What Does a Radiology Tech Do?
Radiology techs look inside the human body with only imaging equipment — no scalpel required.
These techs — also called radiologic technologists, radiographers or radiology technologists — perform diagnostic imaging procedures, such as X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans.
They often specialize in an imagery area, such as mammography or bone density scans. They can also specialize in the use of a certain machine, such as MRI techs, who operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.
Radiology techs work closely with physicians as they make diagnoses and create treatment plans. That's why working well on a team and being a good communicator are two important skills for this job.
If you have those skills and like the idea of working with technology to help solve medical issues, keep reading! There’s a lot to learn about this in-demand career.
- Prepare patients for the procedure
- Review and update patient charts and doctor’s notes
- Prepare and administer the mixture that patients drink to create contrast in diagnostic images
- Position patients to ensure clear images
- Monitor patients during procedure
- Practice "ALARA," an acronym for As Low as Reasonably Achievable, which refers to keeping the exposure to radiation as far below the dose limits as possible
- Calibrate the equipment
- Log and organize image results
- Develop film and assist radiologists with the interpretation of results
- Ensure the proper sterilization and maintenance of equipment
How To Become a Radiology Tech: FAQs
What steps do I need to take?
Radiology tech jobs require post-secondary education after high school, but there are several ways to achieve that goal. Most earn an associate degree at a community college. Others enroll in training programs that include classroom time and clinical work and lead to a certificate. Some obtain a bachelor’s degree.
Programs include courses on anatomy, pathology, image evaluation and patient care, as well as hands-on training in technology and radiation protection.
Look for programs accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Some states require this stamp of approval for licensure.
Most states and employers require techs to pass a certification exam or to obtain certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Most states also require that techs be licensed.
Consult your state’s health board to understand how the rules will affect your journey.
Once you start working, that doesn’t mean your education is done. Continuing education is common in this profession. Registered radiologic techs must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years and be in good standing with the ARRT to renew their license.
Continuing education can also open up new opportunities. By earning other certifications, techs can explore areas of specialization such as mammogram, CT technology, DEXA and MRI.
Radiology techs are well-positioned to learn about and even move into related jobs such as MRI tech, cardiovascular technician and medical diagnostic sonographer. There are lots of opportunities for growth!
Are there any other qualifications?
Most employers look for techs trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
How long does it take to become a radiology tech?
A certificate program can take from one to two years. An associate degree takes two years. A bachelor’s degree takes four. Continuing education is ongoing.
Where do radiology techs work? And when?
They typically work in hospitals, outpatient centers and doctors’ offices. Their work hours may include nights, weekends and holidays, depending on the hours the facility is open.
Radiology tech job outlook: Is there a demand for this job?
Yes, these health care specialists are in demand. Employment for radiology techs is expected to grow about 6% from 2021 to 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful techs tend to share these traits:
- Enjoy working with complex equipment and learning new technology
- Good interpersonal skills
- Enjoy working on a team
- Strong math skills
- Good physical strength
(Extra: In this video, a radiologic technologist explains why those traits matter and why he loves being in this line of work.)