Mammography Technologist: Career and Salary Facts
Research what it takes to become a mammography technologist. Learn about job duties, certification, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.
What Is a Mammography Technologist?
A mammography technologist is on the front line of screening both women and men for breast cancer and other medical conditions. They use x-ray systems to take images of the breast, so they must be able to adequately use this type of imaging equipment. Mammography technologists are also responsible for taking care of the equipment and ensure it works properly. Mammography technologists take a medical history and answer any questions patients may have in addition to placing them correctly during imaging. They assist physicians with reviewing the results and keep a record of the procedure in the patient's file.
The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.
|Degree Required||Associate's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Radiologic technology|
|Key Responsibilities||Prepare and guide patient through procedure, use specialized imaging equipment, process images and discuss with pathologist, observe radiation safety protocols|
|Licensure Required||Many states require license and/or radiologic technologist certification; additional mammography certification available|
|Job Growth (2014-2024 )||9% for all radiologic technologists*|
|Median Annual Salary (2017)||$59,520*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Does a Mammography Technologist Do?
A mammography technologist is a radiographic specialist who handles sophisticated X-ray imaging equipment used to determine breast health. As a radiographer, you would assist patients, generally women, in preparing for the diagnostic imaging process. This involves making them comfortable and ensuring that they remove jewelry or anything they might be wearing that would interfere with obtaining a clear image.
When the patient is ready, you assist in positioning the breast for optimal image coverage. Then you align the machine and determine the right amount of radiation required to get a detailed image. Mammography involves a low dosage of radiation, so you need to protect yourself from unnecessary exposure by standing behind a protective wall when you take the picture. Other responsibilities include processing the image, cleaning and adjusting the equipment, handling patient records and communicating information to the attending physician.
What Credentials Would I Need?
To be employed as a mammography radiographer, you usually need to become certified as a radiographic technologist by the American Registry of Radiographic Technologists (AART). Many states require licensure, and many state health boards use AART's certification exam to determine licensure qualification. Once you become a certified radiographic technologist, you can pursue the specialized post-primary category certification in mammography, which includes experiential components and, as of January 2016, 16 hours of structured learning.
The AART requires candidates for the radiography technologist certification exam to hold at least an associate degree, though it doesn't need to be in radiography or a related health field. Continuing education and renewal are required to maintain your certification.
Accredited radiography programs take 21-24 months to complete, and involve both classroom instruction and clinical experiences. Coursework covers anatomy and physiology, imaging, radiation physics, medical ethics, radiobiology and pathology. Clinical instruction involves patient care procedures, patient positioning and radiation protection.
Where Can I Find Job Opportunities?
As a mammography technologist, you would most likely find work in a hospital. However, opportunities are expected to increase at doctor's offices and centers that specialize in diagnostic imaging. Work may be available on a contract basis, requiring you to travel regularly. You could improve your opportunities if you learn other radiographic technologies, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.
The employment outlook for radiographic technologists, including mammographers, is expected to be better than the average for all U.S. occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for such professionals could grow about 9% between 2014 and 2024, in part due to an aging population that requires more diagnostic testing (www.bls.gov).
What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?
BLS reports a median annual wage for mammography technologists as $59,520 for May 2018. BLS also states that Atlanta, California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon are among U.S. cities that pay higher than the national average.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Individuals interested in a similar field as those of mammographers have a few alternative career options including becoming a radiation therapist, sonographer or nuclear medicine technologist. All of these options require an associate's degree just like a mammography technologist. Radiation therapists give radiation treatment to patients with cancer or other diseases. Like mammography technologists, sonographers produce various images of the body. However, instead of utilizing x-ray, they normally use ultrasound to look at the tissues and organs. On the other hand, nuclear medicine technologists are professionals who use a variety of other machines to take images of a patient's body. To find abnormalities, they compare these images to those taken after a patient is given radioactive drugs.