dcsimg

Radiologic Technologist

What is radiology technology?

Radiology technology involves the use of radiographic and other imaging techniques to see inside the human body for diagnostic, curative, and palliative purposes. It is an allied healthcare professional field that combines knowledge of the science of radiology with the practical skills needed to perform a range of diagnostic imaging techniques. In practice, radiology technology entails the production of images of the human body through radiographic means in order to diagnose and treat illness and injury. The imaging methods that fall under the umbrella of radiology technology include x-ray radiography (traditional x-rays), computed tomography (CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scans), positron emission tomography (PET scans), nuclear medicine, and ultrasound.

 

The images obtained through these various technological techniques may be used to diagnose illness or injury but also to guide and facilitate the performance of certain medical procedures such as those employing minimally invasive fiber-optic and laser-guided

What is the role of a radiology technologist?

Radiology technologists, also known as a radiologic technologists, may work under the supervision of physicians; usually radiologists.  Radiology technologists properly position patients in diagnostic imaging machines and operate and manipulate the machinery to ensure that usable scans and films are produced.  They may also be involved in assisting and supporting the radiologists who interpret and evaluate the images obtained through various diagnostic imaging techniques.  Radiologic technologists have routine interaction with patients as they are often the ones administering crucial diagnostic imaging tests.  As a result, it often falls to the radiology technologist to explain the procedure and its purpose to the patient and to answer the patient’s questions.

Many diagnostic imaging techniques involve the use of ionizing radiation in order to generate images of the human body.  The improper handling of the radioactive materials used in the practice of radiologic technology can result in unhealthy, even dangerous exposure on the part of patients and medical staff.  Accordingly, radiology technologists must be thoroughly acquainted with regulations concerning the safe use and storage of radioactive material and take on the responsibility of complying with these regulations.  Radiology technologists may also be called upon to provide documentation and keep records concerning the storage and inventory of radioactive materials, the usage and maintenance of diagnostic imaging machines, and the particular set of diagnostic tests administered to each patient.

Learn about radiologic technologist schools.

Why is radiology technology indispensable to modern medicine?

The introduction of basic radiologic technology in the early twentieth century revolutionized the practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare.  X-rays and basic radiography allowed healthcare professionals to see structures within the body, especially bones, which had previously been hidden from view on an external examination.  Before the discovery of the x-ray and the development of viable x-ray machines, healthcare practitioners had the choice of invasively cutting into the body to examine its structures or making educated guesses about what was occurring inside the body based on external evidence. Armed with the x-ray, healthcare professionals no longer have to play this frustrating guessing game with respect to what is going on inside the bodies of their patients.  While basic radiography is most effective when visualizing the hard, bony tissues of the body, more advanced radiological techniques, such as CT and MRI scans, have facilitated the diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury to the soft tissues of the body, including the heart and brain.  Ultrasound technology has become the favored means of monitoring pregnancy and fetal development because it employs sound waves instead of x-rays and does not expose the fetus to radiation while in the womb.

Radiography and other diagnostic imaging techniques enable the safe and effective visualization of the body’s internal structures.  Advances in radiology technology have dramatically increased the accuracy of diagnosis of illness and injury.  In addition to its diagnostic applications, radiology technology also figures prominently in the treatment of many medical conditions and injuries, especially cancer.  Radiation is the preferred form of treatment for many kinds of cancer, and radiology technologists who specialize in radiation oncology administer these treatments to patients who present with certain types of tumors.  In addition, various diagnostic imaging techniques play a crucial role in reducing the number of invasive surgical techniques through what is known as interventional radiology technology.  Radiological techniques can help surgeons visualize the inside of the body without making incisions or taking other invasive approaches to treatment.  This has enabled health care professionals to achieve results with minimally invasive procedures that formerly involved major surgery, which carries risks and often entails extensive recovery time and rehabilitation. Finally, radiology technology plays a crucial role in medical research, where it enables scientists to view the effects of such things as pharmaceutical agents, exercise regimens, and surgical procedures on human and animal subjects.

