Radiology technicians work in hospitals, physicians' offices and private health care facilities as diagnostic imaging professionals. They use specialized imaging techniques like X-rays, mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging to produce images used by physicians for medical diagnosis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for radiologic technicians is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018. Those planning to work in this field must complete a very specific program of study.
There are several different educational paths to becoming a radiologic technician. Radiologic technician standards differ from state to state and, in some cases, from employer to employer. The shortest path to becoming a technician requires no declaration of an academic major because this pathway only requires the completion of a certificate program in radiography or radiological science. These certificate programs are concentrated study programs that typically take one year or less to complete and are offered by technical schools, hospitals and community colleges. In many states, a certificate will suffice for employment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pursuing an associate degree is the most common path chosen by radiologic technicians. The associate degree will typically take two years instead of one like the certificate program, but it does offer the student the advantage of gaining some of the general education courses that many employers consider important because of the skills they teach, such as English and communications skills. The associate degree in radiologic technology also provides students with the additional choice of later pursuing a bachelor's in another field if they choose to do so.
Although more rare, it is possible to pursue a bachelor's degree in the field of radiologic science to enter the field . Schools like Midwestern State University offer bachelor of science degrees in this field. Although it is not necessary to declare a major in radiologic technology, the degree can be helpful for those who later plan to go on and pursue a master's degree to become a radiology assistant.
Certification is typically considered a necessary part of becoming a radiology technician. Although voluntary, the certification offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is preferred by many employers and the examinations used for certification by the ARRT are also used for state licensing purposes. Maintaining certification is dependent upon meeting continuing education requirements every two years.