How Long Does it Take to Become a Radiologist Assistant

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

  So you want to know how long does it take to become a radiologist assistant. But first, before you read how long does it take to become a radiolog​ist assistant, did you know that Radiologist Assistants do much more than administer radiologic procedures. They also perform x-ray exams and other diagnostic studies, not just report the findings of others (such as the radiologists). Radiologist assistants review diagnostic radiology images and give their findings without the supervision of a physician or the interpretation of an image by a machine.

Joining the medical imaging field can be a career path that is both rewarding and lucrative. The average annual salary for radiologic technologists and technicians is $59,110 annually, which can increase to $76,430 for those working in an educational institution. Of course, one of the first steps to take in this journey is to learn how long it takes to become a Radiology Assistant.

Becoming a Radiologist Assistant is a great way to enter the medical field. You already have an associate’s degree and now you plan on adding Radiologic Technology to it. You might be wondering how long will it take to become a Radiologist Assistant? On this site we answer your question with facts and information that will help you decide if this is the right profession for you.

If you’ve decided to become a radiology assistant, it’s probably because you have enjoyed working with X-ray machines and would like to one day be able to use them on your own. You know that radiologists need assistants around them to help them retrieve images and perform some of the tasks that they need done in the course of their work.

Want to know more about radiology assistant vs radiology technician? This article will help you better understand what is a radiologic or imaging technology. It will reveal the information of 2 most important practicing professions. What you want is to become one of them? If you do, you’ve come to the right place.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Radiologist Assistant

The core curriculum of a radiology assistant degree program usually takes two years to complete, including classroom instruction and a clinical internship supervised by a radiologist. Course topics include patient assessment and care, diagnostic testing and imaging, health information management, pharmacology, radiobiology, clinical radiology, health care law and medical ethics. Master-level programs also include a thesis. This profession may require continuing education credits to sustain employment.

The Radiology Assistant position is the most advanced position one can seek in Radiology, not including the Radiologist Physician career.

These professionals play a vital role and work in conjunction with Physicians and Radiologic Technicians.

Radiology Assistants can work with a variety of medical imaging equipment that helps with the diagnosis of a patient.

They perform highly advanced techniques that are necessary for diagnosis.

These professionals are required to work with diagnostic imaging equipment such as:

  • X rays
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Mammography
  • Computed Tomography

The Radiology Assistant position is a fairly new career established for the purpose of alleviating the Radiologist Physician workload.

These professionals are highly trained individuals, who have thorough knowledge in anatomy, radiographic physics and radiology techniques.

They work very closely with Radiologist Physicians performing advanced radiological techniques.

Become a Radiologist Assistant

Radiologist assistants (RAs) are advanced-level radiographers who perform a variety of diagnostic imaging examinations, including CAT scans and x-rays. These professional assess and manage patient care, as well as assist radiologists with invasive and noninvasive procedures. In addition, they might evaluate the quality of radiologic images and report observations to a supervising radiologist. Radiologist assistants often spend many hours standing and those working with radiation must follow safety precautions to protect themselves and patients.

Degree LevelBachelor’s degree is standard
Degree FieldRadiologist assistant
Licensure and CertificationLicensure is required in many states; RAs are certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
TrainingMust first go through training to become a radiologic technologist (also known as a radiographer)
Key SkillsKnowledge of various medical software, such as diagnostic imaging, electronic medical records, film processing, information management, data entry and information retrieval software; expertise in using x-ray film processors, units, screens, archiving systems, and converters; often required to have advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) certification
Salary (2019)*$60,510 per year (median salary for all radiologic technologists and technicians)

Sources: American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, American Society of Radiologic Technologists, *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American College of Radiology.

Let’s explore the steps to become a radiologist assistant.

Step 1: Complete a Radiologic Technologist Program

To become a radiologist assistant, one must first train to be a radiologic technologist. While associate’s degree programs in radiography are common, many RA programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. Radiologic technologist programs include a mix of didactic classes and clinical experiences. Graduates should be prepared to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam to become a Registered Technologist.

