Radiology Technician Career Guide

Overview

Radiology technicians, also referred to as radiologic technologists, perform diagnostic imaging examinations (x-rays). As a radiology technician, your primary responsibilities will be to help physicians assess and treat patients, take x-rays and mammograms, operate imaging and testing machines and update patient medical records. You will need to be able to perform a wide variety of imaging techniques like computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging. You may decide to become specialized in a certain area or you may generalize your services across the board (performing a variety of services for different physicians). If you decide to enter the field of radiology technology, you should expect to work at a clinic, hospital, doctor’s office and/or private practice.

Educational Requirements

You do not have to have a bachelor’s degree to become a radiology technician, but there are training programs available should you decide to seek a certificate or degree in this area. An associate degree is the most sought out degree. If you decide to obtain a radiology technology certificate, you should expect to commit at least 6 month to a year to a training program. Certificate and degree programs combine coursework with a supervised clinical internship. While in your certificate or degree program, you will be required to take courses in the following areas: pathology, anatomy, radiation physics, patient care and protection and image evaluation.

Once you have successfully completed your certificate or degree program, you will be eligible to seek licensure, if you choose. It is important to note that in order to seek licensure, you must obtain a certificate or degree from an accredited training or educational program. If you are still in high school, it may benefit you to start preparing for this field early. It is suggested that you concentrate on science and math in school. You may also want to take anatomy, chemistry, biology, physics and other science and math related courses.

Licensure and Certification

You may be required to be licensed or certified to practice as a radiology technician, depending on your state.  In order to be licensed you must obtain a certificate or degree from an accredited training or educational program. You are also required to pass the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) or a similar state-administered certification exam. Furthermore, you may be required to enroll in continued education courses every two to three years in order to maintain your license and certification.

Job Duties

As a radiology technician you may be required to perform the following duties:

  • Operating a variety of computerized imaging machines
  • Following specific orders from physicians (on which areas of the body to x-ray)
  • Preparing your patient for his/her procedures (documenting his/her medical history and answering any questions that he/she has about their procedures)
  • Preventing your patient from receiving harmful amounts of radiation.
  • Positioning your patient correctly so that you can get the most accurate image
  • Collaborating with radiologists to determine which images need to be retaken for lack of clarity
  • Maintaining and updating your patient’s medical records

Salary Prospects

As a radiology technician, you can expect to earn approximately $56,000 a year (bls.gov). If you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to make approximately $36,000 a year, while if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to make approximately $78,000 or more a year (bls.gov). You will more than likely work full time and because imaging is often needed in emergencies, you may be required to work evenings, nights, holidays, overtime and be on-call.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 220,000 radiology technician jobs in 2010. If you decide to become a radiology technician, you will more than likely work at a healthcare facility such as hospital or clinic. You should be aware that there is a risk of exposure to larger-than-normal levels of radiation, but it should not be enough to cause physical harm. You will be required to wear protective lead aprons, glasses and gloves while working with the imaging machines, which will limit your exposure to radiation. You may also be exposed to infectious diseases, but once again your health should not be compromised by your exposure.

In addition, you will be on your feet the majority of your shift and you will need to be able to lift and/or turn children, elderly patients and those with disabilities. Moreover, you will be required to wear a visible badge that measures the amount of radiation in the area where you are working. The amount of radiation you receive will be recorded in your medical file as a way to make sure you do not receive too much radiation from the machines.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics certified radiology technicians have the best career prospects. Radiology technology jobs are expected to increase by approximately 28% by 2020 (bls.gov).  This increase is due to the aging baby boomer population. Aging baby boomers will continue to suffer from injuries and ailments that require imaging services. Radiology technicians will be needed to operate and maintain the diagnostic machines.

In addition, the need for radiology technicians is expected to rise in the future because more and more people are turning to outpatient care (instead of hospitals) to receive x-rays and other diagnostic imaging tests. It is less expensive to receive outpatient care then hospital care.

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