Radiology Assistant Career and Training Programs

What is a Radiology Assistant?

Radiology Assistants are highly trained radiographers who work under the supervision of a radiologist to assist with patient care throughout radiological procedures. They have advanced skills and qualifications that allow them to perform a range of duties related to patient care that do not require a radiologist’s level of expertise.

Generally speaking, Radiology Assistants are involved with patient care and preparation before, during, and after radiological procedures, always under the direct supervision of a radiologist. They can specialize in one area of radiology, which is usually more lucrative, but many Assistants don’t specialize, which means they must have a wide range of skills and medical knowledge to allow them to work with patients with a variety of conditions, illnesses, and medical concerns.

What Does a Radiology Assistant Do?

The job duties of Radiology Assistants varies depending on their workplace, their education level and their work experience. Generally, they work with patients before, during and after radiological procedures, which includes taking diagnostic images that physicians can use to diagnose diseases or illnesses. They perform all tasks that do not require the expert opinion of a radiologist and help take some of the pressure off these physicians. When working with patients, they are under the supervision of a radiologist at all times, though they do not require the radiologist to be in the room during all patient interactions or procedures.

Duties of a Radiology Assistant begin when the patient enters the clinic, hospital or doctor’s office for a radiological procedure. They take patients’ medical histories and perform all the administrative duties involved in checking the patients in and getting them ready for their procedure. They then usually perform the radiological procedure, though this can vary depending on the difficulty of the procedure. When Radiology Assistants do perform the procedure they have to make sure to follow the instructions from the patient’s doctor as well as the directions given by their supervising Radiologist.

During these procedures, Radiology Assistants have to ensure that they implement proper safety protocols and equipment to avoid contaminating the results or causing physical harm to themselves or their patients. This includes using lead vests and other protective equipment as well as operating the equipment properly. This will help ensure that their own health isn’t affected by the radiation. As long as these measures are taken, there are very few health risks from the equipment used in this profession.

During procedures, Radiology Assistants must use computerized medical equipment effectively and safely, and they are also responsible for calibrating and maintaining this equipment before and after use.

Radiology Assistants also evaluate the information gathered through the radiological procedures. They can make diagnoses based on this information but must pass the results onto the radiologist for final approval before any further measures are taken.

Where Does a Radiology Assistant Work?

Medical imaging services are in high demand at the moment, a demand which is not likely to decrease over the next few years. This means that Radiology Assistants can find work opportunities in a wide variety of medical settings. They can work in doctors’ offices, helping to diagnose and treat patients as well as in the diagnostic imaging departments of hospitals. They can also be found in clinics of all kinds and outpatient facilities such as diagnostic imaging centers.

What Do You Learn in a Radiology Assistant Degree Program?

In a Radiology Assistant Degree Program you learn a variety of skills including the following:

  • Patient assessment: Radiology Assistants need to be able to assess patients with a variety of conditions and diseases to determine the right diagnostic procedures to use.
  • Pharmacology: Professionals in this field need to understand the effects of certain medications on anatomy and physiology and how they can affect radiological results and procedures. They also need to have a solid understanding of the contrast materials used in various radiological procedures.
  • Anatomy and physiology: Thorough understanding of the structures and organs of the body is vital in order to accurately perform radiological procedures.
  • Diagnostic imaging fundamentals: Learning how to use imaging equipment is a big part of the training and this is an ongoing training requirement as well.
  • Radiation safety: Although medical imaging equipment is safer today than ever before, there is an increased risk for Radiology Assistants because they’re around them so much. Which is why they need to learn how to use the equipment safely to safeguard their own health as well as the health of their patients.
  • Medical and legal standards: As with professionals in any medical field, Radiology Assistants need to be aware of and adhere to all professional standards. These can be different depending on the state and the facility, so Radiology Assistants need to keep up to date on the different standards.
  • General patient care: Radiology Assistants are the primary point of care for most procedures so they need to understand the fundamentals of good patient care to ensure the best outcomes for their patients.
  • Lifesaving procedures: Radiological procedures are not as risky as some other types of medical procedures but there is still a chance that patients will have a bad reaction to contrast dye or require lifesaving procedures. Which is why one must have a solid education in these types of procedures.
  • Radiological procedures: Radiology Assistants usually perform a variety of radiological procedures throughout their practice so they need to understand how to perform each type of procedure. They also need to understand the purpose behind each of them as well as factors that might confound the results.

How Do You Become a Radiology Assistant?

Educational Requirements

Becoming a Radiology Assistant requires a combination of further education and experience. This initial step includes a formal Radiology Assistant program that allows you to earn a certificate, associate’s degree, or Bachelor degree.

The length of these programs varies depending on which type of program you choose, though the 2 year associate’s degree is the most popular. These qualifications all contain both theoretical and clinical components. If you want to apply for the Registered Radiologist Assistant (RRA) credential, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree.

The admission requirements for these courses can vary depending on the school you’re applying to. Typically, most providers require that you attain good grades in high level Math, Biology, and Chemistry courses at the high school level.

Licensure Requirements

After you have completed your Radiology Assistant degree program you may need to become licensed before working as a Radiology Assistant. More than 30 states require licensing these days and the requirements for becoming licensed can vary by state, so you will need to look up the specific details with your local Health Board.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) has established standards and regulations that guide many of the states in their Radiology Assistant licensing procedures, so it is important that you understand and can meet their standards before you try to become licensed in your state.

Certification Requirements

Students who have graduated from an ARRT-approved Radiologist Assistant educational program have to pass an exam and become certified as a Registered Radiologist Assistant. This certification is offered by the ARRT. If you want this certification, you may also need to get certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support through the American Heart Association. Complete details and requirements for the RRA credential can be found here.

You do not have to be certified to work as a Radiology Assistant. Because Radiology Assistants are a fairly new addition to the medical profession, the regulations are not yet standard across all the states and this certification process is mostly voluntary.

However, it can be very helpful in your immediate career and in determining your future prospects. The ARRT offers a range of certifications in different specialties that can advance your career and allow you to work in specific environments. Specializing like this may increase your pay rate and may allow you to move into higher positions. In addition, some states use certifications and ARRT examinations for licensing purposes.

Radiology Assistants must continue their education after their degree if they want to keep their certifications. This requires a commitment to ongoing education and learning.

What is an Online Radiology Assistant Program?

You can complete your training to be a Radiology Assistant online these days through some of the hybrid programs that are available. You can even complete your Bachelor degree through an online university before you move up to the Master’s degree program.

The Bachelor Degree is usually science intensive and the theoretical parts are taught online. Throughout the course you will be in constant contact with lecturers and other students through online message boards and forums. You will also have to complete assignments and pass examinations for a variety of subjects. The course also contains a clinical component, and for this you will have to work in an approved hospital and practice the practical skills necessary for this program.

After the Bachelor Degree you can move onto the Master’s program. There are only a few of these offered online, so admission is highly competitive. The Online Masters can be completed in two years’ time and is extremely heavy on theory, with lots of science courses that give students the medical knowledge to work as effective and skilled Radiology Assistants.

What Skills are Needed to be a Radiology Assistant?

Radiology Assistants need a range of hard and soft skills to do their job well. This includes the following:

  • Science background and knowledge: Radiology Assistants need to understand the science of injury and disease and be able to make medical diagnoses and deal with patients with a range of conditions, limitations and diseases under the supervision of a radiologist.
  • Understanding of medical technology: Radiology Assistants need to be able to use a range of imaging devices in their practice and keep up with the latest advances in medical technology so they can keep doing their job well.
  • Good verbal communication skills: Professionals in this field need to be able to communicate with patients from every type of background and with a range of diseases and communication challenges.
  • Computer skills: Radiology Assistants are usually responsible for the administrative side of radiology, which means they need to have good computer skills.
  • Fine motor skills: Work with very sensitive medical equipment is a core part , therefore professionals in this field need to have fine motor skills and control to avoid accidents and ensure the best outcome for procedures.
  • Advanced problem solving skills: Because Radiology Assistants help radiologists make diagnoses and treat patients before and after procedures they need to be able to solve any medical or technical problems that present themselves during their practice.
  • Good decision making skills: Radiology Assistants assist Radiologists in making medical decisions and diagnoses, so they must be able to assess all the available data and make appropriate medical decisions despite pressure and time restrictions.
  • Teaching skills: Radiology Assistants need to be able to pass on what they know about the body to patients who need help managing their injuries or conditions during the radiology procedures.
  • Physical coordination: Radiology Assistants need to be able to position patients for imaging despite their physical limitations and be able to physically compensate for these limitations.

What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Radiology Assistant?

There are a number of pros involved with being a Radiology Assistant. These include:

  • High job demand: Radiology Assistants are in great demand because there are not enough radiologists to keep up with the aging population, so there is plenty of work for experienced and qualified staff.
  • Can work anywhere: There is such a high demand for this profession that one may find a job wherever their lives take them.
  • Lots of social interactions: Interacting with patients is one of the most important parts of the job and this provides a lot of opportunities for social interactions.
  • Constantly changing environment and routine: Every day is different with different patients, procedures and needs.
  • Helping people: You help people get back to health or cope with their condition, and there is no better feeling than that.
  • Earn a good living: Radiology Assistants make a good living, certainly enough for a stable and comfortable life. They also have good prospects for gaining further qualifications and moving up the career ladder.

Despite all the good points of this profession, there are also a number of cons. These include:

  • Unpredictable hours: Because medical professionals have to work with people who become sick or hurt at all hours so they do not typically work 9 to 5 and have to be prepared to do shift work.
  • Long shifts: Like most medical professionals, Radiology Assistants usually have to work long hours, which means they need to be prepared for this kind of demand and have the physical fitness to keep up with the often demanding pace in hospitals.
  • Radiation exposure: Although measures are taken to ensure the health of Radiology Assistants, they are constantly exposed to radiation at varying levels and need to be aware of the potential risks this could present for their own health.

How Much Does a Radiology Assistant Make a Year?

Radiologist Assistants are a fairly new addition to the medical profession. Because of this, there is limited information on how much they make each year. As of December 2021, according to Payscale, the average pay per year for Radiologist Assistants is $96,650, though the pay range is between $63,000 and $124,000 a year.

According to the BLS, Radiologist Assistants had a median wage of $74,690 in May 2020, with the bottom 10 percent earning less than $52,880, and the top 10 percent earning more than $104,210. The top paying industries for Radiologist Assistants include the Federal Government, Hospitals, and Medical Laboratories.

How Much Does a Radiology Assistant Make an Hour?

According to BLS, Radiologist Assistants have a median pay rate of $30.63 an hour.

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