Step 2: Get Certified and Licensed

Students can apply to take the ARRT exam up to three months prior to graduation from a radiologic technologist program. Once the application is approved, they’ll be contacted with information on scheduling an exam. They have 90 days to take the computer-based exam. Certification candidates will receive their official scores within three weeks of taking the exam. If they pass, they can begin working as Registered Technologists. If they don’t pass, they’re allowed two more attempts to pass the exam. Graduates also must be licensed by the state in which they work. Licensing applications usually include evidence of completing an appropriate education program and passing the ARRT exam.

Success Tip:

Gain work experience as a radiologic technologist. Once certified, radiographers should plan to gain at least two years of full-time work experience before applying to RA programs. Radiologic technologists typically maintain imaging equipment, carry out imaging of patients under orders from the supervising physician, prepare patients for procedures, and keep patient records.

Step 3: Earn a Radiologist Assistant Degree

Radiologist assistant programs may award either a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Programs that award master’s degrees require applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Programs usually consist of advanced courses in anatomy and physiology, healthcare leadership, patient care, radiographic positioning, image evaluation, and imaging procedures. Students also complete supervised clinical internships.

Step 4: Complete a Preceptorship

A clinical preceptorship is a full-time commitment during which a certification candidate is supervised by a radiologist. According to AART, students must complete at least 500 total cases, divided among certain categories, and 36 clinical procedures. The requirements for the preceptorship are set out by ARRT and outline exactly what procedures a student must be competent in. This work experience sometimes is completed alongside a radiologist assistant program.

Step 5: Obtain Radiologist Assistant Certification

After completing the preceptorship, candidates must pass a second ARRT examination to become a practicing radiologist assistant. The Registered Radiologist Assistant (RRA) certification exam is longer than the radiographer exam and consists of both multiple choice questions and case study questions. It’s also computer-based and administered at testing centers across the country.

Step 6: Secure State Licensure

Although the ARRT sets out model guidelines for RA licensure, specific licensing regulations vary by state. Common requirements are completing a radiologist assistant program, being registered with ARRT and being certified in ACLS.

Success Tip:

Complete continuing education requirements to maintain certification and licensure. RAs must complete 50 continuing education credits every two years to maintain certification with ARRT. States also require licensure renewal on a periodic basis.

Step 7: Consider Career Advancement

There is a range of growth opportunities for an RA. There are dozens of clinical areas to specialize in, as well as a variety of work settings, from a small doctor’s office to an entire department at a hospital. A radiologist assistant could advance to manage an entire department, teach at a college or university, or perform research. Career advancement in this field is largely dependent on the individual’s abilities and interests.

To recap, to become a radiologist assistant, you must first become certified and licensed as a radiologic technologist and gain experience in this position. You must then complete a radiologist assistant program and a preceptorship before gaining certification and state licensure as an RA.

The demand and flexibility of this job make the radiology assistant one of the highest paid medical assistants in the industry. Clinical diagnostic medical sonographers earn $36,000 annually on average. Those employed through a hospital network or in schools can expect to earn more, as can those with additional certification. Radiologic technologists and technicians also work in independent settings, such as imaging centers.

Education Requirements to Become a Radiology Assistant

In order for candidates to become a Radiology Assistant , they must attend a Baccalaureate educational program, complete a Radiologist Assistant program and seek certification and registration as a Radiographer.

In essence, candidates who want to become a Radiology Assistant need to finish a Bachelor’s degree and then attend a Radiologist Assistant Master’s program and finally pass the certification administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART).

After acquiring a Bachelor’s in Radiography, candidates will need to attend and complete a Registered Radiology Assistant (R.R.A.) program accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

A list of accredited Registered Radiology Assistant programs can be found on AART’s website.

After acquiring a radiography certification, those wanting to become a Radiology Assistant must also fulfill a full time clinical experience lasting at least one year.

A Radiology Assistant may also be required to gain licensure depending on their state of residency.

According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, there are at least 28 states that require Radiology Assistants to gain licensure in order to perform medical services in their state.

