Radiology technologists are professionals who carry out the various types of imaging examinations that doctors use to properly diagnose and treat patients. Radiology technologists may be asked to perform X-rays, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, CT/CAT scans, and many other diagnostic imaging procedures which provide doctors with a clearer insight into their patients' condition. They are responsible for controlling and maintaining the complex, valuable machinery which they work with on a daily basis, as well as preparing patients for procedures by isolating the region of the body which requires treatment. Depending on the type of machinery they work with, radiologic technologists can also be responsible for ensuring the safety of their colleagues and patients from potentially harmful radiation or the powerful magnets of an MRI scanner. Although being a radiology technologist can be challenging, it is also a richly rewarding profession, with the capacity to help dramatically improve the quality of peoples' lives.
In comparison to qualifying as a Doctor of Medicine, qualifying as a radiology technologist is relatively easier but still requires a serious commitment to education. The ultimate goal of this education is to complete the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) Certification Exams, and as of January 2015 all candidates for these exams must possess an associate's degree. The ARRT is the body responsible for controlling the credentialing of radiology techs in the United States. Although not every state requires a licence to practice as a radiology technologist the majority of them do, and of these licensing states most of them use the ARRT or the ARRT's suggestions when granting licences. To learn the licensing rules and regulations for your state, you should contact the state health board. If you are currently, or are planning on, taking a course to become a radiology technologist then you should ensure that your college's program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) as this is officially the only organisation capable of accrediting radiography training programs. The JRCERT runs an official website where you can check the credentials of your course or any courses you're considering.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Most radiography training programs contain a practical training element which allows students to get hands-on and develop the skills required to become professional radiology technologists, primarily the skills needed to operate complex machinery and carefully follow the precise instructions of physicians as to what part of the body requires imaging. Radiology techs must also have a good bedside manner since they need to collect detailed medical records for each patient and help put them at ease by explaining the imaging procedure in understandable terms. Processing film used to be a vital part of the radiology technologists job but it's quickly becoming redundant due to advances in technology. However this technological progress has also increased the need for radiology techs to be well trained in the use of increasingly complex computer software.
Salary and Job Outlook
Radiology technologists still have to complete at least 24 units of further education biennially even after they have obtained their licence. However, once licensed, career prospects are extremely good for radiology technologists. The Department of Labor reports that the median annual pay for a radiology tech was $55,910 in 2012. This number will vary depending on geographical location and the actual place of work, for example a radiology technologist working in a hospital or laboratory will typically receive a larger salary than one who works in the office of a physician. Equally, as with most jobs, those who work in urban areas can expect to be paid more than those working in rural communities. The rapidly increasing life expectancy in the United States corresponds to an increasing demand for healthcare professionals throughout the country; this means that the job outlook for radiology technologists is exceptionally good. There were already 229,300 jobs for radiology techs in 2012, and that number is expected to increase by 21% between 2012 and 2022 representing 48,600 new jobs over the ten year period. This level of growth is almost twice the national average for job creation and should make it considerably easier to find employment as a radiologic technologist in comparison to other professions.
Opportunities for Career Progression
In addition to the excellent job outlook, there exists a real wealth of opportunities for radiology techs to advance their career:
- Become a specialist in a specific type of diagnostic imaging such as MRI, CT/CAT, mammography, sonography and many others. Specialists can expect to be paid significantly more than newly qualified radiologic technologists. According to the Department of Labor, the median annual pay for an MRI technologist is $65,360.
- Get involved with clinical research. Use the unique combination of technological and medical skills possessed by radiology technologists to become part of a clinical research team.
- Take on a more managerial role at a clinic or hospital. This could involve general management of other hospital staff, or it could be specific to radiology technologists, managing the safety procedures and the amount of time people are being exposed to radiation from imaging machines.
- As is the case for many medical professionals there will good opportunities for radiology technologists to enter the military.
- Enter academia or take a position training new radiology technologists. This could be at a hospital or in a university.
The career opportunities for radiology techs are exciting and numerous, with multiple avenues open for possible advancement. As with many medical professions it requires a significant amount of time to achieve all the necessary qualifications because of the responsibilities inherent in the job, however once these requirements have been met the position of radiology technologists provides good pay, a rewarding profession and many opportunities to progress in the career. The job requirements for radiology technologists are substantial but that is to be expected for a career which has the potential to improve lives so radically. With the job outlook and career options looking so promising now, is the perfect time to set yourself on the path to becoming a radiology tech.