Radiology Assistant

What is the professional history of radiology assistants?

In the 1970’s several universities across the United States began discussing the possibility of developing radiology assistant programs to help create a new profession within the field of radiology. Yet it wasn’t until the 1990’s that such programs became available in response to a nationwide scarcity of radiologists along with a growing need for imaging services in patient care. The American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Registry of Radiology Technologists (ARRT) and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) are mainly credited for finding a mutual solution to both problems by creating the role of radiology assistants.

What is a radiology assistant?

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), radiology assistants (sometimes called radiologist assistants) are “experienced, registered radiographers who have

What is the radiology assistant’s job description?

Although a radiology assistant can perform dozens of wide-ranging tasks and procedures, the ASRT outlines three major job responsibilities. First, all radiology assistants are expected to positively contribute to patient education, assessment, and general management. Also, all radiology assistants must be prepared to accurately execute designated radiology procedures including but not limited to: evaluating, reviewing, recording, and communicating initial observations regarding radiology imaging, performing magnetic resonance (MR) and computed tomography (CT) post-processing, engaging in GUI and GI examinations, and fluoroscopy. Finally, all radiology assistants are required to show dedication to patient care by routinely analyzing the quality of service provided to clients and participating in quality improvement actions within the radiology setting.

What clinical activities do entry-level radiology assistants perform?

The ARRT, ASRT, and ACR have collaborated to compose a list of forty clinical activities that all entry-level RAs should be adequately trained to preform so as to be eligible to pursue radiology assistant jobs. Some of these activities pertain to gathering or relaying patient information such as: reviewing patient’s medical records, interviewing patients, explaining radiology procedures, obtaining consent, and instructing in examination preparation. By obtaining patient information, radiology assistants can more accurately determine any risk factors that may interfere with radiologic procedures.

Other clinical activities involve performing specific radiologic and medical procedures including: radiology-focused physical examinations, monitoring ECG and IV therapy, operating fluoroscopic units, invasive nonvascular and vascular practices, and administering urinary catheterization, venipuncture, moderate sedation, and oxygen.

Another set of clinical activities relate to the pharmacology aspect of radiology assisting like explaining pharmaceutical effects and side effects, and administering contrast agents, radiopharmaceuticals, and general medication to patients.

Finally, radiology assistants should learn how to properly evaluate, review, and record post-examination data, for instance: evaluating image quality, reviewing image procedures, reporting and recording initial observations, performing follow-up examinations, and documenting procedure and post-procedure evaluations.

Request Information from Radiology Assistant Colleges

Request information from accredited radiology assistant schools. The schools, colleges and universities below have programs for those individuals interested in starting their careers as a radiology assistant or radiologist asst. Below, you will find the radiology assistant schools near you. Radiology assistants begin their careers as radiology technicians and technologists.

Radiology Assistant Program

Do I need to complete an ARRT-approved radiology program in order to practice?

In an effort to uphold a nationwide occupational standard in education, most radiology assistant programs in the United States are baccalaureate or graduate-level programs. However, since not all states require certification, there are still plenty of radiology assistant schools offering programs that, while not endorsed by the ARRT, still provide great educational and training opportunities that can lead to great careers.

Some students decide instead to take preliminary courses or complete associate’s degrees in radiology-related fields like medical imaging sciences, diagnostic cardiac sonography, diagnostic medical sonography,

More than anything, it is important to gain some formal education that encompasses aspects of radiology assisting. All formal education should be supplemented by clinical training. Although most degree programs will incorporate a clinical practice portion within the curriculum framework of the program, some may not. However, students can often find clinical training opportunities by contacting local radiologists, hospitals, and diagnostic imaging sites and participating in job shadowing, internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer positions.

What are some typical pre-requisites for admission into radiology assistant programs?

Each radiology assistant program has its own set of pre-requisites that enrolling students must complete prior to gaining admittance. For instance, some RA programs may require that incoming students graduate from medical or diagnostic radiography programs prior to applying. Other programs only allow students that already hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university or college to enroll.

Common pre-requisites also include professional qualifications like national certification in radiologic technology or a diagnostic technologist license.

Furthermore, many RA programs only accept new students that have engaged in a significant amount of direct patient care and/or have two to three years of work experience practicing as ARRT certified radiographers.

Since most radiology assistant programs involve extensive clinical work, students may be asked to sign a clinical preceptor agreement, get specific immunizations, and earn their Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications before beginning their RA program.

Letters of recommendation, interviews, references, and the submission of GRE scores may also be requested.

What courses are found in radiology assistant programs?

