Radiologic technologists are not the stars of a hospital or clinic but the work they do helps a doctor accurately diagnose medical issues.
A radiologic technologist uses diagnostic imaging equipment to help physicians diagnose illnesses and injuries. He or she may use x-ray equipment, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or mammography to perform x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or mammograms.
Radiological technologists may specialize in one diagnostic imaging technology or in several. They are often referred to by a title that reflects the technology in which they specialize. For example, a radiologic technologist who specializes in computed tomography is usually called a CT Technician; a radiologic technologist whose specialty is magnetic resonance imaging is known as an MRI technician.
There were approximately 241,700 radiological technologists employed in 2016. The majority of them worked in hospitals, but many others worked in doctors' offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and outpatient facilities.
Jobs in this field are usually full-time positions. Since emergencies happen around the clock, those who are responsible for handling them must sometimes work odd hours, including weekends, evenings, and holidays.
Radiologic technologists are at risk for contracting illnesses from their patients, but no more so than other healthcare professionals. Exposure to radiation is another risk, but the protections that are in place decrease its likelihood.
If you want to become a radiologic technologist, you must complete a formal training program in radiography. Most people entering this occupation have earned an associate degree, but you can become a radiologic technologist with a certificate or a bachelor's degree. Earning an associate's degree generally takes about two years. Programs consist of a combination of classroom and clinical training. Radiography students take courses in pathology, anatomy, radiation physics and protection, image evaluation, and patient care.
The educational requirements to become a radiologic technologist are comparable to the requirement to become a registered nurse.
Most states require licensure for radiologic technologists. To become licensed, you will usually need to have graduated from a program that has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. You will probably have to take a written examination. To learn about your state's licensing requirements, use the Licensed Occupation Tool.
In order to succeed in this occupation, you will need soft skills—e.g. communication, patience, and teamwork. Spending many hours on your feet requires a good deal of stamina. You should be detail-oriented and have strong interpersonal skills. In addition, you should be good at science and math.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition predicts that job growth for radiologic technologists will be faster than the average for all occupations through 2026. The Handbook predicts it will grow more quickly than most other occupations that require an associate degree. Those certified in more than one diagnostic imaging procedure will have the best opportunities.
A Day in a Radiologic Technologist and Technician's Life
On a typical day, a radiologic technologist's tasks might include:
- Following physicians' orders regarding the areas of the body of which they need images
- Adjusting equipment
- Explaining procedures to patients
- Positioning patients
- Positioning equipment
- Following procedures that prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation to themselves as well as to the patient
- Keeping track of patients' records