Radiologic Technologist: Career and Salary Facts

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

What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?

Radiologic technologists work with various kinds of diagnostic imaging equipment, like MRIs and mammography machines, to help physicians diagnose injuries and illnesses. They work closely with doctors to know exactly what images they need to capture, and will adjust the equipment and patient as necessary. This may involve moving the patient into different positions and/or protecting parts of the body that are not being imaged. Radiologic technologists must also record medical histories of patients and make detailed notes about the procedures in their medical record. They will also work with doctors after the images are taken to help diagnose and determine if a certain image needs to be redone. Take a look at the chart below for an overview of what you need to know to enter this field.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Radiography
Key Responsibilities Create images of interior of human body to assist physicians with diagnoses; use complex imaging equipment; work directly with patients
Licensure/Certification Required Some states require licensing, specifics vary by state; many employers prefer certified technologists
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 9%*
Average Salary (2015) $58,520*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is a Radiologic Technologist?

A radiologic technologist operates diagnostic equipment that uses radiation to create a picture, such as an x-ray, of the interior of the human body. Physicians then use these images to determine if disease or injury exists. A radiologic technologist is responsible for preparing the patient for the radiograph to be taken, including directing them to remove jewelry or other items that may interfere with a clear picture, guiding them into the correct position so the area of the body can be accessed and positioning the radiographic equipment for optimal clarity.

In handling radiographic equipment, you would need to take precautions to minimize radiation exposure to yourself and the patient. Radiation protection devices include lead shields, aprons and protective gloves. You would stand behind a protective wall while equipment is in operation and wear a radiation-measuring device to monitor your exposure.

What Are the Specialties?

You could choose to specialize in different types of radiologic equipment, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or mammography. A CT scan produces a 3-dimensional image by shooting ionizing radiation at cross-sections of the body, while an MRI uses non-ionizing radio frequencies to produce 3-dimensional images. Mammography uses specialized equipment that discharges low doses of radiation to produce radiographic images of the breast.

How Do I Become a Radiologic Technologist?

You can begin by earning an associate or bachelor's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is more common for a radiologic technologist to hold an associate degree, such as an Associate in Applied Science in Radiography (www.bls.gov). Typically two years in length, an associate's degree program in radiography will include classroom courses and clinical rotations. Before you can obtain employment, you may need to become licensed by your state board of health.

You might also consider becoming certified as a Registered Technologist (RT) by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Although certification is not a requirement to be licensed or employed, many states use the ARRT certification exam in the licensing process, according to the BLS. Also, many employers prefer to hire ARRT certified technologists. Beginning in 2015, the ARRT will require all candidates for certification to hold an associate's degree (www.arrt.org).

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

The BLS reports that in May 2015, the average salary for radiologic technologists was $58,520. The top-paying industry was commercial and industrial machinery and equipment rental and leasing ($73,360), while the lowest was physician offices ($54,290). The employment outlook for this profession is positive; the BLS expects a 9% increase between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all U.S. occupations. In May 2015, there were approximately 195,590 radiologic technologists employed in the U.S.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Diagnostic medical sonographers are related positions that require an associate's degree. These healthcare workers also help diagnose patients, but specifically through ultrasounds. Nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists are a couple other positions that also require an associate's degree. Nuclear medicine technologists also take images of a patient's body, but they use a small amount of radioactive drugs to highlight abnormal areas of the particular body part. Radiation therapists work with cancer patients and other patients requiring radiation treatments.

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