Some radiology assistant programs require students to start by taking preparatory courses in Human Anatomy and Physiology I, Human Anatomy and Physiology II, English Composition, Humanities, Social Sciences, Statistics, Research Methods, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Pharmacology, Pathophysiology, and Human Disease.

The core curriculum for most radiology assistant programs will focus on subjects in patient assessment, quality care standards, roles of the radiology assistant, diagnostic testing and imaging, examination techniques, health data management, radiobiology, clinical radiology procedures, current health care laws, safety measures, and medical ethics in radiology.

Some examples of actual courses found within some radiology assistant programs include:   Physics of Imaging, Radiation Biology and Safety, Biostatistics, Leadership Theory and Practice, Contemporary Trends in Radiologic Science, Image Critique and Pathologic Pattern Recognition, Cardiology, Pathophysiology of Altered Health States, and Law Regulation and Risk Management.

These subjects and courses are often taught and studied using a variety of different styles. Students typically learn by observing, researching, and participating in case studies, clinical internships mirroring those holding radiology assistant jobs, imaging procedures, patient care and assessments, web-based interactions, preceptorships, presentations, instructed readings, online courses, seminars, projects, discussions, imaging modalities, and lectures.

Radiology Assistant School

How can I begin to build a career as a radiology assistant?

Those interested in becoming radiology assistants must first become radiographers. To accomplish this, most students and health care professionals successfully complete a post-secondary radiography program. Currently, there are hundreds of accredited radiography programs available throughout the country with at least one in every state (and Washington, DC).

By graduating from these programs, students will qualify to sit for a competency examination administered by the AART. Then, by passing this examination, radiography certification is granted.

Although some radiographers are not certified, those aspiring to become registered radiology assistants are required to get ARRT-certified as radiographers beforehand. After radiography certification, it is essential to gain a few years of work experience as a

Where are radiologist assistant schools available?

Before becoming a radiology assistant, professionals must first acquire the formal education and training necessary to accurately and safety assist radiologists in patient care. One of the cornerstones of a successful career is selecting a radiology assistant school that provides students with both relevant coursework and applied clinical practice in a radiology environment.

Although using a radiology school to qualify for eventual certification is optional in some states, national ARRT certification is quickly becoming an industry standard. As such, though students may start their education by enrolling in a few introductory radiology courses through a community hospital or technical school, most aspiring radiology assistant select ARRT-approved schools that will allow them to gain certification post-graduation. These particular radiology assistant schools are primarily located in private and state colleges and universities. Radiology assistant programs within these colleges and universities are usually offered through one of the following departments: health professions, biological and allied health sciences, health related professions, science and technology, allied health professions, health sciences and human services, health science, and allied medical professions.

How many ARRT-approved radiology schools are available? Where are they located?

Presently, there are eleven different colleges and universities that provide radiology assistant degree programs in the United States that are recognized by the ARRT. These schools can be found in Bellevue, Washington; Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania; Loma Linda, California; Wichita Falls, Texas; Hamden, Connecticut; Columbus, Ohio; Little Rock, Arkansas; Newark, New Jersey; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; and Ogden, UT.

While these programs may seem scarce, students should not be discouraged. Many radiology programs endorsed by the ARRT do offer online and distance learning for completing required coursework. Students that decide to choose these alternative learning methods may be responsible for finding clinical training sites or clinical preceptorship possibilities in their own local communities. 

What kinds of degrees do radiology assistant schools offer?

Most radiology schools only offer either baccalaureate-level or graduate-level degrees for radiology assistants. Two popular baccalaureate degrees earned by radiology assistants are a Bachelor of Applied Science in Radiation and Imaging Sciences: Radiologist Assistant and a Bachelor of Science in Radiology Practitioner Assistant/Radiology Assistant.

Students will find a wider variety of radiology assistant degree choices available through graduate programs. For instance, students may earn one of the following degrees: Master of Science in Radiology Assistant, Master of Science in Radiologic Science: Radiologist Assistant, Master of Health Science in Radiologist Assistant, and Master of Imaging Sciences: Radiologist Assistant.

Professionals that want to continue to use education for the purpose of prompting career advancement opportunities and securing a better radiology assistant salary, can also earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Radiology or a Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Radiology. These doctorate degrees can be completed either through graduate schools or online schools.

Radiologist Assistant Salary

What is a radiologist assistant?

A radiologist assistant is an advanced radiologic practitioner who serves primarily to extend the capacity of a trained radiologist and improve clinical efficiency and productivity. They work in a team with radiologic technicians and technologists to examine certain areas of the body using x-ray scanners and other diagnostic imaging equipment. According to the American College of Radiology, radiologist assistants may transmit observations and interpretations to the supervising radiologist but are considered neither physician's assistants nor radiologists themselves.

