Becoming a Radiologic Technologist - Education, Certification & Career

Radiologic technologists—also known as rad techs— provide an important service in the healthcare industry. With skills learned in either a two-year or four-year program, they work closely with radiologists to take images of patients and determine the suitability of those images for diagnostic purposes.

According to O*NET (2024), which sources its data from the US Department of Labor, 73 percent of radiologic technologists have an associate’s degree, while 11 percent hold a bachelor’s degree. 17 percent of technologists have a post-secondary certificate.

Compared to other professions that require just two years of school, radiologic technologists can make a good living. Of course, the salary data (discussed below), while compelling, does not tell the whole story. Prospective students and potential technologists will undoubtedly want to know what a day in the life of a radiologic technologist looks like. At its core, the job involves taking diagnostic images of patients in a clinical setting. The images that a radiologic technologist captures typically require the use of an X-ray machine or other imaging equipment.

While technologists do not interpret the images, they ensure that they are clear enough for physicians and radiologists to examine and use to make proper diagnoses. In addition, technologists maintain sophisticated imaging equipment and enforce safety standards around potentially hazardous equipment. They also work closely with patients to ensure they are comfortable and informed throughout their procedures, treatments, or check-ups.

Licensing for radiologic technologists rests on individual certification and registration authorities that differ from state to state. However, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers both certification and registration that is required by some states. Consult the ARRT’s state-by-state licensing authority list for more information.

Beyond basic certification, technologists can specialize in a range of different procedures. These include but are not limited to, bone densitometry, breast sonography, computed tomography (CT), mammography, or vascular sonography.

Overall, there are good possibilities for radiologic technologists and those willing to put in the work to learn the necessary industry skills to do the job well.

Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to become a radiologic technologist.

Steps to Become a Radiologic Technologist

Not every radiologic technologist follows the same path to achieve their career goals. While some technologists may seek out an accredited radiologic technologist program at a two-year school, others will earn a bachelor’s degree. Each career path is unique, with rad-tech hopefuls coming from many different medical backgrounds.

The following steps represent the most direct path to becoming a radiologic technologist:

Step 1: Graduate from high school (four years):

High school (or equivalency) is mandatory for any radiologic technologist. If you’re planning to go into the field as early as high school, paying particular attention to science and mathematics courses is essential. These will be useful for future educational opportunities. If possible, high school students should also try to work or volunteer in a healthcare setting to understand what the career will entail.

Step 2: Apply for and attend an accredited undergraduate radiologic technology program (two to four years):

Radiologic technologists may earn either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to be eligible for certification from the ARRT. As of April 2024, all applicants for ARRT certification in Radiography, Nuclear Medicine Technology, Radiation Therapy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or Sonography must have graduated from a school that is accredited by a body recognized by the ARRT. A complete list of those accrediting agencies is available from ARRT.

Earning a bachelor’s degree instead of an associate’s degree does not make an applicant more qualified for certification. Still, it may help further one’s education or find and match job opportunities. It should be noted that the degree earned, although it must be from an accredited institution, does not have to be in radiologic technology.

Step 3: Apply for certification and registration with ARRT (timeline varies):

There are no national licensing requirements for radiologic technologists, though many states have their own licensing process.

To maximize potential employability and establish expertise, most radiologic technologists choose to pursue certification with the ARRT. This process involves submitting proof of an acceptable academic record, filling out and submitting an ethics pre-application, and passing an exam that “assesses the knowledge and cognitive skills underlying the intelligent performance of the tasks typically required of staff technologists practicing at entry-level within the discipline.”

For entry-level positions, a certification in radiography is the most applicable. After working in this capacity, radiologic technologists may want to pursue specialty certification with the ARRT in areas such as mammography, bone densitometry, or cardiac-interventional radiography. Specializations include radiography, nuclear medicine technology, radiation therapy, MRI, and sonography.

Step 4: Maintain ARRT certification (every two years):

Technologists must renew their certifications every two years, first requiring compliance with all ARRT regulations, adherence to the ARRT standards of ethics, and completion of the required number of continuing education hours. Renewing technologists must either earn 24 credit hours each year to stay current with their certification or be awarded further certifications from the ARRT in other specialties.

Learn more about when certifications must be renewed and how to maintain them by consulting the ARRT’s continuing education requirements.

Occupational Demand and Radiologic Technologist Salary – Demand for Rad Techs How Much Do They Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023) reports that between 2022 and 2032, openings for radiologic technologists are expected to grow by 5 percent nationally, which is faster than the average growth expected for all jobs during that time (3 percent). This equated to 12,200 new jobs.

According to the BLS, radiologic technologists and technicians held about 222,800 jobs in 2022. Among these, 58 percent worked at state, local, and private hospitals, 18 percent worked at physician offices, seven percent at medical and diagnostic laboratories, seven percent at outpatient care centers, and the remaining three percent at the federal government, excluding postal service.

The salary ranges for radiologic technologists in the US offer new possibilities for a higher quality of living. Here they are broken down into percentiles (BLS May 2023):

United States
Number employed in the U.S. 221,170
Average Annual Salary $75,250
10th percentile $50,020
25th percentile $60,690
50th percentile (median) $73,410
75th percentile $84,670
90th percentile $102,380

PayScale (2024) is a salary aggregator where radiologic technologists and other professionals report their salaries. The ranges reported here are useful as a comparison to BLS data and are as follows for the more than 4,389 radiologic technologists reporting:

  • 10th percentile: $43,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $59,562
  • 90th percentile: $83,000

Of course, a salary can only go as far as living expenses allow, so noting the cost of living in these areas is also essential. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023), the most expensive states in the country were Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, California, and New York. Notably, these states correspond almost exactly with the top-paying states for radiologic technologists. By contrast, the most affordable states were Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Alabama—none of which are among the highest-paying regions.

In addition to the cost of living, geography impacts how much they will be able to make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2023) once more, the following states are where you will find the highest average annual salaries for this particular profession:

State Annual mean wage
California $103,150
Massachusetts $93,270
Hawaii $92,170
Oregon $90,610
Washington $89,910

The highest-paying states do not necessarily have the highest employment levels. Those concentration figures are listed from highest to lowest below. The following are states with the highest employment level in radiologic technologists and technicians: (BLS May 2023):

State Employment
Texas 19,740
California 19,670
Florida 15,250
New York 14,330
Pennsylvania 9,990

For the thorough researcher, there’s data available for salaries down to the metropolitan level. The BLS lists the top ten highest-paying cities for this profession, and perhaps unsurprisingly, all ten of those cities are in California. The average annual salaries for those cities are as follows (BLS May 2023):

Metropolitan area Annual mean wage
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $131,140
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $129,360
Santa Rosa, CA $124,660
Stockton-Lodi, CA $116,910
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA $115,640
Modesto, CA $115,140
Merced, CA $105,380
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $103,510
Fresno, CA $100,390
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $100,000

Although the trend for this profession is expected to grow about 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, competition for radiologic technologist jobs will likely still be stiff, particularly in areas with a low concentration of employment. Those who wish to pursue the career successfully should be prepared to work hard in their selected educational program, which means extensive study and networking with other professionals in the field.

Kenneth Parker
Kenneth Parker Writer

Kenneth Parker is a feature writer, poet, and musician living in the Pacific Northwest. His writing on remote work, education, and technology has been published by,, and other websites. His poetry, short fiction, and album reviews have appeared in Scifaikuest, Nanoism, and No Clean Singing. His background includes time spent as an associate editor, proofreader, private grammar instructor, freelance content editor, medical claims agent, and SEO consultant. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where he studied literature and worked as a composition tutor.