Radiologic Technologist Job Overview
Radiologic technologists are medical personnel who are trained to use imaging equipment to perform diagnostic examinations on patients. This may include x-rays, CT scans (computed tomography examinations) and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).
Radiologic technologists are sometimes referred to as radiologic technicians or x-ray technicians. There are over 200,000 radiologic technologists in the United States.
Radiologic technologists typically work in a hospital setting, although some may work at an imaging center or even at a physician’s office. They must be able to stand on their feet for extended periods of time. They may be required to render physical assistance to a disabled patient. Most RTs work full time. They may be required to be on call or work overtime as necessary.
Radiologic technologists are exposed to radioactive materials or equipment as an inherent part of their job. Radiology technologists are trained on the precautions to observe while working around radioactive materials. They are also taught about the use of safety measures to reduce the chance of inadvertent exposure to radiation.
Radiologic technologists often wear protective shielding devices, such as a special lead-lined vest, gloves and/or apron. Radiologic technologists are tested on a regular basis to monitor radioactive exposure to ensure that they have not been unduly exposed to radioactive materials.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
In order to become a radiologic technologist, the individual must first hold a high school diploma or equivalent. The typical route to becoming a radiologic technologist is through the completion of a program that culminates in certification, obtaining an associate’s degree or pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of the individual’s choice, radiologic technologists must be licensed or certified in order to work as a radiologic technologist.
Licensing or certification involves either passing an exam given by the particular state or by passing the national examination that is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Once the individual has obtained the appropriate training and passed the ARRT certification examination, they are able to pursue licensing as an R.T. (radiologic technologist). Requirements for licensing vary from state to state, so it is advisable to determine the individual state procedure for becoming licensed and/or certified before choosing the route for becoming a radiologic technologist.
If you choose to obtain training through a certification program, you may expect to take six to twelve months to complete the training program. Typical classes will include classroom training as well as clinical practice.
If you elect this option please take note: the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, which administers the national certification examination, will require individuals to have at least an associate’s degree through an accredited institution.
Associate of Applied Science Degree
If you choose to obtain training by way of obtaining an associate’s degree, you may expect to take two years to complete the associate’s degree. Courses will include such things as patient interaction, anatomy, radiological exposure practices, radiologic procedures and radiation protection.
During the clinical portion of the coursework, you will be trained in how to properly position patients depending upon the diagnostic test requested by the attending physician. You will learn how to protect themselves and the patient from radiation during the procedure. You will also be instructed in how to accurately take a medical history and then record data into patient records.
Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in Radiologic Technology. Many schools offer this program to students who have already obtained their certification as a radiologic technologist as a means to expand their education. A bachelor’s degree program will take approximately four years to complete.
Part of the coursework for a bachelor’s degree program includes general courses that are required of all bachelor degree candidates. These courses prepare the student for advanced problem solving, a skill that is highly desirable in most medical fields. They also help the student develop advanced communication skills that are also a necessary part of any occupation within the medical field.
In order to expand job opportunities available to the individual, a radiologic technologist may decide to obtain additional training and certification in a more specialized field of radiology. A radiologic technologist may decide to go into mammography, using specialized equipment to perform cancer screenings on breast tissue.
Another area on the cutting edge of radiology is nuclear medicine; this specialty of radiology uses radioactive substances as part of the procedure to diagnose specific diseases. Once an individual obtains their radiologic technology certification, there are many ways to pursue advanced training and certification, dependent upon the individual’s interests.
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists will require candidates desiring to take the national certification examination to have earned an academic degree through a recognized program beginning on January 1, 2015. The academic degree must be, at a minimum, an associate’s degree. It does not have to be in radiologic science. The examination typically takes four hours to complete.
More information on certification:
Radiologic Technologist Salary
The median salary, which is the salary point at which there are an equal number of radiologic technologists who earn more than that amount and there are an equal number of radiologic technologists who earn less than that amount) was $46,690 per year.
According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job opportunities for radiologic technologists are expected to increase by 28% between 2010 and 2020. This growth rate is higher than the average based upon what is expected for other occupations.
The main reason for this increase is the expected increase in the number of elderly patients. Older patients generally have more medical conditions that may lead to a need for radiologic diagnostics. This includes an increased incidence of sprains and breaks due to falls and weakened bones due to arthritis and osteoporosis.
The majority of radiology technologists are employed in the hospital setting. The recent trend, leading to an increase in separate imaging centers, will necessarily lead to an increase in job opportunities for radiologic technologists. As advanced diagnostic equipment becomes more readily available to physicians in private practice, there may be an increase in diagnostic procedures being done in-house. This will lead to an increase in jobs in private physician offices.
The Future of Radiologic Technology
The field of radiologic technology is a growing field, offering many areas of specialty that can enhance an individual’s opportunity to pursue a higher salary and advancement in the field. One of the most recent job positions within the field is the job of radiologist assistant.
This newest field allows a radiologic technologist to pursue advanced training and certification that will enable the individual to assist the radiologist during more invasive procedures. A radiologist assistant is generally paid much more than a radiologic technologist.
This newest opportunity, along with many other specialties which are sure to develop as technology advances in the field of diagnostic medicine, will provide various options in job placement for interested individuals. With a secure job market, the possibilities for radiology technologists seem to be open-ended.
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