Becoming a Radiologist's Assistant: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are some pros and cons of a career as a radiologist assistant? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a radiologist assistant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Radiologist Assistant

A radiologist assistant (RA) works under the supervision of a radiologist in a hospital, doctor's office or imaging center and performs a number of patient care tasks. Scan the following pros and cons to see if becoming a radiologist assistant is right for you.

Pros of Becoming a Radiologist Assistant
Variety in tasks, activities and scope of profession*
Can work in various states with appropriate certification and training*
Work in a professional healthcare environment*
Career field is expected to grow by 21% between 2012 and 2022**

Cons of Becoming a Radiologist Assistant
Completion of a 4-year radiologist assistant bachelor's degree program is necessary for professional certification*
Programs specifically designed for radiologist assistants are not available everywhere (only 12 AART approved programs available as of July 2012)*
Maintaining certification requires continuing education*
Some states require licensing**
Some physical strength and endurance is required to assist patients**

Source: *American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

While a radiologist assistant does not actually interpret radiologic images, he or she is responsible for supporting radiologists in obtaining images, as well as patient management and assessment. As a radiologist assistant, you may be required to fulfill specific job duties that can include educating patients about procedures, obtaining medical records and determining suitable radiologic procedures. You may also be asked to observe and monitor patient vital signs, manage patient medications, provide a safe treatment environment or perform radiologic exams.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

A radiologist's assistant is an advanced-practice radiologist. While career outlook information is not available specifically for RAs, the career field of radiologic technologists and technicians is expected to grow by 21% from 2012-2022, which is faster than the average of all careers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Most of these new positions are expected to be in hospitals, but doctors' offices and other facilities employ radiologist assistants as well. The BLS also expects opportunities for radiologist assistants to increase due to a the older population experiencing an increase in fractures and broken limbs, which would require imaging services.

In 2014, the average salary for radiologic technicians and technologists was about $57,510, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). A 2013 survey by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) indicated that the mean salary for part-time radiologic technicians averaged $55,200 a year, and full time radiologic technicians earned $62,736 in the same period.

Popular Career Options

Radiologist assistants may work in virtually any setting in which a radiologist might be found. This includes hospitals, immediate care facilities, medical universities, doctor's offices and nursing homes. Radiologist assistants may also work in specialized hospital departments, such as a cancer ward or diagnostic radiology.

Education and Training Requirements

While certificate and associate's degree programs in radiology technology can qualify you for a position as a radiologist technician, you typically need to earn a bachelor's degree from an AART-approved radiologist assistant program in order to qualify for radiologist assistant certification. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists accredits several degree programs, which are located across the country (www.arrt.org). In these programs, you receive classroom instruction and hands-on practice, and you may be required to complete an internship under a practicing radiologist.

In a typical bachelor's degree program, you can expect to take a wide array of courses on topics ranging from the human body to the safe use of radiology in a healthcare environment. These courses emphasize skills such as technical equipment knowledge, healthcare administration and patient management. Course topics may include:

  • Patient care and assessment
  • Imaging procedures
  • Radiation biology and safety
  • Imaging physics
  • Anatomy and physiology

Certification Requirements

Employers often look for RAs who have received professional certification from the ARRT. Earning the Registered Radiologist Assistant (RRA) credential requires completing an approved bachelor's degree program, obtaining one year of clinical experience and agreeing to adhere to the AART's ethical standards. You also have to pass the association's certification exam, which is multiple choice and covers topics in patient management, anatomy, materials used during radiological procedures and radiation safety. Certification requires continuing education in order to remain valid. Radiologist assistant candidates who do not have a bachelor's degree from an ARRT-approved program may still obtain certification, but they must comply with other requirements as set forth by the organization.

Licensing Information

According to the AART, some form of licensing is required for radiologic technology workers in 75% of states. Licensing requirements vary, but can include taking the AART exam or a state exam, as well as completing continuing education to maintain licensing. Licensing may be reciprocal between states if the training requirements are similar.

What Do Employers Look For?

While employers may have different requirements for radiologist assistants, they are increasingly looking for those who can work independently and ethically, as well as provide support for other members of the hospital or care facility. Some employers also require that these professionals have at least one year of experience in the field in order to qualify for a radiologist's assistant position. These excerpts from March 2012 job postings show what real employers look for in a RA:

  • A hospital in Massachusetts was looking for a radiologist assistant who had completed an accredited RA program and holds the Registered Radiologist Assistant credential. In addition, candidates should have several years of experience as a radiologist technologist (RT) and have current state RT licensure. Basic life support and advanced cardiac life support certifications were also required.
  • In Virginia, a health system was looking for a certified RA who has completed an approved radiologist assistant academic program and a clinical preceptorship under the direction of a radiologist.
  • An emergency department in Connecticut was hiring a full time radiologist assistant to work with patients and serve as the liaison between physicians, radiologists, technologists and the patient. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree from an AART-approved radiologist assistant program and RRA certification.

How to Stand Out in the Field

As a radiologist assistant, you provide quality assistance to a radiologist, which means you are required to remain current in the field of radiology. In addition to keeping your radiologist assistant certification and licensing up-to-date, you need to remain well informed about the new advances, practices and procedures in the field.

Specialize

One way to stand out from the crowd is by specializing within the radiology field. There are a variety of specializations, including working as a:

  • Computed tomography technologist - who works primarily with cross-sectional images to get a 3-D image of the body
  • Mammographic technologist - who works with breast examinations in women's care facilities or hospitals
  • Magnetic resonance technologist - who works with image contrasting equipment to produce a 3-D image

Develop Communication and People Skills

As you progress in the field, you may be required to provide input into radiology research and assist with other projects as required by a supervising radiologist. Developing excellent writing and communication skills could also help you with this aspect of the job. Additionally, working with patients requires that you have a personable nature. You may also need to develop a 'bedside manner' in order to deal with patients effectively.

Alternative Career Paths

If you enjoy working in a healthcare environment, but don't think that radiology is the field for you, there are alternative career fields that have fewer requirements. There are also careers that require similar training in a more specialized field. A couple of these careers include medical office assistant and nuclear medicine technologist.

Medical Office Assistant

Like radiologist assistants, medical office assistants work in hospitals, medical offices and other healthcare facilities. They may also perform similar tasks, such as providing basic patient care, obtaining medical history and drafting physician correspondence. A diploma, certificate or associate's degree may be required for this position. Employment in this field is expected to grow at a much faster rate than the radiologic technology field, around 31% between 2010 and 2020.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

A nuclear medicine technologist also works in the field of diagnostic imaging in order to treat and diagnose patients, much like a radiologist's assistant. They examine the effects of radiopharmaceuticals, which are given to patients in order to produce an image. Workers in this field usually have an associate's or bachelor's degree, although certificate programs are also available for those already holding a degree in a related field. As with radiologist assistants, there may be licensing and certification requirements, depending on the state and employer. Employment growth in this field is similar radiologist technical, at around 19% for 2010-2020; however, the average salary was significantly higher, at about $70,000 in 2011.

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George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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Argosy University

  • Health Services Management (MS)
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound) (AAS)
  • Radiation Therapy (AS)

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

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Virginia College

  • Associate - Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Ultrasound

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Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)

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