Although specific licensing requirements vary by state, most of these states accept a certification administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

radiology assistant vs radiology technician

Radiology Assistant

Radiology assistant is a newly recognized occupation by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, the national certification organization of radiologic technologists. Radiology assistants are trained radiologic technologists who have completed advanced study and work directly under radiologists. They conduct tests, manage patients and make preliminary judgments of test results. However, only a licensed radiologist is able to make official, written diagnoses from radiologic images.


A radiologist is a licensed medical doctor who has completed specialized training in conducting radiological tests and interpreting digital images. They are experts in using radiologic images to diagnose abnormalities or illness in the human body. In order to become board certified, radiologists must complete an undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, a medical licensing exam, a year of internship with a hospital or medical facility, and then four more years of residency in the field of radiology.

Radiologic Technologist vs. Radiologist

While radiologic technologist and radiologist sound like similar careers, they are actually quite different. A radiologist is a doctor who interprets medical images, such as X-rays and MRIs, diagnoses patients and recommends treatment. A radiologic technologist is typically supervised by a radiologist and supports the doctor and other members of the healthcare team by performing the diagnostic imaging procedures.

Radiologists must also attend medical school. Radiologic technologists, on the other hand, can begin their career after completing a two-year associate degree program in radiologic technology. With additional experience and education, they can go on to specialize in areas like mammography, MRI or cardiovascular imaging.

A career as a radiologic technologist is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to help others, has a passion for working with technology and is interested in joining the healthcare field quickly. In fact, U.S News and World Report rank radiologic technologist as #27 in Best Healthcare Support Jobs for 2019.

Important Qualities of Radiologic Technologist

In addition to the technical knowledge and skills gained through an associate degree program, radiologic technologists must have the right mix of soft skills to work successfully with patients and other members of the healthcare team.

Here are some of the most important qualities for radiologic technologists:

1. Empathy

As a radiologic technologist, you will work with patients on a regular basis. Some patients might be in pain or be extremely nervous about their exam, and part of your job is to ensure that the experience is as smooth and painless for them as possible. Radiologic technologists help put patients at ease by explaining what to expect before, during and after the examination. Having empathy and strong interpersonal skills will make it easier for you to develop a rapport with your patients and make the visit much more comfortable for them.

2. Strong communication skills

Communication skills are important for your interactions with patients as well as other staff members. Radiologic technologists need to be able to relay important information to doctors and nurses, educate patients, and ensure that results are recorded correctly after the exam. Being a strong communicator will help you build relationships with your patients and your colleagues to ensure a positive patient experience.

3. Teamwork

As a radiologic technologist, you will work with a variety of healthcare professionals – including from doctors, nurses and healthcare support staff. Personality differences are almost guaranteed, so that’s why it’s important to understand how to work as a team player. Someone might not be your favorite person (this applies to coworkers and patients), but you still need to work as a team to get the job done. Maintaining a professional attitude and composure in difficult situations will help you gain the respect of your colleagues and make it easier for everyone to work together.

4. Detail-oriented

Radiologic technologists must be extremely precise and detail-oriented. Physicians will often give detailed instructions as to which images need to be taken, and it is the radiologic technologist’s job to make sure the patient and the equipment are positioned correctly to capture the desired area.

5. Organizational skills

Part of your job as a radiologic technologist will be recording a patient’s medical history before an exam and updating patient records afterward. You need to understand the proper filing structure and be able to take detailed, organized notes. Radiologic technologists also need to keep the facilities and tools they use clean and organized for the next patient.

6. Analysis skills

Radiologic technologists may work with a physician to evaluate images after they have been taken. Having an analytical mindset will allow you to quickly determine whether additional images are needed for diagnosis.

Radiology Assistant Job Description

Radiology Assistants are responsible for assisting and working with Radiologist Physicians and Radiology Technologists.

Together, they run all aspects of an imaging services department.

Radiology Assistants work in a clinical or hospital environment completing an average of 46 hours per week.

Radiology Assistants must be able to work well with others as they interact constantly with other professionals and ill patients.

These professionals work under the direction of a Radiology Physician and are mainly responsible for performing duties that help alleviate the time constraints and pressures of their supervising physician.

They help with patient care by performing highly advanced radiological services that help with a patient’s diagnosis.

