Medical Radiographer: Career and Salary Facts

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

What Is a Medical Radiographer?

Medical radiographers, also known as radiologic technologists, use x-rays, CT scanners and other radiologic equipment to take images of internal organs and body parts. Some specialize in mammography, or the use of low-dose radiation to take images of breasts. Based on the doctor's orders, the radiographer prepares the patient for an imaging procedure, properly positioning the patient and the machine so that the relevant areas are exposed but the rest of the body is shielded from harmful radiation. Afterward, the radiographer discusses the quality of the images with the doctor to determine whether a follow up procedure is necessary. Ultimately, the images that the radiographer creates can be used by physicians to accurately diagnose a patient's injury or illness. In addition to directly performing procedures, radiographers are also responsible for machine maintenance.

See the table below for more information about this career option:

Degree Required Associate's degree is typical; bachelor's degree and certificate programs available
Education Field of Study Medical Radiography
Key Responsibilities Create x-ray films of patient body parts
Follow physician direction
Follow safety guidelines and ensure patient safety
Explain procedure to patients and position them to obtain accurate images
Oversee equipment, adjust settings, and evaluate image quality
Licensure/Certification License required in some states
Certification may be required in some states as part of the licensing process
Job Growth (2014-2024)9%*
Median Salary (2015)$56,670 for radiologic technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Medical Radiographer Do?

Medical radiographers create x-ray images of patients so that physicians can make accurate diagnoses. In the position, you must follow safety guidelines and the instructions of a physician carefully to ensure the safety of patients, coworkers and yourself. You will explain the procedure to patients, make sure they aren't wearing any articles that can't pass through x-ray machines and position them for an accurate image. You also adjust the settings of the equipment and evaluate the quality of x-rays.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the majority of medical radiographers were employed in hospitals in 2015, but professionals in the field also worked in the offices of physicians, laboratories, diagnostic imaging centers, urgent care clinics and outpatient care facilities (www.bls.gov). Employment for medical radiographers was predicted to grow at a rate of 9% between 2014 and 2024, a rate that is faster than average. This may have to do with the aging American population and its increasing medical needs.

What Should I Study?

If you are looking to study medical radiography, you should enroll in a program that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Most medical radiography programs result in an associate's degree, but there are also bachelor's degree and certificate programs available. Associate's degree programs will prepare you to for entry-level medical radiography positions and feature courses in anatomy and physiology, radiologic technology, radiation physics, positioning, patient assessment, medical ethics and imaging pathology. There you would also perform hands-on work learning to use x-rays and other equipment.

Should I Become Certified?

Certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is not mandatory, but some states require you to pass the ARRT's exams as part of a licensing process. For instance, in the state of New York, the licensure process includes filling out an application, paying a processing fee to the Department of Health, providing a copy of your high school diploma or a transcript and proving that you have passed the ARRT exam. Becoming certified may also help you find position.

To become certified by the ARRT, you would need to prove that you participated in an accredited degree program in the past five years and earned an academic degree. The registry has rules, regulations and ethical requirements that applicants must obey. You must also pass the ARRT certification exam. Certified medical radiographers must take 24 hours of continuing education every two years.

What Might I Earn?

The BLS states that the median annual wage of radiographers in May 2015 was $56,670 (www.bls.gov). Workers may earn a higher starting salary at larger hospitals or if they have a specialization, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A closely related career possibility is a job as an MRI technologist. These professionals have many of the same responsibilities as radiographers, but they specialize in using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images. Like radiographers, they need at least an associate's degree and sometimes a license or certification. Another option is a job as a nuclear medicine technologist. These professionals prepare radiopharmaceuticals, administer them to patients and take radiographic images that can highlight abnormalities in the body, which physicians use to diagnose medical conditions. To become a nuclear medicine technologist, it is necessary to earn an associate's degree and sometimes pass a licensure exam.

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