CAT Scan Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a CAT scan technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a CAT Scan Technician?

A computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan technician, also known as a radiologic technologist or radiographer, specializes in using CAT scanning and other radiation-based equipment to create diagnostic imaging. The technician prepares the patient for the scanning procedure and operates the CAT scanning machine that creates the images. Based on the images that technicians create, doctors can diagnose injuries or illnesses. Between patients, technicians are also responsible for imaging equipment maintenance to make sure that it is working properly and will generate high quality images while still ensuring the safety of the patient. See the table below for more information about this career.

Degree RequiredCertificate or associate's degree
Education Field of StudyRadiologic technology, radiography
Key ResponsibilitiesOperate radiology equipment to produce diagnostic images of parts of the body; explain process and position patient for scanning; move and adjust equipment; monitor and adjust video display; review and evaluate images for adequacy
Licensure/CertificationLicensure required by most states, certification available through American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART)
Job Growth (2014-2024)9% for radiologic technologists*
Median Salary (2015)$56,670 for radiologic technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Work Do CAT Scan Technicians Do?

If you worked as a computerized tomography (CT) technician, also known as CAT scan technician or technologist, you would operate radiography equipment such as x-ray and CT scanners to conduct scans of a patient's body as directed by a physician. You would assist patients on the scanning table and both you and your patient would wear protective aprons and screening devices to minimize radiation exposure. Your other duties may include updating imaging records and maintaining the equipment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for trained radiographers will increase as the general population ages (www.bls.gov). The BLS noted that in 2014, 59% of radiographers, which include CAT scan technicians, work in hospitals. You would also find many of them work in larger medical practices and free-standing imaging centers. As a CAT scan technician, you would typically work a 40-hour week on a schedule that may include evenings and weekends.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a CAT Scan Technician?

To become a CAT scan technician, you'll need a certificate or an associate's degree in radiography or a related major from a community college or technical school program accredited by the Joint Review Committee of Education in Radiologic Technology. Approved programs include courses in imaging techniques, anatomy, physiology, medical ethics, radiobiology and medical terminology. You'll also gain clinical and classroom training. According to the BLS, all states require some form of licensing for radiographers, with requirements varying by state. The American Medical Association (AMA) website reported that 38 states require a license to work in radiography (ama-assn.org).

If you're a radiographer who is trained in more than one form of radiology, you'll have the best opportunity for employment, especially if you're certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The ARRT offers voluntary certification after an individual graduates from one of their approved programs and passes an examination.

A job as a radiographer requires that you be physically fit because most of your workday will be spent standing and assisting patients on the imaging table. You'll need to have manual dexterity and mechanical aptitude to operate complex equipment.

How Much Can CAT Scan Technicians Earn?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technologists, including CT scan technicians, earned a median salary of $56,670 in May 2015. The bottom ten percent of these workers earned $38,110 a year or less, while the top ten percent made more than $81,660 a year. Medical and diagnostic laboratories, the federal government, medical and surgical hospitals and outpatient centers employed the largest number of radiology technicians, according to the BLS.

The field of radiography is growing more rapidly than many other occupations. Between 2014 and 2024, growth in radiologic technologist jobs is projected to increase 9 percent, the BLS noted.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who are interested in radiation-based diagnostic imaging techniques may also consider becoming MRI technologists. These professionals specialize in using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to take diagnostic images. Like CT scan technicians, they need an associate's degree and sometimes a license. For individuals who want to operate equipment that uses radiation to treat disease, a job as a radiation therapist may be of interest. This job also usually requires an associate's degree, and many states require certification or licensure.

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