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Radiology Assistant Education, Schools and Career Overview

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. In effect, they are an occupational bridge between radiographers and radiologists.

Radiology Assistant Duties and Specializations

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.

Radiology workers might be employed in 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.

How to Become a Radiology Assistant

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. 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.

Common pre-requisites also include professional qualifications like national certification in radiologic technology or a diagnostic technologist license. 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, radiologic science administration, radiography, clinical laboratory assisting, medical assisting, x-ray technology, radiology technician, diagnostic ultrasound technology, and radiation therapy.

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.

Radiology assistant degree programs

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.

Radiology assistant schools

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.

Career advancement for radiology assistants

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.

Radiology Assistant Salary and Career Outlook

In general, health care jobs are increasingly in demand as an aging population lives longer and healthier lives. Plus, advances in medical technology contribute to a general demand. Keeping that in mind, here’s the job growth and pay you might expect as a radiology assistant, looking at similar or related careers for data, as the BLS currently doesn’t specify the following figures for radiology assistants:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other32,680$63,34012.1%
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechniciansN/AN/A14%
Radiologic Technologists205,590$61,54012.3%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

 

Sources:
·          Radiologic Technologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319097.htm
·          RRA FAQs, The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
https://www.arrt.org/FAQ/RRA
·          Radiologic and MRI Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
http://www.stats.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Radiologic-technologists.htm
·          National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
 

 

 

Radiology Assistant Schools