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The first certification a radiology technologist can earn is Registered Radiologic Technologist R.T. (R). This demonstrates your expertise in safely and effectively creating medical images using X-ray technology.
You can also earn certifications beyond radiography, depending on your education, interests, and career goals. Becoming certified in additional areas, such as vascular sonography or radiation therapy, can expand your career options.
Once you start looking into certification for radiology technologists, you’ll likely come across the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). It’s the main certifying body for the profession.
It’s most helpful to start with the foundational certification in radiography, says Peter Rath, MPA, R.T. (R), ARRT, who evaluates continuing education programs at the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. “Certification is the primary credential radiologic technologists need to work in most hospitals and imaging centers.”
Having an industry-recognized credential is a good idea because employers generally require job candidates to be certified.
Most states require radiology technologists—also known as radiologic technologists, radiographers, and X-ray technicians—to be certified. No matter where you live, though, having an industry-recognized credential can make you eligible for more jobs because employers generally require job candidates to be certified as well.
Certification may also increase your earning potential. What’s more, once you earn basic certification in radiography, you can add other specialties to your repertoire, which can further your professional options.
Note that national certifying agencies require applicants to have at least an associate degree, which provides education about all types of radiologic imaging procedures. If you earn a diploma or certificate in radiography, it will be for only one type of imaging procedure, such as X-rays.
Many states offer limited-scope certification for radiology technologists with a certificate or diploma, so check on requirements in the state where you’ll work. Some states require applicants to pass a limited-scope certification exam before they can earn their license.
Certificate vs Certification
- A certificate is awarded by an educational institution, and signifies that a student has satisfactorily completed a given curriculum. Certificate programs can help students prepare for certification exams.
- A certification is generally awarded by a trade group after an individual has met certain professional requirements (e.g. earned a specific degree, worked professionally in a given field for a set amount of time, etc.) and passed a certification exam.
In short, a certificate is evidence that someone has completed an educational program, while a certification denotes that someone has met a certain set of professional criteria and/or passed an exam.
Not all programs offered are designed to meet state educator licensing or advancement requirements; however, it may assist candidates in gaining these approvals in their state of residence depending on those requirements. Contact the state board of education in the applicable state(s) for requirements.
The ARRT divides the certifications it awards into two groups: primary and post-primary. As you might expect, primary certifications are designed for radiology technologists early in their career. Post-primary certifications are more advanced and require more on-the-job experience.
It can feel overwhelming when looking into the different certifications for radiology technologists. Here, we break down some of the options.
ARRT Primary Credentials
The ARRT offers the following primary credentials:
- Registered Radiologic Technologist R.T. (R):
- Imaging, including X-rays, that uses radiation to diagnose medical conditions
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist (N):
- Treatment in which radioactive drugs are administered to capture images during diagnosis or treatment of tumors and other conditions
- Radiation Therapy (T):
- Treatment used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors
- Sonography (S):
- Imaging used to monitor fetal development during pregnancy and to evaluate bone and abdominal diseases and other conditions
You can earn two credentials using either the primary or post-primary pathway:
- Vascular Sonography (VS):
- Imaging use to examine the circulation of blood and identify blood clots and other blockage of the veins and arteries
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):
- Imaging used to create three-dimensional pictures to diagnosis and monitor diseases
ARRT Primary Credential Details
ARRT Post-primary Credentials
The ARRT offers the following post-primary credentials:
- Bone Densitometry (BD):
- Imaging used to measure bone loss and mineral content, mainly in the spine and hips
- Breast Sonography (BS):
- Imaging used to diagnose breast abnormalities, sometimes following an MRI
- Cardiac Interventional Radiography (CI):
- Imaging used to diagnose heart problems and in imaged-guided procedures
- Computed Tomography (CT):
- Imaging that provides pictures from different angles to diagnose diseases and monitor changes
- Mammography (M):
- X-ray of the breast used to look for early signs of breast cancer
- Vascular Interventional Radiography (VI):
- Imaging of the blood vessels used to guide physicians during procedures such as inserting a stent
Requirements for ARRT Post-primary Credentials
To maintain certification, radiology technologists must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years. There are several options to earn continuing education credits, including talking classes online or in person, and attending lectures and meetings sponsored by professional groups.
Additional Certification Options
Two other organizations offer certifications for radiology technologists: the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
Most of these certifications are specialty credentials that you can earn as your career progresses.
Certifications Offered by ARDMS
Certifications Offered by NMTCB
Certifications that Are in Demand
While any certification is likely to advance your career, some specialties are more in demand than others. Training and becoming certified in these areas can make you an especially competitive job applicant:
Most states in the U.S. require radiology technologists to be certified. Which certifications they require varies from state to state. Radiography, nuclear medicine technology, and radiation therapy are among the certifications commonly required to become licensed, according to the ARRT.
How Do You Pick a Certification?
As you begin your career in radiography, it’s smart to look ahead to plan for certification. Consider where you intend to work, and then look at state licensure requirements. This information can guide you to choose a certification to pursue.
Some certifications are complementary, and some build on others. For example, certification in Cardiac Interventional Radiography (CI) pairs well with Vascular Interventional Radiography (VI).
The ARRT also requires radiographers to have a primary credential in a post-primary credential they want to pursue. For instance, you’ll need the Sonography (S) credential before applying for Breast Sonography (BS) certification.
Do Certifications Help Advance Your Career?
“A lot of employers are looking for not only radiographers but radiographers credentialed in other modalities too,” Rath says. Multiple certifications can help you stand out in a pool of job applicants or possibly lead to promotions.
When you “layer” certifications, you can apply for jobs that require just one credential—or jobs that require multiple credentials. You immediately expand the reach of your career.
Some schools and radiography programs allow students to prepare for certification exams in addition to radiography. If you are interested in this approach, look for schools that offer training in multiple imaging procedures.
Multiple certifications can help you stand out in a pool of job applicants or possibly lead to promotions.
You can also gain practice in other areas of medical imaging by “cross-training” at work, Rath says. Find a mentor in another department—such as sonography or nuclear medicine—to learn on the job. The experience will help prepare you to take the credentialing exam.
“No matter where you are in your career,” Rath says, “you can always continue your education, pursue training, and earn additional certifications. It can only help your career path.”
With professional insight from:
Peter Rath, MPA, RT (R), ARRT
Continuing Education Program Evaluator
American Society of Radiologic Technologists