologist is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to help others, has a passion for working with technology and is interested in joining the healthcare field quickly. In fact, U.S News and World Report rank radiologic technologist as #24 in Best Healthcare Support Jobs for 2023.

With Herzing University you are never alone – an affordable, career-focused education is within your reach. We offer scholarships, grants and loan options for eligible students looking to empower themselves to reach the next level in their career.

View all of our financial aid options and calculate  a quick estimate for your potential tuition & expenses using our tuition wizard.

The Herzing University radiologic technologist program takes an average of 24 months to complete. Once you have earned your associate degree you will be eligible to take the national registry exam offered by the ARRT and for Florida State Licensure.

Become possible with Herzing University

Radiologic technology is a growing specialty within the medical field. 

As a radiology technologist, you can use science and technology to provide medical care to people of all ages. You can even specialize in a particular focus to expand your job opportunities. 

Take the first step down an exciting new career path.

Learn more about our radiologic technology program


1Certification is required in the state of Florida, the state in which Herzing University offers a radiologic technology program (Orlando campus). Herzing University has determined that the Associate of Science in Radiologic Technology program curriculum meets the educational requirements for licensure in the state of Florida.

* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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