Radiologic Technologist: A 2024 Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about a career as a radiologic or MRI technologist, including where they work, what they earn, and how to become one.

[Featured Image] A woman wearing a protective vest works with radiologic equipment.

Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging in health care settings, such as hospitals, medical laboratories, and physicians’ offices. A radiologic technologist position allows you to work with patients of all ages in the medical field. You can also specialize in a specific area of diagnostic imaging. The job typically requires a two- or three-year approved college program, and many provinces require radiologic technologists to hold a license or certification.

What does a radiologic technologist do?

A radiologic technologist works with patients under a doctor’s supervision to perform diagnostic imaging on specific body parts. The images are sent to the ordering physician to diagnose or monitor an existing disease. The radiologic technologist prepares patients for the procedure by correctly positioning them and minimizing their radiation exposure.

Some radiologic technologists specialize in areas such as mammography, sonography, nuclear medicine, cancer radiation treatments, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Where do radiologic technologists work? 

A radiologic technologist has many career and workplace options. Those in a hospital setting typically work in a specific area, such as an emergency room or critical care unit. You can also work at medical laboratories that serve outpatients who need diagnostic imaging, private imaging centers, or doctors’ offices. 

What are the main duties and responsibilities of a radiologic technologist?

Radiologic technologists operate and maintain imaging equipment and perform procedures such as mammograms, MRIs, and X-rays. Other responsibilities include patient interaction, ensuring patient safety, and producing quality images.

Prepare the patient for the procedure.

When a doctor orders an imaging test for a patient, a radiologic technologist prepares the patient by explaining what will take place and answering any questions they may have. You may also position the patient to scan the correct area. 

Communicate with the patient.

A patient undergoing imaging might feel nervous and apprehensive. A radiologic technologist might encounter a patient in pain from a recent trauma, such as a broken bone. You need excellent communication skills to calm the patient before and during the procedure.

Ensure patient safety.

A radiological technologist operates radiographic equipment and takes the necessary steps to limit the patient’s radiation exposure using vests and other barriers on body parts they are not scanning.

What qualifications and certifications are required to become a radiologic technologist?

Each province has its educational requirements for licensing or certification. You may need to complete a two- to three-year college, hospital, or other accredited program in diagnostic radiography, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine technology, or radiation therapy. Alternatively, you might need a bachelor of health sciences in radiography, nuclear medicine, or radiation therapy and a supervised practical training period.

After completing the required program, radiological technologists must obtain a license and be certified by the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists in every province except Quebec and British Columbia.

Depending on the province or territory you want to work in, you may also need licensure with a regulatory body or membership with a provincial association.

How long does it take to train as a radiologic technologist?

Your educational path will determine the time it takes to prepare for a job as a radiologic technician. You may want to go to a college or accredited program for two to three years, or you can choose to get a bachelor’s degree. You may also need supervised practical training.  

Before considering a certification program, ensure it meets the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists’ accreditation requirements. 

What skills do I need to become a radiologic technologist?

To be a successful radiologic technologist, you’ll need communication, mechanical aptitude, and analytical skills. As a radiologic technologist, you’ll work with all age groups and demographics and need diverse, effective communication skills.

Being a radiologic technologist requires physical interaction with patients, so you should be comfortable doing so. Radiologic technologists need to move a patient to get a clear image, even if the patient is in severe pain or experiencing high anxiety.

Communication skills

Communication skills are essential when preparing a patient for an imaging procedure. The patients could be there for various reasons, and some might experience fear or anxiety. Some patients might have a physical injury or suffer from trauma.

As a radiologic technologist, you’ll want the following communication skills:

  • Compassion

  • A calm voice and demeanour

  • Ability to explain procedures and answer questions

  • Communication skills for all ages

  • Recognition of non-verbal cues

Mechanical aptitude 

A career as a radiologist centers around operating imaging equipment. Not only will you want to be comfortable operating the equipment, but you’ll need to relearn how to use certain equipment as technology evolves. Other things to consider include:

  • Equipment maintenance

  • Equipment repairs 

  • Keeping current with technological equipment changes 

Medical skills

As a radiologic technologist, you’ll need to know human anatomy to position patients and capture the images the physician requested properly.

Along with anatomy skills, you’ll need:

  • Knowledge of safety measures to prevent over-exposing radiation to the patient and yourself

  • Ability to position a patient so quality images can be captured while keeping the patient comfortable

  • Ability to keep careful patient medical records

What do radiologic technologists earn?

According to the Canada Job Bank, radiologic technologists earn a median pay of $36.67 nationwide, which can vary by province and territory. New Brunswick has the lowest median hourly wage, at $33, and Alberta has the highest median hourly wage, at $44 [1].

Career progression

You can advance your radiologic technologist career to an MRI technologist through experience and MRI coursework. Unlike a radiologic technologist who operates several types of equipment, an MRI technologist works solely with magnetic resonance imaging.

Another career path is to become a mammography technologist. These professionals play a major role in early disease detection and prevention using low-dose X-ray imaging. Mammography is commonly used to detect breast cancer.

If your career goal is health care management, the chief radiologic technologist role allows you to oversee a radiological team and manage a radiology lab.

Get started.

When considering a career as a radiological technologist, you’ll want to select an educational program to help you achieve your goals. It’s important to research the available programs and find the one that best fits your needs.

Explore radiology courses, such as Visualizing the Living Body: Diagnostic Imaging or MRI Fundamentals, to learn more about the opportunities that await you. Discover the benefits of radiation in the medical community through The University of Sydney's course in Life, Health, and Radiation

Article sources

  1. Job Bank. “Wages for Medical radiation technologists,” Accessed June 3, 2024. 

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