A radiology technician is a medical professional that works with imaging. In most cases this is x-ray imaging. These professionals are used by hospitals, clinics, private doctor practices, and so on. This career path is in demand and the demand is expected to grow, as is the case with many other branches of the allied health field. The job is recommended for people interested in the health professions and who also have a technological and visual bent.
Work and Work Environment
A radiology tech is sometimes also called a radiographer. These professionals take x-ray images of patients’ bodies that are later used in diagnosis and treatment. They usually handle the process from start to finish. They explain the procedure to the patient, position them on physician couches under x-ray equipment, remove any jewelry or clothing that may interfere with the imaging process, and take the x-ray shots.
The latter item requires more knowledge than may first be evident. A x ray technician has to be well versed in a number of issues necessary to take accurate films. He or she, for instance, often measures parts of the body that will be x-rayed and changes settings on the x-ray machine so that suitable images are produced.
A worker in this job has to be fully versed with the regulations regarding use of x-ray technology. They must be sure that their use of x-ray imaging machines is up to date and meets current legal standards, since x-rays, as most people are aware, can be dangerous if used irresponsibly. The doctor has the final veto in which x-rays will be taken, and whether or not they will be taken at all. And the legislation regarding the medical practice imposes various stipulations as well.
Education and Licensing
As far as training to be a radiology tech goes, there are a few different options – basically degree levels. The shortest training programs offer certificates. These programs often last 21 to 24 months. The next level, and the most common, is the Associate degree level. These are two year programs. They result in Associate degrees in radiology. Finally, there are Bachelor’s degree programs, which, as most people know, last four years. These programs deal with radiography more in depth, often as well as with related disciplines.
The accrediting body for schools that offer training in radiology is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). This national professional association accredits schools that offer programs in radiology, thus allowing graduates of these programs and their employers to be certain the former have met the necessary standards of competence in the field.
Most states require a radiologist to be licensed before beginning to practice. This is, however, a state by state determined requirement. Often after completion of a degree program the individual sits for an exam given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), then licensing occurs, and the technician can begin to work in the field.
In certain states, individuals are allowed to take a greatly shortened educational course called a “limited scope” option. In these cases a radiologist takes courses for a number of weeks in a limited and focused use of radiology, often concentrating on a specific body part. They may then either begin to practice before taking any exams or sit for the ARRT exam to demonstrate a standard level of competence.
Employment and Job Outlook
The jobs that radiologic technicians hold are what you might imagine: They work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, diagnostic laboratories, and so forth. There are many avenues of employment that can be accessed. And employment is not always limited to a specific practitioner or health care facility. Radiologists often work for a number of different employers on a part time basis.
There are also many opportunities for advancement in the field. Often radiologic technicians move on to a specific specialty after getting the generalized training necessary. They may focus on mammography, computed tomography (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MR), or other medical imaging or diagnostic disciplines.
Like many other branches of the medical profession, the field is expanding in demand. It is expected to grow faster than the national average. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an overall employment growth of around 17 percent between 2008 (when the prediction was made) and 2018. Obviously this means that from an employment standpoint those interested in getting into the field are a good position, as the number of jobs, and probably the variety of different opportunities for employment, are on the increase.
Like many other allied health areas, this is a field that pays decently. Though we won’t get into exact figures here (which will be covered in another blog post on this site), the general ballpark is between $35,000 and $60,000 annually (roughly $50,000 is a typical mid range salary), with the more advanced and experienced technicians making as high as $70-$75,000. The relatively high pay should not be the only incentive for getting into the field, but it is often at least a motivating factor for many people.
A word about x-ray safety. The professional and accrediting organizations mentioned above do their best to insure that radiologic technicians are competent, professional, and well trained in the safe practice of x-ray imaging. Safety is an important issue. People should first of all bear in mind that they do not have to permit a doctor or hospital to take x-rays. They are allowed to refuse them and look into other diagnostic techniques. It is a generally good idea to limit the amount of x-ray exposure as much as possible.
If, however, a patients must get multiple x-rays (or indeed any x-rays) and they are concerned about safety, their state’s health department can supply them with information regarding whether radiologic technicians are required to be licensed in their state. As noted above, most of the time they are, but it doesn’t hurt to check. If there is any concern about the competence of an x-ray technician, the patient always has the option of either refusing x-rays selecting another physician who they feel more confident about.
By the same token, x-ray technicians themselves should be certain they have been well trained for their own safety. Since they work with x-rays all day long, measure must be taken to limit their exposure to x-rays and it’s important to observe all safety requirements for workers in the field and be sure that they are well understood.
Resourceful Researched White Papers on Topic of Radiology
The Effects of Radiation – This white paper goes over the effects of radiation and such in job.
The Good The Bad The XRay Technician – Know the ins and outs of the radiology.
RPA Degree Programs – This white paper will teach you how to get your RPA degree.
Pediatric Readiology Technician Job Descritption and Outlook – My research on the topic of pediatric radiology.