Radiologic Technology Certifications - American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
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For students who love science and socializing with people, becoming a radiologic technologist can prove an ideal career choice. Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, use x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies to create diagnostic images to help physicians diagnose patients. They also explain medical procedures, record patients’ medical histories, and follow detailed instructions from doctors about what kind of imaging is requested to diagnose or rule out specific conditions.
With a two-year associate’s degree (or postsecondary certificate) and a licensure exam, these outgoing science enthusiasts can reap the benefits of a fast-growing entry-level career and earn above the national average salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that radiologic and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technologists earn an average annual salary of $62,280 nationally, which is higher than the national average for all occupations at $53,490 (BLS May 2019). What’s more, the BLS shows that radiologic and MRI technologist careers are growing at a rate of 9 percent, which is must faster than the national average and estimates that 23,300 new positions will be created around the country between 2018 and 2028 (BLS 2019).
The place to begin researching career options in radiologic technology is the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the leading credentialing organization for medical imaging careers. The ARRT has been certifying radiographers since 1922, beginning with Sister M. Beatrice Merrigan who became the first Registered Technologist in the United States.
There are more than 330,000 radiologic technologists (RT) in the United States which makes RTs the third-largest segment of healthcare providers. While having ARRT certification may not be necessary for all positions, more than 75 percent of states require RTs to hold a state license, and many states require ARRT exam scores and credentials in order to apply for a state license. Each state has unique licensing requirements, which are discussed in greater detail below.
There are two ways to become an ARRT-certified radiologic technologist: the primary eligibility pathway and the post-primary eligibility pathway. All RTs seeking certification must meet three requirements (education, ethics, and examination) in order to earn certification. Beyond the initial certification, specialization options are available and detailed below.
Read on to learn how about the pathways to becoming an ARRT-certified radiologic technologist.
Early Preparation to Become a Radiologic Tech
Students who enjoy science and are interested in radiologic technologist careers should take as many science courses as possible during high school. Courses in the natural sciences, biology, and chemistry are recommended, as are additional courses in mathematics and anatomy to fully prepare for associate’s degree coursework.
Internship and volunteer opportunities are also encouraged to give a well-rounded perspective on what to expect from a radiology career and available specializations.
Radiologic Technologist ARRT Certification Eligibility: Primary Pathway (Complete the Requisite Education)
The primary pathway is how the majority of radiological technologists earn their first ARRT credential. A credential can be earned in these specialization areas:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Nuclear medicine technology
- Radiation therapy
- Vascular sonography
Step 1: Earn an Associate’s Degree (Two Years)
To be eligible for the primary certification pathway, all radiologic technologist candidates must have an associate’s degree from a program recognized by an ARRT-approved accreditation agency, which includes several accrediting bodies at the national, regional, and programmatic levels.
Accreditation is essential to ensure that educational programs meet high, peer-reviewed standards. This degree can be in radiological sciences, but need not be since an associate’s degree in another field can fulfill the associate’s degree educational requirement. The associate’s degree can be earned before or after completing an ARRT-recognized educational program.
A sample institution that confers an ARRT-acceptable associate’s degree is Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis, Tennessee which offers more than 100 associate’s degrees and technical certificate programs including an associate of applied science (AAS) in radiologic technology.
Step 2: Complete an ARRT-Recognized Educational Program (Two Years)
The second phase of the primary pathway includes completing an ARRT-recognized educational program in radiologic technology.
Students seeking the highest-quality educational programs are encouraged to seek out programs that are fully accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Graduates from these types of programs typically earn a certificate and become eligible to sit for the ARRT certification exam.
An example of a two-year ARRT-recognized educational program in radiologic technology is through the HCA Midwest Health Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri. This 23-month full-time certificate program is fully accredited by JRCERT and features a competency-based curriculum, small classes of 12 students, and more than 2,700 hours of hands-on clinical instruction.
Radiologic Technologist ARRT Certification Eligibility: Post-Primary Pathway (Be ARRT-, NMTCB-, or ARDMS-Certified)
The post-primary pathway is designed for those who already hold ARRT or other certifications and want to earn additional credentials. Post-primary credentials can be earned in these specialization areas:
- Bone densitometry
- Breast sonography
- Cardiac interventional radiography
- Computed tomography
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Vascular interventional radiography
- Vascular sonography
The post-primary pathway is available for radiologic technicians who have:
- Certification from American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB), or the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
- Completed 16 hours of documented structured education for a specific radiological discipline such as mammography or bone densitometry
Radiologic Technology Certification Exam Preparation
While the ARRT doesn’t endorse specific study materials, students and program directors can use the content specifications to prepare for the ARRT exam. Candidates apply for this exam and if approved, receive a candidate status report in the mail for the primary pathway and online for the post-primary pathway. Applicants have 365 days from the time they receive their candidate status report to schedule and complete the ARRT exam.
The ARRT radiography exam, for example, includes 200 scored questions, including sections on patient care, radiation physics and radiobiology, radiation protection, and image acquisition, among other areas.
Radiologic Technology Certification Renewal
Once RTs earn ARRT certification, in order to maintain certification credentials, registered technologists are required to:
- Complete an annual renewal
- Complete and report continuing education activities every two years
- Complete continuing qualifications requirements every ten years (for RTs who earned their credentials on or after January 1, 2011)
State Licensure for Radiologic Technologists
As previously mentioned, 75 percent of states have licensing laws for radiologic technologists meaning that RTs must earn a state license before they can legally work. In some cases, states may require ARRT certification as a requirement for applying for state licensure exams.
These exams are separate from the ARRT exams. Sample state-specific licensing exams include:
- Limited scope of practice in radiography
- Bone densitometry equipment operator
- California radiography supervisor and operator
For example, the ARRT administers state licensure exams for radiologic technologists in California which, in addition to the ARRT, requires state-specific exams in a number of content areas such as physician assistant fluoroscopy.
A complete list of California-specific requirements is collaboratively listed between the ARRT and the California Department of Public Health.