Radiologic technologists perform a critical role in healthcare by giving patients diagnostic imaging exams. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates, the work these techs perform enables doctors to diagnose ailments and provide the necessary care to patients. Radiologic techs generally work with X-ray, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment. Radiologic techs are responsible for preparing patients for exams, scanning areas of concern, as directed by physicians, and maintaining detailed patient records (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
Though the work may involve some hazardous exposure to radiation, this is typically mitigated by the use of protective gloves, masks or other clothing, and radiation levels are constantly monitored. Additionally, this job often involves working with patients in emergency situations, which may mean working unpredictable hours (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). However, radiologic tech jobs may be ideal for those looking to work in healthcare and directly contribute to patient care without attending many years of medical school.
How to Become a Radiologic Tech
According to the BLS, the most popular path for radiologic tech training is earning an associate degree along with licensure and/or certification, though certificate and bachelor's programs are also available. An associate degree or higher will be required beginning in January 2015 to gain primary certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists .
For those interested in radiologic tech careers, the following is a suggested and generally accepted career pathway:
- Complete high school courses in science, such as biology, chemistry or physics, and earn a high school diploma or the equivalent.
- Earn an associate degree in medical radiologic technology from a school accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Generally a two-year program that combines coursework with a clinical rotation.
- Learn about state licensure requirements and gain the proper credentials.
- Apply for employment as an entry-level radiologic tech.
- Maintain licensure through completion of ongoing, state-required continuing education credits.
- Consider gaining certification in radiography or a specialized field such as mammography or sonography.
Remember, these are general guidelines, and following them does not guarantee employment.
Post-Education Requirements: Certifications and/or State Licensing
Once graduates complete their accredited certificate or degree programs, some may need to earn a state license. As part of the licensure process, students often need to pass an exam provided by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists or the state itself.
Optional certifications are also available for those who wish to concentrate in a particular area of radiologic technology. Several professional organizations offer these credentials, including:
- American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT): In addition to radiography certification, ARRT offers radiologic techs certification opportunities in related imaging fields such as sonography, mammography, and magnetic resistance imaging.
- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS): The ADRMS offers several certifications, including the Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), which enables individuals to practice diagnostic medical sonography -- a related field that uses sound waves to examine internal organs.
Specialty credentials may require radiologic techs to first earn the base radiography certification through the ARRT and complete other prerequisites. Check with each organization for more details.
Radiologic Tech Specialties
Radiologic tech jobs often involve working with specific types of equipment, which may lead these professionals to specialize and become certified in these areas. According to the BLS, specialties include:
- CT Technicians: Perform CT scans, which take a series of X-rays from many angles to create visual "slices" of a patient's bones, organs and other body parts.
- MRI Technicians: Scan patients with MRI machines, which use magnetic fields and radio energy to take images.
- Mammographers: Specialize in scanning techniques used to examine breast tissue.
Radiologic Tech Job Growth and Average Salary
The BLS projects radiologic tech jobs to grow 28 percent from 2010 to 2020. This faster-than-average growth rate is largely due to baby boomers, who are expected to become increasingly reliant upon medical imaging tests for diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury. Job prospects should be best for those with several certifications (bls.gov/ooh, 2012)
The median annual wage for radiologic technologists (not including MRI techs), was $56,450 in May 2012, though salary can vary depending on location, experience and education. The highest 10 percent earned more than $77,160 while the lowest 10 percent earned below $37,060 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). Hospitals are expected to remain the largest employers of radiologic techs, although physicians' offices and imaging centers are hiring more of these professionals as patients increasingly turn to outpatient care (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
List of Related Careers
With additional training, certification and/or education, radiologic technologists may be able to pursue similar careers. Examples include:
- Nuclear Medicine Technologists: Use radiopharmaceuticals and special cameras to examine organ function.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: Use high-frequency sound waves to create images of internal organs.
- Radiation Therapists: Administer certain types of radiation to treat cancer and other diseases.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more about radiologic tech careers, training and certification: