If you want to be part of the medical field but don’t want to deal with bodily fluids and some of the other unpleasant aspects, you may want to consider being a radiologic technologist. The educational requirements aren’t time-consuming, and a radiologic technologist salary is worth it.
What a Radiologic Technologist Is
A radiologic technologist, also known as a radiographer, is the person responsible for performing the diagnostic testing that a physician or other medical professional orders. This is the one who performs imaging like X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance (MRI) testing. Once this person completes the diagnostics, he or she sends the results to the physician who reads it.
Responsibilities of a Radiologic Technologist
Your first duty is to prepare the patient for the procedure the physician ordered. During this portion of your job, you ask the patient questions and take their medical history to ensure their safety. You may need to mix a special mixture for your patient to drink prior to the test. Then, you position the patient properly for the testing.
As a radiographer, you operate the equipment used to obtain the images. You must adjust and maintain the equipment as needed. A radiologic technologist also performs radiation on cancer patients as per a doctor’s orders. If you receive special training, you may perform mammograms as well.
Once you take the initial imaging, you may need to work with physicians to determine if any further testing is necessary.
During every step of the process, you must keep detailed records.
A majority of radiologic technologists work full-time schedules. Due to the possibility of emergency situations, some radiographers may need to work evenings or overnight. Some radiographers work weekends too.
Special Job Requirements of Radiologic Technologists
Just like other healthcare workers, you come in contact with infectious diseases, so you must wear the proper gear to protect yourself. For instance, you wear gloves and shields. You work with equipment that emits radiation, so you have to wear a badge to measure radiation levels.
Where a Radiologic Technologist Works
In 2016, radiographers held approximately 205,200 jobs. A majority of these professionals worked in local, state, or federal hospitals. The next largest radiologic technologist employers were physicians. Other radiographers work in medical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient care centers, and for the federal government.
Qualities Beneficial for a Radiologic Technologist
Some qualities are important to have if you want to work in radiography.
You must have interpersonal skills to work in this field. You work with patients who often are in severe pain or are suffering from life-threatening conditions. You must comfort these patients, so they feel comfortable to undergo the test. This is important to relieve the patient’s fears and concerns and also to capture usable images.
You have to pay close attention to detail because doctors are going to order specific tests that they require to treat the patient. It’s vital you follow these orders closely because people’s health is at risk if you don’t perform the proper diagnostic testing.
As a radiographer, you operate complex equipment on a regular basis. You must understand how the machines work and how to operate them properly.
You must calculate the proper dosage of chemicals to administer to patients before you conduct certain imaging procedures. You must mix the dosage correctly to keep the patient safe and execute the testing correctly.
Educational Requirements of a Radiologic Technologist
If you’re a high school student who would like to become a radiologic technologist, you should take courses in science and math, including biology, chemistry, physiology, physics, and anatomy. Sometimes, these are prerequisites for entering into a radiography program.
A majority of people who enter this field earn their associate’s degree since the job doesn’t require a higher level of education. You, however, may want to specialize in a particular area of radiologic technology. If you want a more advanced degree in this field, you may want to earn your bachelor’s degree, although it’s not necessary for most jobs.
Your degree program includes both classroom work and clinicals. During your coursework, you take classes in pathology, anatomy, radiation, physics, image evaluation, and patient care.
Areas of Radiography to Specialize In
After you earn your degree, you may want to specialize in a particular area of radiography, such as one of the following:
Bone Densitometry Technology
A bone densitometry technologist uses a variety of X-ray equipment specifically for measuring the density of bones at different anatomic sites, typically the wrists, hip, spine, or heel. This type of testing also calculates a patient’s total body bone mineral content.
Cardiac Interventional and Vascular Interventional Technologists
This type of radiographer uses imaging like biplane fluoroscopy to assist in the placement of catheters, stents, vena cava filters, and other similar tools.
Computed Tomography Technologists
A computed tomography technologist uses an X-ray that rotates in order to obtain imaging of “slices” of the anatomy at various levels in the body.
Magnetic Resonance Technologists
A magnetic resonance technologist operates magnetic resonance imaging, which is a type of test that uses a strong magnetic field. As an MRI technologist, you apply a radiofrequency to the field in order to misalign the atoms. Throughout the process, the machine takes images as the atoms misalign and realign.
A mammographer uses a special X-ray to get images of the breast tissue.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists
If you choose to specialize as a nuclear medicine technologist, you use minescual amounts of radiopharmaceuticals to receive information about the patient’s tissue, bones, and organs. You use a camera that detects gamma rays given off by the radiopharmaceuticals to obtain an image of the body.
Quality Management Technologists
A quality management technologist collects data based on standardized methods. You evaluate the tools and data to ensure the quality of the systems and their processes.
A radiographer uses radiation to generate images of the body’s anatomy in black and white.
A sonographer performs imaging that uses sound waves to get images of the tissue and organs in the body.
Radiologic Technologist Salary in the United States
A radiologic technologist salary in the United States varies based on your location, job environment, and specialty.
The median annual wage for a magnetic resonance technologist was $69,930 as of May 2017 while a radiologic technologist who doesn’t specialize was $58,440.
The jobs that pay the most were federal jobs where the median radiologic technologist salary was $63,040. On average, you make $59,800 per year in state, local, and private hospitals. On the other hand, those who worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories earned a median wage of $59,570 while those who worked in outpatient services earned $58,020 per year. The median radiologic technologist yearly salary for those who worked in a physician’s office was $52,620.
Although the top-paying jobs in this field are in scientific research, the most jobs were in hospitals. The average salary in scientific research was $77,840. Those who work in management of companies and enterprises earned $69,880 annually. Specialty hospitals had the next highest average salary; individuals in the industry made an average of $66,920 per year.
A majority of jobs were in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. California also ranks highest for the state with the highest average salary. Individuals who worked in this state in May of 2017 earned $77,650 per year.
The Los Angeles area made the list as one of the metropolitan areas with the highest average salary. New York City ranked as one of the metropolitan areas with the highest average salary and so did Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The District of Columbia makes the list for the second highest average radiologic technologist salary in 2017 with an average salary of $77,500 per year.
The third highest-paying state is Massachusetts where peopled earned an average of $72,840 per year.
Licensure Required to Become a Radiologic Technologist
After you complete the educational requirements, you usually have to take an examination to obtain your license or certification. The organization that provides licensing for radiologic technologists is the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Licensure is only a requirement in some states though.
Job Outlook for a Radiologic Technologist
If you feel a radiologic technologist salary is right for you, the statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasted this field will have a job growth of 12 percent from 2016 until 2026. This projected rate is higher than the average for all occupations.
The reason for this increase in jobs in this field is because of the baby boomer population aging and experiencing medical issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
If you’re looking to work in the medical field and want a job with a rewarding future, you should consider becoming a radiologic technologist. The salary is considerably high, especially since you only have to earn an associate’s degree.