Radiologic Technologists and Technicians Overview
A certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree in radiology from a college, university or hospital program will prepare students to work as Radiologic Technologists and Technicians. In most states, a license is also required. Job opportunities are expected to grow faster than average and employment options will be best for those skilled in multiple diagnostic procedures. Hospitals are the biggest employer of Radiologic Technologists and Technicians, but physicians’ offices and diagnostic imaging centers also offer opportunities.
Nature of the Work for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians
Radiologic Technologists and Technicians handle diagnostic imaging exams that are used to diagnose medical problems. Radiologic technologists use more sophisticated modalities like magnetic resonance imaging, mammography and computed tomography, while radiologic technicians perform x-rays.
Both Radiologic Technologists and Technicians are responsible for following doctor’s specific orders and following protocols necessary to protect patients, coworkers and themselves from unnecessary exposure to radiation. Beyond operating equipment, these workers often maintain equipment, evaluate equipment purchases, keep patient records and manage a radiology department.
Often called radiographers, radiologic technicians prepare patients for x-rays, or radiographs, by explaining the test, removing articles such as jewelry that can interfere with the x-ray and positioning patients to properly capture the area in question. Lead shields must be placed around the exposed area to reduce and prevent unnecessary exposure. Radiologic Technicians also position the radiographic equipment at the proper angle and height to line up with the part of the body they are x-raying. To ensure the radiograph is produced with the correct contrast, detail and density, technicians measure the thickness of the area to be x-rayed and set controls appropriately.
Radiologic technologists on the other hand work with more complex procedures. For example, a fluoroscopy requires the technologist to prepare a solution for the patient to drink that allows radiologists to see soft tissue. Specialties are common for radiologic technologists. Some work as CT technologists performing computed tomography (CT), which produces images of cross-sections of the body to create a three-dimensional image. Others choose to be MR technologists specializing in magnetic resonance imaging (MR), which also produces cross-sectional images to produce a three-dimensional picture. However, unlike CT and x-ray imaging, MR creates an image contrast without ionizing radiation. Mammography, low dose x-rays, which result in images of the breast, is another common specialty.
Because Radiologic Technologists and Technicians are always on their feet and are required to move and lift patients, physical stamina is important. Usually workers work at diagnostic machines, but some may go to patients’ bedsides or travel in vans equipped with diagnostic equipment to reach patients.
As you may assume, there are some radiation hazards associated with this career. However, shielding devices such as lead aprons and gloves minimize exposure. Radiologic Technologists and Technicians wear badges on the job to measure radiation levels and records are kept detailing each worker’s cumulative lifetime dose.
Forty-hour workweeks are most common and evening, weekend and on-call hours are not unusual. That said, some Radiologic Technologists and Technicians work for more than one employer on a part time basis.
Other workers besides Radiologic Technologists and Technicians prepare diagnostic imaging exams including nuclear medicine technologists, cardiovascular technologists and technicians and diagnostic medical sonographers.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians
Colleges, universities and hospitals all offer programs that can lead to a radiologic technologist or technician career and most states also require a license.
Formal radiography training programs are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology including 213 certificate programs, 397 associate degree programs and 35 bachelor’s degree programs in 2009. Both classroom and clinical instruction are included covering physiology, anatomy, radiation physics, radiation protection, positioning of patients, radiobiology, medical terminology and patient care procedures. High school students can prepare by enrolling in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics.
Radiologic Technologists and Technicians should be team players and have a good eye for detail. They need to operate complicated equipment so both manual dexterity and mechanical ability are needed. Also, since they interact with patients, they must be sensitive to their needs.
Due to the hazards of radiation exposure, federal legislation protects the public by ensuring Radiologic Technologists and Technicians are properly trained, though license requirements vary from state to state. Voluntary certifications are also available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and many employers favor certified employees.
Radiologic technologists can advance by choosing a specialization or continuing education to become a radiologist assistant. With experience, some are also promoted to supervisory positions. Others go on to be department directors, though a master’s degree in health administration or master's degree in business is often necessary for such a post. Radiologic Technologists and Technicians can also advance to related occupations as instructors or sales representatives.
Top 10 Most Popular Radiologic Technology/Science - Radiographer Schools
1. Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences (Orlando, Florida)
2. Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls (Wichita Falls, Texas)
3. Kaplan University (Multiple Campus Locations)
4. Ultimate Medical Academy (Multiple Campus Locations)
5. Indiana University - Northwest (Gary, Indiana)
6. The College of Health Care Professions, Houston Southwest (Houston, Texas)
7. San Jacinto College, Central Campus (Pasadena, Texas)
8. High Tech Institute (Multiple Campus Locations)
9. St Philips College, San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas)
10. Houston Community College System (Houston, Texas)
Most Popular Online Radiologic Technology/Science - Radiographer Schools
Employment and Job Outlook for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).
Job Opportunities & Competition
Good or favorable job opportunities. Job openings compared with job seekers may be in rough balance.
In 2008, there were roughly 214,700 Radiologic Technologists and Technicians working. The majority of those jobs, 61 percent, were in hospitals, though work is also available in outpatient care centers, medical and diagnostic laboratories, diagnostic imaging centers and, as imaging becomes less expensive and more accessible, even doctor’s offices.
Overall, employment of Radiologic Technologists and Technicians is projected to grow faster than average. A specialty in multiple diagnostic imaging procedures such as mammography, MR and CT will open doors to the best opportunities.
Employment opportunities are expected to grow about 17 percent between 2008 and 2018. While some opportunities will arise from workers leaving the occupation, the demand for diagnostic imaging will also grow as the population grows and ages. An older population typically experiences more injuries and illnesses requiring diagnostic diagnosis and diseases requiring imaging to monitor progress.
Insurance policies often dictate the extent of diagnostic imaging procedures, but because they help detect diseases early and accurately, they’re often seen as favorable.
Because the demand for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians is often regional, those willing to relocate will find the best opportunities. Also, employers looking to control costs often favor employees who are qualified in more than one specialty such as CT or MR.
In fact, CT is becoming the front-runner of diagnostic imaging exams. Rather than starting with an x-ray as before, many doctors prefer to start with the more accurate CT. MR is also being used more and more, making both of the specialties especially lucrative for the future.
Earnings and Salary for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians
Radiologic Technologists and Technicians earned a median annual wage of $52,210. Fifty percent of workers in the career earned between $42,710 and $63,010, while 10 percent earned less than $35,100 and 10 percent earned more than $74,970. Median annual wages for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians in the top industries:
Offices of physicians: $48,530
Outpatient care centers: $50,840
General medical and surgical hospitals: $52,890
Federal Executive Branch: $53,650
Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $55,210
Annual Salary for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians
On average, Radiologic Technologists and Technicians earn $53,240 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook