Radiologic Technologist: Education, Schools, and Career Overview
Radiology technologists help physicians diagnose and treat patients by employing diagnostic imaging machines such as X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, nuclear medicine and ultrasound. It is an allied healthcare professional field that combines knowledge of the science of radiology with the practical skills needed to perform the diagnostic imaging techniques. Radiology technologists adjust settings of the equipment, monitor patient conditions during the procedures, position patients for examination and verify that the procedure meets standards. Radiologic technologists also interact with patients on a routine basis to explain about the test’s purpose and to answer the patient’s questions.
Nature of Work
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), working as a radiology technologist requires a certain amount of physical strength and stamina, as they may be asked to lift or reposition patients who are disabled. Radiology technologists must be meticulous and attentive to detail. Also, because radiological imaging procedures are often used in emergency situations, radiology technologists may be expected to work evenings and weekends or go on call.
The BLS reports that the radiology technologist also performs administrative duties, such as, maintaining an inventory of radiographic materials and other supplies; the assembly, repair, and troubleshooting of imaging equipment; and maintaining patients’ records. The nature of the work of radiology technologists may at times expose them to infections and diseases. Thus, they must exercise responsibility and good judgment in protecting themselves, other clinical staff and patients from potential hazards.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
A radiology technologist's work is challenging and rigorous but offers many rewards. This profession may 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 tend to enjoy frequent contact and interaction with patients and work closely with physicians.
According to the Department of Labor's O*Net OnLine, radiologic technologist requires a combination of specialized technical, physical and communications skills. According to O*NET, 63% of radiologic technologists have an associate degree while 24% hold a bachelor's degree. 6% of technologists have a graduate degree.
Certificate in Radiologic Technology
Students who decide to pursue a career path in radiologic technology after having earned a bachelor’s degree in a different academic area may qualify to work as a radiology technologist by earning a one-year certificate in the field, if their previous education gave them sufficient background in the biological and physical sciences. Certificate program in radiologic technology typically takes one to two years to complete. These programs provide classroom instructions along with clinical and technical experience that may be useful for entry-level jobs in radiologic technology.
Associate Degree in Radiologic Technology
Associate degree in the field typically lasts two years, and provides clinical and informative component along with education in radiology science. Community colleges and technical schools, hospitals and universities offer degree programs in radiologic technology.
Bachelor’s Degree in Radiologic Technology
Students may also opt for bachelor’s degree programs in radiology technology. The program typically lasts for 4 years, and specializes in diagnostics, patient care and advanced technology that may be required for jobs in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Radiologic Technology Certification
According to the BLS, in addition to graduating with a degree or associate program, radiologic technologists need to obtain a license or certificate before they can start their practices in most states. For this, they must pass an examination from the state or from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The BLS reports that technologists with multiple certifications, such as CT scan, MRI scans, ultrasound and mammography, could obtain some of the better job opportunities.
After some 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 healthcare 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 healthcare services to patients.
Skills and Qualities
Radiologic technologists work closely with radiologists who interpret the images. Here are the skill sets and qualities that employers look for in radiologic technologists:
- Excellent communication skills
- Active listening skills
- Experience in operating and maintaining imaging equipments
- Attention to detail
- Cooperative in providing personal assistance, medical attention and emotional support to patients
- Critical thinking skills
- Identifying and responding to emergency situations
- Mechanical aptitude
- Manual dexterity
Career and Salary Information
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.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiologic and MRI Technologists, accessed January 2019, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
- Student FAQs, Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, accessed January 2019, www.jrcert.org/students/student-faqs/
- "Summary Report for: Radiologic Technicians," O*Net OnLine, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed January 2019, www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2034.00