What is the history of radiology technology?

Radiology technology is a relatively new science.  Radiological diagnostic techniques have been part of the medical arsenal for only about a century.  Radiology and radiologic technology were born in 1895 when German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen invented the first x-ray machine.  The theoretical existence of x-rays was acknowledged prior to this because x-ray images and other effects of x-rays had been observed.  However, Roentgen was the first to actually isolate the x-ray and systematically study its effect.  Roentgen’s discovery was an accidental one that occurred while he was performing experiments to observe the effects of passing electric charges through various types of vacuum tubes.  Roentgen used the newly discovered x-rays to create the first known purposefully taken x-ray picture—an image of his wife’s hand which clearly shows the structure of the bones of her fingers, as well as her gold wedding band.  Roentgen’s discovery and his contribution toward the development of the first diagnostic x-ray equipment earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics.  Roentgen’s Nobel Prize was the first awarded in physics, and one of the five Nobel Prizes to be granted at the first ever Nobel ceremony held in December 1901.

Roentgen truly wanted the world to benefit from his discovery and therefore refused to take out a patent on x-rays.  Indeed, although the new form of electromagnetic radiation that he discovered is often referred to as “Roentgen Rays,” Roentgen preferred that it bear the name he originally gave it “x-ray” radiation, rather than his own name.  Other scientists whose work contributed to the discovery of x-rays and the harnessing of these rays for use in diagnostic and therapeutic medical equipment and other applications include Nikolai Tesla, Ivan Pulyui, Heinrich Hertz, William Crookes, Hermann von Helmholtz, Johann Hittorf, Fernando Sanford, Philipp Lenard, Frank Austin, Russell Reynolds, and Thomas Alva Edison.  However, it is Roentgen who is most often recognized as the father of modern diagnostic imaging technology.

The field of radiology technology has grown at an astounding rate since Roentgen’s discovery in 1895.  Roentgen himself would no doubt be amazed at the technological and medical advances his x-rays had wrought.  In the early decades of radiology technology, x-ray imaging, known as radiography, was the only type of diagnostic imaging available.  In the 1930s, radiologists developed the technique of tomography, which enables radiology technologists to take successive radiologic photographs of incremental sections, or “slices,” of an organ or body.  This new technique allowed diagnosticians to examine specific areas of the body in closer detail.  The field of radiology technology took another major leap forward in the 1970s with the advent of computer science and related technological advances.  In 1972, British scientist Sir Godfry Hounsfield developed computer (or computed) tomography imaging.  Known in its early days as EMI scanning, computer tomography uses digital geometric processing to create three-dimensional images of the interiors of objects based on a series of two-dimensional x-ray photographs, all captured from around a single axis of rotation.  Because of the fact that x-ray images used in computer tomography must all be taken from a single axis of rotation, the technology is also known as computed axial tomography and the testing procedures that employ this technology are popularly known as CT or CAT scans.  Other advances in radiologic technology that occurred in the 1970s include the ultrasound, which does not use ionizing radiation at all, but instead uses high-frequency sound waves to generate images of soft tissues in the body.

More recently, the field of radiology technology has benefited from the introduction of the MRI, the PET scan, and nuclear medicine.  The MRI—which stands for magnetic resonance imaging—technique uses magnetic fields to align the nuclei of the atoms within the body as well as radio frequency fields to alter their alignment. Through this process, the nuclei create a rotating magnetic field, which is then used to generate images.  MRI scans provide very detailed visualizations of the internal structures of scanned areas when compared to earlier methods of diagnostic imaging, offering especially keen contrast between the various soft tissues of the body.  Scans that use PET or positron emission tomography reconstructs images based on gamma rays emitted by a radio nuclide “tracer” substance that is injected or otherwise introduced into the patient’s body.  PET scans are useful not only for visualizing structures within the body but for observing and evaluating processes that occur within the body over a period of time.  PET technology has especially useful applications in the area of oncology, where it is often used to gauge the effectiveness of various cancer treatments.  A PET scan is but one instance of nuclear medicine that uses the introduction and radioactive decay of radio pharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat illness and injury and monitor physiological processes within the body. Learn about radiologic technologist salaries.

Radiology Technology Salary

How much money do radiology technologists make?

Radiologic technologists have the potential to make an attractive annual salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for radiology technologists nationwide was $55,870 as of the last BLS wage update on May 2014. However, those in the top ten percent earned an average of $80,080 while those in the lowest 10 percent earned an average of $37,610, showing just how much annual salaries can vary.

Radiology technologist salaries can also differ based on a variety of factors, including location, area demand for radiological services, type of employer, experience level and educational credentials. Based on the figures provided by the BLS, radiology technologists that were employed in California, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Hawaii and Alaska had mean occupational wages for the field that were $68,000 or above, some of the highest in the country.

The most common higher education radiologic technologist jobs should grow faster than average compared to all jobs nationwide from 2012 to 2022. This growth should reach 21 percent, which could lead to 41,500 new positions becoming available during this time. As of 2012, 199,200 people were employed as radiologic technologists in the country, but this could reach 240,800 employed by 2022, according to BLS numbers.

As new and improved diagnostic imaging techniques are developed, the demand increases for well-educated, experienced and properly credentialed radiology technologists who can perform those techniques. In addition, the demographically dominant baby boomer generation is aging, and as the American population ages, the need for diagnostic imaging, interventional radiological technology, radiation therapies and radiological monitoring of disease progress and treatment will increase, creating demand for well-qualified radiology technologists. Moreover, as more women enter their fifties and sixties, the need for mammography, one of the most highly demanded diagnostic imaging tests, also should surge.

Is there room for advancement?

Job opportunities could be best for those who have certification to prove their skills. Those who are certified also may be able to find better opportunities for advancement. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is one organization that offers certification, which requires graduating from an accredited program in the past three years and passing an exam. In fact, the BLS reports that technologists with multiple certifications, such as CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound and mammography, could obtain some of the better job opportunities.

After more time and experience on the job, radiologic technologists may also be able to advance to manager or head of a unit. Also, they may wish to continue their education to transition to a higher-paying health care occupation such as a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or doctor. Even though these occupations require a greater investment in a college education, they can also be a rewarding way to continue providing health care services to patients.

Sources:

  1. Radiologic Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
  2. Radiologic and MRI Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm

Request Information from Radiologic Technologist Colleges

<p.Request information from accredited radiologic technologist schools. The schools, colleges and universities below have programs for those individuals interested in starting their careers as a radiologic technologist. Below, you will find the radiologic tech schools near you.

Radiology Technologist Job Description

What’s included in the radiologic technologist job description?

Radiology technology is one of the largest and fastest growing allied health professional fields. Radiology technologists help physicians diagnose and treat patients by performing diagnostic procedures and administering treatments through the use of diagnostic imaging machines and medical procedures that involve the use of ionizing radiation, sound waves, magnetic fields, radiopharmaceutical agents, technologically advanced equipment, and computer imaging software. Radiology technologists have a great deal of interaction with patients and with other members of the medical team and are deeply involved in medical care. However, radiology technologists with extensive experience and background in administration may choose to branch out into health management or education and training roles.

A radiology technologist performs a variety of diagnostic imaging procedures, including radiographic, or x-ray, examinations.  Performing these procedures not only involves operating the equipment that takes the images of the designated portion of a patient’s body, but it also involves

Some of the procedures performed by radiology technologists include basic x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, cholangiography, mammography, femoral arteriography, lymphangiography, and myelography.  Some of these tests may require radiology technologists to administer pharmaceutical or radiopharmaceutical agents to patients orally, through IV or catheter.  Tests that require the administration of these agents will also require the radiology technologist to monitor the patient’s vital signs and other indicia of his or her condition throughout the procedure in order to watch for adverse or allergic reactions.

After taking images of a patient’s body using diagnostic imaging equipment, the radiology technologist may be involved in generating and processing the images.  For instance, a basic x-ray is, essentially, a form of photograph.  The radiology technologist must develop the film using the appropriate photographic chemicals.

The radiology technologist also has some basic administrative duties, including the maintenance of a proper inventory of radiographic materials and other supplies necessary for conducting diagnostic imaging procedures; the assembly, repair, and troubleshooting of imaging equipment; and the maintenance of patient records and documentation related to the use of diagnostic imaging machines and radioactive material.

The best radiology technologists also stay on top of new developments in their field.  They may read, and sometimes even author, scholarly articles about new advances and techniques in radiology technology.  They may also regularly attend conferences where professionals in the field gather to discuss the practice of and science behind radiology technology.

Learn about radiologic technologist schools.

What are some safety precautions practiced in radiologic technology?

Some of the materials that are used in the field of radiology technology are radioactive and can thus pose a health hazard to patients and to medical staff if they are not handled and stored properly.  Radiology technologists have a responsibility to properly store and handle these materials, as well as to warn others of the potential dangers of these materials.  For instance, while the radiation in x-rays is usually administered in such low doses that it poses no health risks, some x-rays could potentially harm a fetus.  Thus, radiology technologists must ascertain that women of childbearing age are not pregnant and warn them of the risks before performing certain procedures.  They must also ensure that patients are properly equipped with protective gear and garments when appropriate.

Because radiology technologists work with radioactive and other potentially hazardous materials, those who pursue this career path should have a detailed understanding of and healthy respect for radiation and the principles of radiology and radiation medicine.  Although radiology technologists are exposed to radiation in the course of their work, the levels used in diagnostic imaging procedures are so low that it does not pose a significant health risk as long as proper precautions are taken.  Lead aprons and other devices and equipment are available to protect both the radiologic technologist and his or her patients from unnecessary exposure to radiation.   Radiologic technologists wear special badges that monitor their exposure to radioactive materials so as to prevent them from receiving any unintended and harmful exposure to radiation.

What additional skills do radiologic technologist jobs involve?

Working as a radiology technologist requires a certain amount of physical strength and stamina.  Radiologic technologists spend a great deal of time on their feet, operating diagnostic imaging equipment and facilitating intake of patients and properly positioning them in imaging machines.  On occasion, a radiology technologist may be required to perform diagnostic tests on a patient who is infirm, disabled, or unconscious; this may require physically lifting, moving, and assisting the patient so that he or she is properly positioned for the procedure.

Radiology technologists must be meticulous and attentive to detail.  The equipment that they use is very sensitive.  It must be finely calibrated in order to operate properly, and the patient must be properly placed in the machine and the machinery handled precisely in order to produce useable diagnostic images.

Because they interface with patients on a routine basis, radiology technologists also need to have well-developed communication skills.  They should be able to allay patient fears and concerns and explain diagnostic procedures clearly.  In addition, radiology technologists must communicate regularly with other members of the healthcare team that are involved in treating patients, so they need to display professionalism and work well as members of a team.   

The materials that radiology technologists handle emit ionizing radiation.  While they are safe when used in the proper manner and dosages, they can be dangerous if handled or stored improperly. Therefore, radiologic technologists need to be knowledgeable about the various substances they use in their work and aware of the dangers they pose.  They must exercise responsibility and good judgment in protecting themselves, other clinical staff and patients from potential hazards.

Where do radiology technologists work?

Radiology technologists work in a wide variety of venues.  Most radiology technologists are employed by hospitals, where they work in radiology departments, as well as in a number of other hospital units including mammography departments, emergency rooms, and cardiology departments. They also work as ultrasound operators in obstetrics and prenatal care departments of hospitals and as radiation therapists in oncology departments.

Many radiology technologists work in ambulatory and outpatient clinics and in private medical practices for orthopedic surgeons, oncologists, gynecologists, obstetricians, and cardiologists.  In addition, stand-alone diagnostic imaging facilities are becoming more and more popular and employ a number of radiology technologists who perform CT scans, MRI scans, and other diagnostic procedures on patients who are referred by hospitals and private physicians.  

Why should I consider a career in the field of radiology technology?

Radiology technology is a rapidly growing field that is constantly evolving due to exciting technological advances.  It is an ideal career field for individuals who wish to combine direct patient care with a love for and fascination with technology. A radiology technologist’s work is challenging and rigorous but offers many rewards.  This profession will appeal to those interested in a job that involves a high level of responsibility as well as those who like to continue learning new things throughout their careers.  Radiology technologists enjoy frequent contact and interaction with patients and work closely with physicians.  They are often on their feet and perform numerous diagnostic tests and other tasks each day.  Their efforts are crucial to obtaining a correct diagnosis and, consequently, to devising the proper treatment plan for individual patients.

As one of the largest of the allied health professions, radiology technology offers many opportunities for career advancement and satisfaction for individuals with dedication and the right education, training, and skills.  The work of a radiology technologist is fast-paced and exciting and involves meeting a variety of people and performing a number of different procedures and tasks.  Pursuing a career in the field of radiology technology provides a unique opportunity to serve in an allied health profession located squarely at the intersection of patient care and technology.

Learn about radiologic technology degree programs.

Radiology Technologist Programs

What kind of degree will I need to pursue a career in radiology technology?

Most radiology technologists hold an associate’s degree in the field from a two-year college. Generally, all you need to become a radiology technologist and earn certification is a high school diploma and a two-year degree. However, some students interested in pursuing a career in radiology technology earn bachelor’s degrees in the subject. In addition, some individuals decide to pursue a career path in radiologic technology after having earned a bachelor’s degree in a different academic area. If their previous education provided them with sufficient background in the biological and physical sciences, these individuals may qualify to work as a radiology technologist by earning a one-year certificate in the field. Radiology technologists with aspirations of working in an administrative capacity or as radiologic assistants will need to pursue a master’s degree. In general, the higher your level of education, the more opportunities for advancement and salary increase you will encounter in the field of radiology technology.

What’s involved in radiologic technology degree programs?

Radiologic technologist schools will train students in six general patient care activities, including CPR; the measurement and recording of vital signs, including blood

Learn about radiologic technologist salaries.

How can I become certified as a radiology technologist?

After completing a radiologic technology degree program and gaining some work experience in the field, a technologist may decide to seek certification.  Becoming certified demonstrates to potential employers that a radiology technologist has achieved a certain level of technical skill and proficiency.  The certification credential can expand career opportunities and possibilities for job promotion and salary increases.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is the organization that confers the certification credential and reviews certified radiology technologists for continued registration by imposing certain continuing education and ethical requirements.  To qualify for certification through the ARRT, a radiologic technologist must meet certain eligibility thresholds in three primary areas: Ethics, Education, and Examination.  With respect to “Ethics,” the candidate must demonstrate good moral character.  If a candidate has a criminal record, this must be disclosed to the ARRT.  While the ARRT does not automatically exclude individuals with criminal records from certification, past convictions will tend to weigh against a finding that the candidate has the requisite ethical standards.  With respect to “Education,” the candidate must successfully complete an accredited degree program in radiology technology and demonstrate competency in a range of coursework subjects and diagnostic procedures and patient care activities. With respect to “Examination,” the candidate must take and pass a certification examination that is written and administered by the ARRT.  The purpose of the examination is to ensure that the candidate has the requisite knowledge base and reasoning skills to effectively perform the job duties required of a radiology technologist. 

The ARRT offers certification in five primary areas of radiology technology: radiography, nuclear medicine technology, radiation therapy, sonography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  Once a radiology technologist has been certified in one or more of these primary areas, he or she may choose to become certified in one or more post-primary categories of specialization.  These post-primary categories include:  mammography, computed tomography, bone densitometry, cardiac-interventional radiography, vascular-interventional radiography, vascular sonography, and breast sonography.  Each primary and post-primary category requires separate certification, and a candidate must take a separate certification examination to become certified in each.

Radiology Technology Schools

What kinds of schools offer degrees in radiology technology?

You will find a wide array of educational institutions that offer degrees in radiology technology. These institutions include four-year colleges and universities, graduate schools, two-year community colleges, professional schools that offer certificate programs, and teaching hospitals. While many of these schools offer traditional, in-person instruction in a campus setting, distance education opportunities are available as well. Although the clinical component of your radiology technology education must be performed in-person, you will find online programs and universities offering online classes through which you will be able to complete your requisite coursework.

What should I study in school in order to fulfill the prerequisites for admissions to radiology technology school?

Admission to radiologic technology degree programs requires a strong background in the biological and physical sciences.  Specific prerequisites will vary

What kinds of courses will I take in radiology technology school?

A complete curriculum in radiology technology will include both an in-class, coursework component and a hands-on clinical component.  Aspiring radiologic technologists will take courses in various diagnostic imaging procedures, as well as the principles of radiographic positioning.  Because their work involves handling radioactive materials, they will also take courses in principles of radiation and the properties of x-rays.  An important aspect of the radiology technology curriculum includes coursework in radiographic exposure, radiologic pathology, and radiation protective measures.  To properly perform their job, radiology technologists must have a thorough understanding of human anatomy and biology, as well as the physics of radiation.  Therefore, any accredited radiology technology curriculum will include coursework in anatomy, radiobiology, and radiologic physics.  Coursework in computer science, digital imaging, and recent technological advances is also generally part of a complete curriculum in radiologic technology. 

Legal and ethical issues are crucial to the work of any healthcare professional.  Therefore, students in radiology technology degree programs can expect to take classes in bioethics and professional responsibility.

The clinical component of a radiology technology degree program involves working directly with patients in a healthcare setting.  Clinics provide students who are planning to become radiologic technologists with the opportunity to practice various diagnostic imaging techniques and procedures and interact with real patients and real members of their patients’ healthcare professional team. Most accredited radiology technology programs take two years to complete.

In radiology technology school, students will learn vital communication skills that will assist them in their interaction with patients and the other healthcare professionals that work side by side with them.  You may be required to take courses in psychology or social work in order to develop these skills. You will also develop the practical and critical thinking skills necessary to perform diagnostic imaging techniques and make reasoned decisions about patient care. 

As you advance in your study of radiology technology, you will learn about specific diagnostic imaging techniques and the medical procedures associated with them.  These may include CT and MRI scanning, venipuncture, fluoroscopy, sonography, and mammography.

What are some specialties within the field of radiology technology?

There are a number of specialties and sub-specialties within the field of radiology technology.  Each type of diagnostic imaging procedure requires a specific set of skills and knowledge that sometimes require specialty certification.  Radiology technologists who have the expertise necessary to operate more than one type of machinery will enjoy better career opportunities, as will those with the skill necessary to perform more difficult or more in-demand procedures.

Specialties within the field of radiology technology include the following:

  • Diagnostic Radiography:  Diagnostic radiography involves the use of basic x-ray imaging to examine bones, organs, and other internal structures of the body for the purpose of diagnosing illness or injury, evaluating a patient’s condition, and assessing the progression of a specific disease process or the effectiveness of a specific treatment.
  • Computed Tomography (CT Scan): A radiologic technologist who specializes in computed tomography develops expertise in administering the CT or CAT scan, a diagnostic procedure that uses ionizing radiation to produce cross-sectional views or “slices” of the interior structures of the body.  Computed tomography technologists can also use the diagnostic images achieved through the CT scanning process to construct additional images, generally in three dimensions, which provide important supplementary information that can assist in diagnosis.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Radiology technologists who specialize in magnetic resonance imaging use magnetic fields to align the nuclei of atoms within the human body and radio waves to alter the alignment so as to produce detailed two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of internal structures and systems.
  • Nuclear medicine:  A nuclear medicine technologist introduces radioactive “tracer” elements, known as radioisotopes or radiopharmaceuticals, into the body in order to visualize the internal structures of the human body.  The use of tracer agents allows the technologist to observe internal bodily processes and the function of organ systems.  Nuclear medicine technology is frequently used to obtain diagnostic imagery of the cardiovascular system and the kidneys.  Nuclear medicine also sometimes has therapeutic applications, particularly in the treatment of cancer, particularly thyroid cancer.
  • Fluoroscopy: Fluoroscopy involves the introduction of contrast agents into the human body in order to allow the monitoring over time through live motion radiography of organ processes.  Using agents that are sensitive to radiation allows the radiation technologist to visualize systems inside the body.  Fluoroscopy is often used to detect and diagnose obstructions in or ailments of the digestive system.  It can also be used to monitor devices inserted within the body, such as pacemakers and stents, and allows visual access to the internal structures of the body so as to allow implantation of these devices.
  • Ultrasonography:  Radiation technologists who specialize in sonography actually use high frequency sound waves rather than ionizing radiation or other radioactive materials to produce images of the interior of the human body.  Ultrasound techniques are frequently used when a patient’s condition prohibits the use of radiation given that it might pose special or unique risks.  For this reason, ultrasonographers are in high demand in obstetric and gynecological practices and in prenatal departments in clinics and hospitals.  Ultrasound is the preferred method of fetal monitoring throughout pregnancy.  Sonography also has applications in a wide variety of medical specialties, including pediatrics and cardiology.

  • Mammography: A radiology technologist who specializes in mammography uses low-dose ionizing radiation—basic x-rays—to visualize the tissues within the human mammary glands.  Mammography is key to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.  It can also be used to detect and diagnose other ailments, disorders, or injuries to the breasts, including benign cysts.
  • Bone Densitometry: Radiology technologists who specialize in bone densitometry use a technique known as dual-emission x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, which entails the aiming of two x-ray beams with varying levels of energy at the patient’s bones in order to measure bone mineral density.  DXA is most commonly used to detect and diagnose osteoporosis.   
  • Interventional Radiology:  Radiological technologists who specialize in interventional radiology use radiologic imaging techniques to visualize the interior of the body in order to perform minimally invasive procedures.  These procedures enable the performance of surgical procedures and implantation of medical devices without the invasiveness, pain, and long recovery period associated with open surgery.  Interventional radiology entails the use of x-rays, CT and MRI scans, and other diagnostic imaging techniques to enable surgeons and other healthcare professionals to navigate devices and instruments, including catheters, stents, and tubing, through organs and blood vessels.  Interventional radiologic techniques are also used in the performance of biopsies of internal organs.  Cardiovascular interventional radiography is a subspecialty within the field of interventional radiology that requires highly developed skills and extensive training.  Cardiovascular interventional radiologists perform or assist in procedures including angioplasty, embolization, stent and pacemaker placement, and thrombolysis. Interventional radiography provides medical professionals with viable, minimally invasive and less costly alternatives to major surgery and has led to a surge in outpatient procedures. 

  • Radiation Therapy:  Radiologic technologists who specialize in radiotherapy use radiation to treat disease rather than diagnose it.  Radiation therapy is most frequently used as a treatment for various forms of cancer.  Radiation when applied properly and in the correct dosages can shrink and sometimes destroy cancerous tumors within the human body.  Radiation therapy has both curative and palliative applications.  That is, while radiation is sometimes a cure for cancer, by itself or in combination with other forms of cancer, it can also be used to reduce pain in terminally ill cancer patients by mitigating the growth of malignant tumors.

Learn about radiologic technologist jobs.

Radiologic Technologist Schools