Tech looking at X-ray

From EMT to Radiologic Technologist: EMT Career Guide

How to Become a Radiologic Technologist: Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Tech looking at X-ray

One of the most important diagnostic tools in a hospital is the radiologic scanner—machines that use radiology (x-rays) and magnets (MRIs)to look inside patients. A radiologist makes the official diagnosis from the images, but before that happens, a Radiologic Technologist is needed to do the actual scan.

It’s an incredibly important role in the patient care system. Without accurate scans, doctors can’t prescribe accurate care plans, so the demand for dedicated, organized, and capable Radiologic (or MRI Technologists) is crucial.

For EMTs interested in pursuing an alternate career, becoming an x-ray or MRI technician could be a great next step. As an EMT, your responsibility was treating the patient in the field and getting them to the doors of the hospital. And on the other side of those doors, more often than not, a radiologic technologist is standing by to take over. Becoming a radiologic technician can also be an incredible opportunity for EMTs to grow their careers and assume greater responsibilities in patient care.

(See our full list of alternative jobs for EMTs and paramedics)                

Radiologic Technologist Duties & Responsibilities

What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?

The primary job of a radiologic technologist is to perform diagnostic imaging examinations on patients using one of several imaging machines—such as x-ray or MRI. These images are then sent to the attending radiologist to examine and diagnose their patients.

Common responsibilities for radiologic techs include:

  • Adjusting and maintaining imagine equipment
  • Following physician orders on specific areas of the body to scan
  • Preparing patients for scans and collecting patient history
  • Protecting the patient by applying protective covering to shield areas not being scanned
  • Positioning the patient to get the optimal image
  • Operating the scanning equipment
  • Evaluating images with physicians to determine if additional scans are required
  • Keeping detailed patient records

Radiologic Technologist Job Description

What Is a Typical Day For a Radiologic Tech?

X-ray of the pelvis

Like many jobs in the medical field, a radiologic technologist spends of their day on their feet—moving from room to room, setting up imaging equipment, delivering results, and moving scanners.

Radiologic techs work directly with doctors, any many their responsibilities are in fact determined by needs of those physicians. As a radiologic technologist, you’ll be given specific orders for which patients to scan, the parts of their body to scan, and the type of imaging the doctor requires.

Your certification and training will determine which types of scans you’ll do—it may be an MRI, an x-ray, a mammogram, or a sonogram, or even a combination of one or more.

Because you also work directly with patients, a large part of the day will be spent preparing them for their scans. You’ll discuss the procedure, let them know what to expect, and try to fill in any gaps in their patient histories.

A radiologic technologist also plays a part when interpreting the resulting images. While a radiologist or MD will make the final diagnosis, you’ll assist in interpreting the data and determining whether a second scan is needed.

Radiologic Technologist Hours

Radiology is part of a hospital’s emergency care system, which means that radiologic techs are needed at all times. Exact shifts will vary from hospital to hospital, but typically, a radiologic technologist’s schedule is similar to that of an EMT or emergency room technician—8 to 12 hour shifts with the possibility of overnight and weekend assignments.

Radiologic Tech Uniform

Because RTs work directly with patients, most hospitals require them to wear scrubs.

Radiologic Technologist Requirements

Certification and/or licensing is required for anyone who enters the field of radiologic technologist. This includes graduation from an accredited program and the successful passing of a certification exam—through the American Association of Radiologic Technologists (AART) for radiologic scans, and/or through the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT) for MRI techs.

While not every state requires licensing to become an MRI technologist, most employers require (or prefer) certification. Check with your state’s health board for exact requirements.

How to Become a Radiologic Technologist

X-ray of the arm

The work of a radiologic technologist or MRI technologist is very detailed and complex, so naturally, additional training is required even if you’ve already earned your EMT certification.

An associates degree from an accredited program can be found at many vocational schools and community colleges. Some student opt to pursue a bachelor’s degree as well, but this is not required.

Your associates degree program will include a combination of both classroom and clinical training, and will include studies in patient care, safety around radiation, and deciphering medical imaging.

Most students hoping to become an MRI technologist begin their career as a radiologic technologist and move on to specialize in MRI after acquiring some on-the-job experience.

Radiologic Tech Might Be A Good Fit If…

  • You are organized and detail-oriented
  • You have good eyesight
  • You are good with taking orders
  • You enjoy working directly with patients
  • You are tech savvy
  • You enjoy the diagnostic side of medicine

Radiologic Technologist Education

What Training Is Required to Become a Radiologic Technologist?

The associates degree and certification exam are two requirements for becoming a radiologic or MRI technician. During the radiologic technologist courses, you’ll study the imaging equipment, proper safety protocols (for both you and your patient), the science behind radiologic and magnetic scans, and how to decipher scan results.

Some techniques learned in the associates degree program may be familiar to those with EMT and paramedic certification, such as patient care and stabilization.

