How to Become a Radiology Tech

HealthcareOctober 13, 2023

Diseases like cancer often cause debilitating complications to a patient’s health that can become life-threatening. Through early screening, these diseases can often be caught and treated early, reducing their impact on the body. Research from the American Lung Association supports this premise. Findings show that annual scans using computer tomography (CT) machines can help reduce deaths caused by lung cancer by up to 20% in high-risk patients.

The use of powerful imaging machines for diagnosis and treatment can make a decisive impact on a patient’s health — but these technologies require personnel with specialized knowledge to operate them safely and effectively. Those who wish to pursue this career path should consider how to become a radiology tech and the benefits a radiology technician training program can offer.

What Does a Radiology Tech Do? 

Radiology techs, also called radiology technologists or radiographers, are responsible for operating and performing medical imaging services for patients. Healthcare experts use imaging services to visualize internal parts of the body for diagnostic purposes, such as checking the damage to bones and organs caused by an illness or accident. Some imaging technologies are used to create:

  • X-rays
  • Computer tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance (MRI) scans

While many of these technologies use radiation as part of their imaging, their use is generally much less harmful or invasive, making them a critical aspect of the diagnostic process. To ensure protection from the limited radiation these machines emit, radiology techs are also responsible for effectively explaining the procedure to patients and answering questions, checking to remove improper clothing or jewelry before a procedure, and providing protective outerwear such as lead coats and aprons. 

While radiology techs are trained to use imaging machines, it’s typical for most to specialize in specific machines or procedures. Examples of specialty areas include mammography, radiation therapy, and bone densitometry. Unlike those who specialize, such as someone who becomes an X-ray technician, radiology techs have a wider scope of practice and can operate numerous machines. This can be advantageous when it comes to employment.

Steps to Become a Radiology Tech

The use of medical imaging equipment can be complex and dangerous due to regular exposure to radiation. In addition to the safe and effective operation of these machines, radiology technicians must also have a high degree of empathy to properly care for patients who may be facing worrisome diagnoses. To meet these qualifications, those who desire to learn how to become a radiology tech will need to follow a few key steps to prepare for this career path.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Individuals looking to enter the field seek out an associate degree or training program, which typically covers more foundational aspects of general science and health education while allowing a focus on radiology equipment. This educational path benefits aspiring radiology technicians who need a diversity of knowledge in areas such as technology, patient care, and anatomy. 

These programs also typically last for around two years, allowing radiology techs to enter the workforce fairly quickly compared to earning a traditional four-year degree.

Step 2: Earn Certifications and Licenses

To practice as a radiology tech, a certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is required in some states. To acquire this certification, one must pass both an exam and an ethical review. The ARRT requires the certification be renewed every two years to ensure technicians remain up to date on the latest radiology equipment and procedures.

While it is not always a requirement from the state, many employers look for candidates who are certified, reflecting that the prospective employee has attained and demonstrated a high standard of practice. For this reason, certification is often worth pursuing, even if it’s not an absolute requirement. Those looking to receive certification for specific procedures, such as mammography, can also earn additional certifications to showcase their specialized expertise to employers. In addition to these certifications, states may require licensure to practice.

Step 3: Develop Key Skills

Becoming a radiology tech requires skills to support their holistic approach to delivering technical expertise and patient care. Here are a few skills that radiology techs should build to offer effective care.

  • Communication. Explaining to patients how they will need to hold certain positions or movements for prolonged periods, listening to their needs before the procedure, and accommodating them by providing comfort, while also answering questions in a calming way can ease the patient’s concerns and expedite the process.
  • Problem Solving. Equipment may need adjusting or correction based on a patient’s specific needs. Making quick course corrections while maintaining accuracy is crucial. 
  • Organizational Skills. Results found by a radiology tech often require analysis from numerous professionals in a patient’s care team. Ensuring each patient file is properly organized and allocated to the right healthcare professionals is vital to ensure quick and proper treatments.
  • Medical and Anatomical Knowledge. Radiology equipment requires precise aiming and calibration to a patient’s body. Knowing the locations of specific bones and organs allows techs to adjust images in real time and investigate signs of something irregular.

Job Outlook for Radiology Techs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), radiology techs have a good job outlook, with a projected growth of 6% between 2022 and 2032. This is higher than the average 5% projected growth for the U.S. job market as a whole. 

This positive employment projection is based on a few key factors, says the BLS. These include the rise in chronic diseases, damaging injuries, and falls from accidents, especially among the country’s aging population. This places a higher need for diagnostic imaging procedures and the skilled radiology technicians who can operate them.

Visualize Your Future as a Radiology Tech

A career as a radiology technician can be a rewarding path that combines technical expertise with empathetic patient care. If becoming a radiology tech sounds like an enticing career choice, consider enrolling in the Fortis Radiology Technologist program. This program features courses on subjects such as radiation safety, image analysis, and patient care. It also prepares you for the opportunity to earn certifications after you graduate with your associate degree.

With a combination of foundational classes, small group projects, hands-on learning, and the development of real-world skills, Fortis can help you earn a well-rounded education, preparing you to take a first step toward a career in radiology technology.

Discover how you can make a difference in patients’ lives with Fortis.

Recommended Readings

3 Types of X-Ray Exams Radiologic Technologists Perform
Radiologic Technology Offers a Vibrant Career
What Does a Limited Machine X-ray Operator Do?

American Cancer Society, “Key Statistics for Lung Cancer”
American Lung Association, “New Report: Critically Low Lung Cancer Screening Rates Reveal Opportunity to Save More Lives”
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, ARRT Certification and Registration
Chron, “Career Path for a Radiography Technologist”
Chron, “Differences Between Radiologic Technicians and X-Ray Techs”
Indeed, “How To Become a Radiologist Technician (With FAQS)”
Indeed, “Radiologic Technologist Skills: Definitions and Examples”
Indeed, “Q&A: How Long Does It Take To Become a Radiologist Tech?”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Radiologic and MRI Technologists