Radiology Assistants are required to read through a patient’s medical history in order to determine the type of treatment a patient needs.

They also report any medical findings to their supervising Radiologist Physician.

A Radiology Assistant is also required to confirm a patient’s medical history, update any new information and go over the procedures they are scheduled for.

A Radiology Assistant will need to ask a patient whether they followed specifications given in advance such as dietary requirements.

Asking the patient important medical questions will help a Radiology Assistant determine whether the radiology procedure is appropriate and safe for the patient.

Asking questions about pregnancies or other medications a patient is on is important in determining whether they are at risk of adverse affects.

A Radiology Assistant will monitor a patient throughout a procedure and perform post procedure observations and give patient’s further instructions.

registered radiologist assistant salary

Radiology Assistant Salary and Career Path

The Radiology Assistant position was added by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists in order to help ease the workload that Radiologic Physicians were responsible for.

This position was created as a result of a shortage of Radiologic Physicians.

The demand for Radiology Assistants is very high and will continue to be this way as long as there is a shortage of Radiologic Physicians in the medical field.

Because this type of position is extremely high in demand, the wages reflect this need.

Radiology Assistants are well paid, and according to the bureau of labor statistics, the national median income is approximately $42,000 per year.

The salary range for Radiology Assistants is approximately $35,000 to an attractive wage of $75,000 per year.The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$79,430
New Hampshire$64,530
New Jersey$69,330
New Mexico$59,140
New York$70,620
North Carolina$58,220
North Dakota$55,400
Rhode Island$71,870
South Carolina$54,840
South Dakota$53,210
West Virginia$51,880
Puerto Rico$26,150

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $86,120.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:California – $86,120Hawaii – $82,680District of Columbia – $79,430Massachusetts – $78,300Alaska – $76,850* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians, OCC Code 29-2034, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a radiology assistant?

Radiology assistants perform radiologic procedures to diagnose a variety of conditions and illnesses.

Radiology assistants are also responsible for diagnosing illnesses alongside a radiologist, making preliminary evaluations of images and ordering additional images if needed.

As a radiology assistant, you will adjust and maintain imaging equipment, will prepare patients for the procedure and answer their questions, protect patients by shielding the areas that don’t need imaging, operate the machines, and update the patients’ medical records.

For this job, you need good interpersonal skills, patience, compassion, and physical strength but also communication skills.

You will also have to follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination and radiation.

QuestionHow much does a radiology assistant make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for radiology technologists was $59,520.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including the radiology assistant’s education and level of experience.

If you are a radiologic assistant, you can expect to earn from $60,000 to $80,000 as a starting salary, getting to over $100,000 after a couple of years of experience in the field.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a radiology assistant?

If you want to become a radiology assistant you must first become a radiology technologist.

On average, the cost to complete a diploma radiology tech program at an accredited institution is between $3,000 and $10,000 for each year of study.

If you want to complete a 2-year-long associate’s degree program, the cost is between $4,000 and $12,000 for each year.

After graduation, you will take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam to become a Registered Technologist.

As a registered technologist, you will prepare patients for procedures, carry out imaging under the supervision of a physician and keep patients records.

Usually, radiology techs gain around two years of full-time work experience before applying to radiologist assistant programs.

You will need around 3 years of training before earning your radiology assistant degree.

After this, you must pass a second ARRT examination to become a practicing radiologist assistant.

QuestionWhat is the demand for radiology assistants?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of radiology technologists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom generation grows older, the need to diagnose injuries and diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s will increase.

Imaging is used to diagnose a variety of conditions and radiology assistants will be needed to take these images.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a radiology assistant?

You will need at least 7 years of training and work experience before becoming a radiology assistant.

The first step is to become a radiologic technologist, which means that you have to complete an accredited post-secondary program.

Associate’s degree programs for radiology technicians are 2 years long while bachelor’s degree programs can be completed in around 4 years.

Then, after gaining a few years of work experience as a radiology tech, you can follow a training program for radiology assistants.

Graduate programs for radiology assistants can be completed in around 3 years.

About the author

Study on Scholarship Today -- Check your eligibility for up to 100% scholarship.

Leave a Comment