Radiologic or MRI Technologist Programs

During your courses, you’ll study:

  • Patient Care Procedures
  • Radiation Physics and Protection
  • Clinical Imaging
  • Radiobiology
  • Pathology
  • Medical Ethics
  • Patient Positioning
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Diagnostics

How Long Does It Take to Be a Radiologic Technologist?

The average accredited program for radiologic technologists takes two years to complete. Additional study or on-the-job training is typically required for those planning to advance to MRI or CT technologist. For those opting to complete a bachelor’s degree, the program length averages between three and four years of study.

Radiologic Technologist Certification

Certification as a radiologic technologist is your way of demonstrating to future employers that you are fully trained and capable of completing your assigned medical tasks.

Certification exams are managed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and there are many specialized certifications available. You can certify in anything from mammography to bone densitometry to radiation therapy through the ARRT program, and each certification opens additional employment possibilities within the medical field.

Most applicants begin with the Radiography exam and certification and pursue additional specializations later in their career.

In addition to the certification exam, you’ll also be tested on ethical standards during the application process, something the ARRT takes very seriously.

Those seeking additional certification as an MRI technologist can pursue the optional certification exam offered by the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT).

Radiologic Technologist Required Skills

Besides the educational and certification requirements, radiologic technologists should exhibit the following skills to achieve success:

  • Detail Oriented – Doctors will give very specific instructions for requested scans, and the imagery machines are incredibly precise, so attention to detail is of high importance.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Radiologic Technologists work with both doctors and patients and must be able to communicate with and manage both. Patients may also be stressed or anxious about scans, and a good RT understands how to navigate these potentially tricky situations.
  • Math Skills – Radiologic scans are a mixture of computer science, biology, and chemistry. Strong math skills are needed for calculating the correct dosage of chemicals for procedures.
  • Physical Stamina – RTs move equipment, patients, and are on their feet nearly the entire day.
  • Technical Skills – X-rays, CTs, and MRIs are highly complex machines, and a radiological tech needs to be able to both operate and troubleshoot.

From EMT to Radiologic Technologist

How Will My EMT Experience Help Me Become A Radiologic Tech?

Becoming an EMT or paramedic is an excellent means of preparing for a future as a radiologic or MRI technologist.

  • Stamina – Like RTs, EMTs are on their feet most of the day, and their job requires a high degree of physical stamina and fitness.
  • Proof of Performance – EMTs have a proven track record of successfully working directly with patients, addressing patient safety, and assisting in patient care.
  • Communication – EMT field experience teaches effective communication with doctors, patients, and dispatchers.
  • Organizational Skills – While an RTs equipment is much more complicated, EMTs and paramedics still have experience in maintaining, storing, fixing, and using medical equipment.
  • Field Experience – EMTs and paramedics see a wide variety of injuries in the field. That experience can help a radiologic technologist in properly stabilizing injured patients, understanding their pain levels, and helping diagnose the extent of their injuries.

Radiologic Technologist Salary

How Much Does a Radiologic Technologist Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a radiologic technologist makes an average of $63,120 per year ($30.34 per hour). Additional specialization within the field can impact (and significantly raise) that average.

Where you work also impacts your average salary. Most RTs work within a hospital setting, but other opportunities are available and come with their own average wages.

Highest Paid Industries for Radiologic Technologists

Here is a list of occupational settings where radiologic techs can work, ranked in order of average salary:

Industry Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Scientific Research & Development Services $35.99 $74,850
Scientific & Technical Consulting Services $34.54 $71,850
Specialty Hospitals $33.72 $70,140
Outpatient Care Centers $33.24 $69,140
General Hospitals $30.71 $63,870
Medical & Diagnostic Laboratories $30.47 $63,380

Where you live may also impact your financial compensation as a radiologic tech.

Highest Paying States for Radiologic Technologists

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
California $41.40 $86,120
Hawaii $39.75 $82,680
Washington DC $38.19 $79,430
Massachusetts $37.65 $78,300
Alaska $36.95 $76,850

Highest Paying Cities for Radiologic Technologists

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Salinas, CA $52.97 $110,180
Fairfield, CA $52.73 $109,680
San Francisco, CA $49.84 $103,670
Sacramento, CA $46.85 $97,450
Redding, CA $45.25 $94,120
Stockton, CA $43.26 $89,980
Santa Barbara, CA $42.75 $88,920
San Jose, CA $42.64 $88,690
Yuba City, CA $42.31 $88,000
Santa Cruz, CA $42.07 $87,510

Beginning Your Career as a Radiologic or MRI Technologist

Becoming a radiologic technologist is a logical step up for many EMTs and paramedics and can lead to significant increases in pay, responsibility, and job options.

If you’re not already an EMT and would like to gain real-world experience before taking the leap, you can start by training for EMT certification.

Emergency medical services are an excellent way to test the waters before fully committing to a career in healthcare. Jobs for both radiologic techs and EMTs are in high demand, and employers are constantly looking for hard-working, smart, and dedicated employees for their teams. All you have to do is take the first step forward.

Patient getting an MRI scan