Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists are trained medical professionals who operate imaging or radiation therapy equipment, interacting directly with patients. They often specialize in certain areas of radiology or certain imaging machines, such as MRI or mammography.


What is a radiologic technologist?

A radiologic technologist (RT) is a healthcare professional who performs diagnostic imaging procedures and radiation therapy treatments.

Examples of diagnostic imaging procedures include:

RTs may practice general radiography or specialize in a specific imaging technique such as one of those mentioned above, or:

They may also work in clinical subspecialties, such as prenatal care, pediatrics or orthopaedics, for example.

Is a radiologic technologist a doctor?

Radiologic technologists aren’t medical doctors. They don’t need a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree to do their job. However, RTs do have extensive training to properly and safely perform diagnostic imaging tests (or administer radiation therapy).

They work closely with radiologists, who are medical doctors trained to read and interpret medical imaging scans to make a diagnosis. RTs don’t provide diagnoses.


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What does a radiologic technologist do?

Radiologic technologists are skilled in operating imaging or radiation equipment. Many specialize in a certain type, such as breast sonography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). RTs directly interact with patients. Their general job responsibilities vary slightly depending on if they work in diagnostic imaging or radiation oncology.

Diagnostic imaging

Radiologic technologists who work in diagnostic imaging work closely with radiologists.

In general, their roles include:

  • Explaining the imaging procedure and answering any questions you have.
  • Accurately positioning you to ensure they get quality images of the intended part of your body.
  • Ensuring the rest of your body is protected from unnecessary radiation (if applicable).
  • Adjusting the equipment settings and operating the machine to take images.
  • Making sure the equipment is working properly.
  • Working with radiologists to evaluate the images and determine if they need more.

Radiation therapy

Radiologic technologists who work in radiation oncology are also called radiation therapists. They administer pre-measured doses of radiation to your body to treat cancer and other conditions.

They work closely with oncologists and dosimetrists (providers who calculate and customize radiation doses).

The roles of a radiation therapist include:

  • Discussing the radiation therapy procedure with you.
  • Answering any questions or concerns you may have.
  • Properly positioning you for radiation treatment.
  • Ensuring the rest of your body is protected from unnecessary radiation (if applicable).
  • Operating the machine (such as a linear accelerator) and making sure it’s functioning properly.
  • Monitoring your body’s reaction to the treatment and keeping careful records for your oncologist.

Where do radiologic technologists work?

The majority of RTs work in hospitals. But they can also work in clinics, independent doctors’ offices, nursing homes and outpatient care centers.

They may work in a dedicated room for diagnostic imaging, or they may operate mobile X-ray or ultrasound equipment in an emergency room or operating room, for example.

Care at Cleveland Clinic

Additional Common Questions

How do you become a radiologic technologist?

Most people who become radiologic technologists complete an associate’s degree program, but there are also bachelor’s degree programs.

To become a registered radiologic technologist, you must:

  • Complete two years of formal education in an accredited hospital-based program OR a two- or four-year educational program at an academic institution.
  • Pass a national certification examination from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
  • Obtain a state license in the state you’ll be working in (if applicable).

Many radiologic technologists pursue additional education and certifications to specialize in a particular diagnostic imaging area (called “postprimary pathways”).

To remain a registered RT, you must complete continuing education courses throughout your career.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Needing to undergo an imaging test to screen for or help diagnose a condition can be stressful. Know that your radiologic technologist has specialized knowledge and skills to perform the imaging test. They’ll guide you through the procedure and make sure you’re comfortable. If you have any questions about the process, don’t be afraid to ask them.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/02/2023.

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