Become a Radiologic Technologist in 2024: Careers, Salaries, and Education

From education to salary, this guide will help you understand what it takes to become a radiology technician.
Become a Radiologic Technologist in 2024: Careers, Salaries, and Education

How to Become a Rad Tech | Salary & Education

Radiological technologists, commonly abbreviated as "rad techs," are medical professionals who perform diagnostic imaging tests on patients. Rad techs work under the supervision of radiologists, who are medical doctors who interpret the images used to diagnose and treat diseases. If you're interested in working with specialized medical equipment and playing a crucial role in the health of patients, a career in radiologic technology may be perfect for you. Learn more about how to become a rad tech and what to expect in the field of radiology.

What is a Radiologic Technologist?

Radiologic technologists, sometimes called radiographers, radiology technicians,  or radiology techs, are professionals who are trained to assist and perform diagnostic imaging procedures, such as:

  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT) 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Mammography
  • Vascular interventional radiography
  • Bone densitometry
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Sonography

These imaging procedures help visualize bones, tissues, and organs to evaluate and diagnose medical conditions like broken bones or strokes and guide treatment. Besides operating medical equipment, rad techs are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Reviewing the patient's medical history
  • Positioning patients appropriately for imaging
  • Applying and maintaining radiation safety practices
  • Ensuring images are clear and accurate for interpretation

Some rad techs are trained to administer radiation to patients with cancer and are known as radiation therapists. They work closely with oncologists and expertly administer radiation therapy while keeping the patient, themselves, and other staff safe from unnecessary radiation exposure.

Where do Rad Techs Work?

Over 50% of radiology technologists work in hospitals, though they may also work in outpatient settings like imaging centers, doctor offices, or laboratory centers. Like other medical professionals, work schedules may include evening shifts, weekends, holidays, and on-call requirements, depending on the setting.

How Much Do Rad Techs Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rad techs earned a median annual salary of $67,180, or $32.30 per hour, in 2022. As radiologic technologists become trained and certified in other skills, they can expect to earn more. Radiation therapists, for example, earned $89,530 annually in 2022.

How do you pursue a career as a Rad Tech?

Students typically start their educational journey by entering the profession with an associate's degree from an accredited radiologic technology program.

Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma 

The completion of a high school diploma or GED is required as a first step in becoming a rad tech. Having an interest in the human body and taking any classes on anatomy and physiology will prepare you for a radiology program.

Step 2: Earn a Degree 

Interested rad techs typically enroll in a radiologic technology program to earn an entry-level associate's degree accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Associate degree programs typically take two years to complete and are offered through community colleges. Standard courses you can expect to take in your radiology tech program include general courses in mathematics, anatomy, humanities, and more. Later, courses become specific to your role and include medical terminology, radiologic sciences and procedures, and principles of physics in radiation. 

Step 3: Pass the R.T. Exam

After completing their degree, students are eligible to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam to become certified and registered as a radiology technician. This computer-based exam measures the student's understanding of performing entry-level technologist tasks.

Step 4: Gain Experience

As you start your radiologic technologist career, you may gain experience in an array of imaging modalities. Take advantage of opportunities to shadow or participate in unfamiliar procedures. Network with colleagues to learn more about their roles. This can open the door to learning more about what you like and other avenues you can explore in radiology, like nuclear medicine technology or cardiac interventional radiography.

Step 5: Obtain Certifications (Optional)

After passing your exam and beginning your career in radiology technology, you may choose to complete additional certifications called "postprimary pathways" in specialties like bone densitometry, mammography, or radiation therapy. These additional certifications may require clinical competency in certain tasks and another exam. Most states require certification before working in a specialized area, which shows your qualification to perform a specific role. ARRT offers 15 options for credentialing. 

Obtaining postprimary credentials benefits rad techs in several ways. First, it broadens the job market and helps you stand out to employers. A rad tech who can perform CT scans, MRIs, and mammograms is an asset. Second, certifications allow you to negotiate a higher salary. Consider the certification of vascular interventional radiography. In this role, you may assist with minimally invasive procedures such as angioplasty, where you would be responsible for capturing images of blood vessels to ensure the accuracy of the placement of stents or the breakdown of blood clots. It is no surprise that this specialization comes with a higher salary.

Step 6: Maintain Certification

To maintain your certification, you must complete continuing education requirements every two years. This allows you to renew your certification and registration annually by paying the renewal fees.

Step 7: Obtain A Bachelor's Degree (Optional)

While you can also choose to enter the profession with a bachelor's degree, some people continue their education later to expand their earning potential. An advanced degree often opens opportunities for supervisory or administrative roles. 

Radiologic technologists are essential healthcare professionals who will continue to see growth in their field as medical technology advances and patients require imaging for chronic disease management and treatment. A strong attention to detail, excellent communication skills, and an interest in patient care are necessary for success in this career.


What is the best degree for a rad tech?

The most common route to becoming a radiologic technologist is to complete an associate degree program.

Is a radiologic technologist a doctor?

A radiologic technologist works under a radiologist, who is a medical doctor specializing in radiology.

How do I start studying radiology?

After completing a high school diploma or GED, enroll in a radiology tech program offered at a vocational school, community college, or university.

What can I expect in my radiologic technologist profession?

Rad techs typically perform the same imaging procedures most days and may not experience much variance in day-to-day practices. Your patient interactions will depend on the type of imaging test you administer. 

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Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.