What is a radiologist assistant's salary?

Radiologist assistant salary figures vary depending on the amount of responsibility required of them, but wages typically fall between those of technicians and those of the supervising radiologic physician. Median annual wages for radiologic technicians and technologists came in above the national average for all occupations in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), and certain workplaces or geographical areas have a tendency to offer more comfortable annual wages than others.

Is it difficult to find a job as a radiologist assistant?

Employment opportunities for diagnostic imaging professionals are on the rise, according to the bls.gov, so much so that job growth for radiologic technologists is expected to occur at a rate much faster than the average for all occupations between 2012 and 2022. Bls.gov cites the creation of more outpatient imaging centers to accommodate the increased availability of diagnostic medical services demanded by an aging population as a principal driver of the expected expansion in these positions.

Is there room for advancement as a radiologist assistant?

Radiologist assistant was established as a career fairly recently, in order to place a highly trained radiologic professional at a level between the supervising radiologist and the radiologic technicians and technologists. It is possible for a radiologist assistant to become a radiologic physician, after undergoing a significant amount of further education and training.

Radiologist assistants can also advance to other areas of the health care profession with some additional schooling. Bls.gov projects physician assistants to be in extremely high demand by 2022, growing at a rate more than triple the national average for all occupations, and radiologist assistants who go on to earn a master's degree can line themselves up for one of these emerging positions.

Do radiologist assistants need to be licensed or certified?

According to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, numerous accredited certification programs exist for radiologist assistants. In order to become certified, candidates must be previously certified and registered in radiography and have a bachelor's degree and at least one year of clinical experience. A radiologic mentoring period called a preceptorship must also be completed before certification can be awarded.

Radiology Assistant Job & Career Outlook

What is the projected career outlook for radiology assistants?

Radiology assistant jobs continue to grow in demand throughout the United States. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to the average growth of all other occupations combined, professionals working in radiology will experience an employment growth rate 17% faster between 2008 and 2018.

This growth trend is the result of a number of factors. First, the nation’s population is continuing to grow; therefore, more radiology assistants are required to accommodate the health care needs of more individuals.

Do I need to become certified to be a radiology assistant?

Not all radiology assistants must be nationally certified to practice in the United States. Mandatory certification is largely dependent on the state in which you intend to gain employment. According to the ASRT, the twenty-eight states that currently require radiology assistants to comply with licensure, certification, or recognition standards are: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

However, even radiology assistants that do not work in a state where certification is required are encouraged to eventually do so. In general, getting certified as a registered radiology assistant (RRA) is likely to increase job marketability, heighten salary earnings, allow greater ease in relocation, illustrate professionalism, promote job security, and prove occupational commitment.

How can I get certified as a radiology assistant?

All radiology assistants need to complete several steps in order to become nationally certified by the ARRT. The first step is to become certified and registered by the ARRT in radiography. The second step is to gain at least one year of approved clinical experience working as a radiographer. The third step is to graduate from an ARRT-approved radiology assistant program. Another step is to earn at least a baccalaureate degree. The next step is to complete all didactic coursework and clinical requirements in accordance with current ARRT standards. Also, all radiology assistants must be in good ethical standing with the ARRT (e.g. no criminal convictions, military court martials, school honor code violations, etc.).

Once these requirements have been met, radiology assistants may become eligible to sit for the Registered Radiology Assistant Examination administered by the ARRT which will cover the following six subjects: 1) Patient Communication, Assessment, and Management 2) Drugs and Contrast Materials 3) Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathophysiology 4) Radiologic Procedures 5) Radiation Safety, Radiation Biology, Fluoroscopic Operation 6) Medical/Legal, Professional, and Governmental Standards.

If examination is successfully passed, certification as a registered radiology assistant is granted. Recertification requires fifty continuing education credits every two years.

Where can radiology assistants find jobs?

Radiology assistants can basically find jobs anywhere that patients receive radiology services. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top five industries employing radiology workers in 2008 were as follows: medical and diagnostic laboratories, the federal executive branch, general and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, and offices of physicians.

Other places where radiology assistants typically hold careers are in health care facilities, private and public medical clinics, medical schools and universities, diagnostic imaging centers, home health centers, emergency care units, cancer centers, offices of specialized practitioners and professional associations.

Radiologist assistants may also work in areas of research, education, product development, and marketing.

Radiologic Technologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

RRA FAQs, The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists

Radiologic and MRI Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

Radiology Assistant Schools