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Radiologic Technologist (Radiologist) and Technician Career and Job Information

Radiologic Technologist (Radiologist) and Technician Career and Job Highlights

  • Doctors’ offices and diagnostic imaging centers are expected to create an increasing number of jobs, though hospitals will continue to be the largest employers of radiologists and technicians.
  • Employment openings are projected to be ample; a handful of employers indicate that they have not been able to hire enough radiologists and technicians.

Radiologic Technologist and Technician Career Information and Job Description

Radiologic technicians (a.k.a Radiologists) and technologists perform x rays and place nonradioactive matter into patients’ veins in order to diagnose problems. There are some who are specialists in diagnostic imaging technologies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT).

Beside radiologic technicians and technologists, there are diagnostic medical sonographers, nuclear medicine technologists, and cardiovascular technicians and technologists, all of who also perform diagnostic imaging.

Radiologic technicians and technologists, sometimes known as radiographers, create x ray images (radiographs) of different parts of a patient’s body to help diagnose health problems or injuries. They get ready to take the x rays by teaching the patient about the procedure, removing metal objects from the patient’s body, and placing the patients in the correct position. In order to decrease the amount of exposure that the patient is exposed to, parts of their body that are not being radioagraphed are covered with lead shields, or the radiographer limits the size of the x ray beam. They then place the equipment in the proper position in relation to the patient’s body and determine the proper machine settings given the thickness of the area being x rayed and the part of the body. X ray film is placed beneath the body part being radiographed and the picture is taken. The film is then taken out and developed.

Radiographers with experience sometime operate more complex imaging equipment. When performing fluoroscopies the radiographers give the patients a contrast medium solution to drink in order to examine the soft tissues in the patients’ bodies. CT technologists use CT scanners to create cross-sectional pictures of patients’ bodies. MRI technologists use equipment with strong magnets and radio waves in order to produce pictures of patients’ bodies.

Radiologic technicians and technologists have to obey doctors’ instructions carefully and comply with regulations that deal with their own, their patients’, and their coworkers’ protection from unnecessary radiation.

Besides getting patients ready and using imaging machinery, radiologic technicians and technologists maintain patient records and take care of equipment. Some create work schedules, manage imaging departments, or purchase equipment.

Full-time technicians and technologists work about 40 hours per week, though there may be on-call hours over weekends, nights, and evenings. Some part-time and shift work is available.

Since technicians and technologists spend most of their days on their feet and could be required to maneuver disabled patients, physical fitness is essential. They typically perform their duties at imaging equipment, but may do some work at patients’ bedsides. Others go to patients’ homes in large vans equipped with diagnostic imaging equipment.

The radiation dangers that are inherent in this profession are limited by using safety equipment like gloves, shields, and aprons made of lead, as well as constantly measuring radiation exposure. Badges worn by technicians and technologists monitor radiation levels; these measurements are recorded and the lifetime exposure to radiation of technicians and technologists is charted.

Radiologic Technologist and Technician Training and Job Qualifications

Branches of the military, vocational and technical institutions, colleges and universities, and hospitals all offer training for this occupation. Hospitals like to hire technicians and technologists who have received some kind of formal training; they employ the greatest number of radiologists.

Formal training programs in radiography are anywhere from 1 to 4 years long; graduates are awarded with a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree, depending on the program. Associate degree programs are the most common.

Radiographers with experience, as well as MRI technicians and nurses wishing to expand their skill set or change jobs, can take a 1-year certification program. Supervisors, administrators, and teachers of radiology should possess at least a bachelor’s degree in the field.

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology approves the majority of training programs. There were some 587 accredited radiography programs in 2003. Radiography programs call for minimum requirements of a high school diploma or GED. Helpful high school courses include biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Courses in pathology, radiobiology, medical ethics, positioning of patients, medical terminology, principles of imaging, radiation protection, radiation physics, patient care procedures, physiology, and anatomy, as well as hands on clinical training, constitute the formal training programs.

The Federal government protects the public from unnecessary radiation from medical and dental radiography by making sure technologists and technicians have received proper training. There is legislation in which the Federal government establishes standards that the States can adopt to certify programs and ensure medical and dental radiographers receive proper training.

In 2003, nearly 40 States issued licenses to radiologic technicians and technologists. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offers voluntary registration to professionals who graduated from an approved program and who receive a passing grade on their examination. Registered radiographers have a competitive edge when job hunting. Twenty-four hours of continuing education courses are required to recertify every two years.

Radiologic technicians and technologists should be mindful of their patients’ needs, both physical and emotional. A team player attitude, close attention to detail, and the ability to follow detailed instructions are essential attributes. Mechanical and manual aptitudes are also relevant skills because they must operate sophisticated diagnostic imaging equipment.

Staff technologists who receive additional training and accrue experience may specialize in CT scans, MRIs, and angiography. Supervisor, chief radiologic technologists, and department administrators and directors are often experienced technologists. Directors’ positions, depending on the organization, may require a master’s or at least some course work in business and healthcare administration. Some technologists leave the profession to teach or direct radiologic technology programs, work as sales reps, or work as trainers for equipment manufacturers.

Radiologist Job and Employment Opportunities

Employment openings are projected to be ample; a handful of employers indicate that they have not been able to hire enough radiologists and technicians. Flexible training programs and increased salaries are two ways that employers may seek to bridge the divide between their need for more radiologic personnel and the dearth of qualified professionals now.

Radiologic technologists with experience performing CT scans or MRIs will have a competitive edge. Employers are increasingly seeking to hire multi-skilled employees.

Job growth is projected to be faster than average compared to all other occupations through 2012 for radiologic technologists and technicians. The growing and aging population will demand more and more diagnostic imaging. Economic factors may limit the speed at which new promising technologies are adopted, despite general excitement about their possibilities. For example, digital imaging technology is an expensive advancement that increases diagnostic accuracy. Technologies may not be adopted or readily used because the equipment is too expensive and insurance companies are unwilling to pay out for the services.

Hospitals will continue to employ the majority of radiologic technicians and technologists. Doctors’ offices and diagnostic imaging centers will employ an increasing number because of the shifting focus to outpatient care. Technological developments and insurance companies’ encouragement of the latter types of healthcare institutions will spur huge growth of offices and clinics through 2012. As current radiologic personnel leave the profession permanently they will need to be replaced.

Historical Earnings Information

Radiologic technologists and technicians earned on average in 2002 $38,970. About half made between $46,510 and $32,370. The highest paid 10 percent earned $55,430 or more, while the lowest paid 10 percent were paid less than $27,190.