Take a Closer Look
If you've ever had an x-ray, you've probably met a radiologic technologist. But did you know radiologic technologists have many specialty areas of practice?
- Radiographers use x-ray equipment to produce 2-D and 3-D images of the tissue, organs, bones and vessels of the body.
- Magnetic resonance technologists apply a combination of radiofrequency pulses and a powerful magnetic field to create detailed images of anatomy.
- Nuclear medicine technologists use radiopharmaceuticals and special cameras to produce images of organs and reveal their function.
- Sonographers use high-frequency sound waves to create images of anatomy.
- Radiation therapists administer highly focused forms of radiation to treat cancer and other diseases.
Explore the range of the radiologic sciences and follow the path that best suits you.
A career in radiologic technology can lead in many directions. Radiologic technologists are needed in every health care setting. You could work in a large hospital, a suburban outpatient clinic or a rural physician's office. You could specialize in dozens of clinical areas ranging from prenatal care to orthopedics. You could manage an entire radiology department, including its budget and personnel. You could teach, inspiring new generations of radiologic technologists, or you could perform research that leads to breakthroughs in diagnostic imaging or radiation therapy. With additional education, you could become a radiologist assistant, expanding your capabilities by serving as a radiologist extender. The boundaries of your career in radiologic technology are determined only by your own abilities and interests.
Students follow many paths into radiologic technology. Some attend two-year programs based in hospitals. Other students enroll in two-year programs at community colleges or technical schools, earning an associate degree. And others choose to attend four-year programs at universities and colleges, graduating with a bachelor's degree. With nearly 1,000 accredited programs in the United States, there is probably a radiologic technology school near you.
Following graduation, you’ll take a certification examination designed to demonstrate your qualifications to enter the field. The largest certification agency, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, has more than 300,000 registrants. Students who graduate after Dec. 31, 2014, will be required to have a minimum of an associate degree to be eligible to take an ARRT primary certification examination.
Whether you consider yourself technically adept or not, you will be comfortable studying radiologic technology. That's because the field is part science, part art. During your educational program, you will study subjects such as anatomy, biology, radiation safety and physics. You'll learn to use computers to acquire and manipulate images. And you'll work with some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the medical field.
But you'll also learn to communicate with patients, to solve problems and to work with other members of the health care team, including doctors, nurses and experienced radiologic technologists. During this clinical experience, you'll have a hands-on opportunity to practice your patient care skills and fine-tune your technical knowledge. You will develop skills that allow you to provide care that is accurate as well as compassionate.
What makes a career in radiologic technology worth a closer look? First, you'll be on the cutting edge of scientific progress, working with the latest advances in medical care. You'll also be a member of a growing profession, as the number of medical imaging examinations performed in the United States increases every year. Opportunities to advance within the field are expanding as well, with the introduction of the radiologist assistant career path.
But most importantly, you'll be a vital member of the patient care team. Whether producing an x-ray image to detect a broken bone or delivering radiation therapy to destroy a cancerous tumor, radiologic technologists provide the care that leads to diagnosis, treatment and cure.
A career in radiologic technology offers a promising future, job stability and a good salary. As technology advances and the American population ages, the demand for radiologic exams and procedures has grown. The country needs qualified professionals to provide medical imaging and radiation therapy.
Wages of radiologic technologists are competitive with other health professionals who have similar educational backgrounds. A 2010 survey by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists showed that annual salaries averaged about $44,500 for entry-level radiographers and $57,500 for entry-level radiation therapists. With experience, additional education or supervisory responsibilities, salaries can reach $65,000 to $85,000 per year, depending on area of specialization. In addition, many employers allow radiologic technologists to work flexible schedules, including part-time or evenings, giving you the time you need for family, friends, school or other activities.
For additional information about careers in radiologic technology, contact your school's guidance counselor or career advisor. Or start your own investigation:
- For a list of accredited educational programs in nuclear medicine, visit the website of the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology at www.jrcnmt.org.
- Information about accredited educational programs in sonography can be found at www.jrcdms.org, the website of the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
- For names and addresses of accredited schools in radiography and radiation therapy, visit the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology at www.jrcert.org.
- The website of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists also includes a list of accredited programs in radiography, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine. Go to www.arrt.org.
- The websites of many of the profession's membership associations contain information about careers in the radiologic science profession. Visit the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists at www.arrt.org, the Society of Nuclear Medicine at www.snm.org and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography at www.sdms.org.
- Scholarships for students entering radiologic technology educational programs are available through the ASRT Foundation. Learn more at www.asrtfoundation.org.