The path to become a radiologist assistant begins with having a strong desire to work in the medical industry and interact with radiologists and patients. The first step is to become a certified radiographer or radiation tech. This is a prerequisite for most accredited radiologist assistant programs. After that, it is necessary to become certified and then pass the exam that is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists to become state licensed.
Radiologist assistants and radiology technologists should not be confused. There are many instances in which the two job descriptions do overlap, or could be interchanged. The major difference is that an assistant spends more time working closely with the radiologist. He will assist in advanced radiology procedures, evaluate diagnostic information, and provide patient educations. As a result, to become a radiologist assistant the candidate must become a radiologist technologist first.
Most accredited radiologist assistant programs require that the candidate be a certified radiographer or radiography technology. A radiographer applies high doses of radioactive materials to cancer patients, performs x-rays on patients and manages radiology equipment. The skills learned as a certified radiographer will be useful for the work performed as a radiologist assistant. These programs usually last about two years and result in an Associate’s degree.
The next step to become a radiologist assistant is completing an education program, which typically last about two years. The coursework will include courses on pharmacology, radiologic safety, and radiation physics. There will also be hands on experience working in a clinical environment. Radiologist assistant programs result in either a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences, a Master of Science in Radiologic Sciences, or a post baccalaureate certificate. It all depends on the level of prior education, and the nature of the current program being pursued.
Before beginning work, a radiologist assistant must also be certified. Nearly every clinic or hospital that employs radiologist assistants will require a certification to ensure the quality of work. Certification requires a minimum amount of training hours in a clinical environment, and a currently maintained status as a registered radiological technologist. The candidate must also be a graduate of an accredited radiologist assistant education program, and have at least a Bachelor’s degree. To maintain certification, continuing education class must be completed each year.
At this point, all that is left to do to become a radiologist assistant is to obtain individual state licensing. Each state has its own licensing requirements and procedures. If a radiologist assistant moves from one state to another, he will have to become licensed in that state, too. It should be noted that some states that do not require any licensing at all, but this may change as state legislations evolve.