Radiology Technician

For a fulfilling and remunerative career, the field of radiology offers a high-paying, fast track job opportunity. The area is expected to grow in demand as time goes on, and it is best to jump right in to secure your spot in this vital medical field. Assisting patients in need of radiology procedures is a rewarding career; one that gives the satisfaction of a job well done and helping people live better lives.

What is Radiology?

Radiology is a medical field that uses the technology of imaging to see within the human body. These images are used to diagnose and to treat disease. You have seen doctors hold up X-rays showing the lungs, the heart and other organs in the body. X-rays are one of the types of images produced in this field. There are a number of imaging technologies employed in order to gain these views, not just X-rays. Most of these procedures are minimally invasive, which minimizes risks and improves health outcomes. A list of the different types of imaging follows:

  • X-ray radiography
  • Ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Nuclear medicine

All these may sound very complex, but all you need to know at this stage is that there are different methods of viewing the inside of the body and this is what radiology is all about.

What is a Radiology Technician?

Someone has to operate the medical imaging equipment, handle the patients and carry through the procedure so the image is produced and evaluated. This someone is the Radiology Technician (also known as a Radiographer or Radiologic Technologist or Medical Radiation Technologist).

Radiology Technicians help greatly in performing the imaging of the body so doctors can diagnose or treat various medical problems. They are educated in operating X-ray machines, mammogram equipment and magnetic image machines. These technicians are employed in hospitals, medical laboratories and clinics across the country. They also are in private practice.

What Exactly Does a Radiology Technician Do?

Radiology Technicians have to perform diagnostic imaging exams on patients. In the process, there are many procedures that the technician must be skilled at accomplishing. Their duties entail all the necessary functions that relate to getting their final product – an image showing the desired section of the interior of the body.

Some of the duties of a Radiology Technician include:

  • Adjusting imaging equipment
  • Maintaining imaging equipment
  • Carrying out orders from the physicians on the precise areas of the body to image
  • Taking the medical history of the patient
  • Answering any questions a patient may have about the procedure
  • Using proper precautions so exposed areas of the body are shielded on the patient
  • Positioning the equipment and the patient
  • Understanding and operating computerized equipment for imaging
  • Keeping patient records
  • Removing and processing film
  • Preparing mixtures for patients to drink so imaging can occur of soft tissue

Technicians must know what the doctor is looking for when examining an image in order to treat a patient. The person operating the equipment must be able to take accurate pictures that will show the area of concern clearly. Many times a number of shots must be done at a number of different angles.

Of course, all Radiology Technicians must comply with all government regulations regarding using devices that produce radiation, and they must always ensure patients are safe when around imaging equipment.

There are a number of unique capabilities that are required of a technician as well. They have to be organized, physically coordinated, understand and interpret information, communicate well, and be sensitive to potential problems. They have to be physically able to stand for long periods and be capable of lifting or turning disabled patients.

Work Environment of a Radiology Technician

The greatest number of Radiology Technicians work in state, local or private hospitals. The next highest percentage of technicians work in physicians’ offices. Other healthcare facilities that employ these technicians are medical laboratories, diagnostic labs and outpatient care centers.

Radiation hazards exist for this occupation, but these problems are minimized by using protective gear when operating equipment. These medical personnel employ lead aprons and gloves as well as other shielding devices. They usually wear badges that measure radiation levels and are constantly alert to their cumulative lifetime dose of radiation.

How to Become a Radiologic Technologist

Those pursuing a career as a Radiology Technician should plan ahead early, even beginning in high school, taking courses that will provide a good background. High school courses would consist of those that focus on math and science. Some that are recommended are courses in biology, anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, physics and physiology. It is certain that someone embarking on college level courses needs to minimally have a high school diploma.

There are schools all around the United States that offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in radiology. An associate’s degree is the most common path that most take in training. Courses include patient care, pathology, anatomy, radiation physics and protection as well as image evaluation. Other courses include mathematics, computer programming and medical ethics.

Any school you attend must be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Without completing an accredited program, in some states you would not be able to get licensing. The JRCERT is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as well as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The accreditation provided is for educational programs (both traditional and online programs) in radiography and radiation therapy.

Although Federal legislation dictates safety measures in operating radiologic equipment and training for these operators, licensing still exists under state regulation. Requirements vary by state, so depending on where you will be employed, you should research and be aware of the regulations for getting your license. You can check the Health Board of your state to get this information.

Certification is done by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Any program studied should be done through a college or university that sponsors certification. Certification is good for two years after which one must do a required number of hours of continuing education.

Specialties in the Field of Radiology

As in any healthcare field, professionals can go into specialized practice. You can specialize in X-ray technology, CT (computed tomography) or MRI work (magnetic resonance imaging). You can specialize in mammography to help those getting examinations of the breast.

One specialization in the field of radiology is working to administer key tests like a barium swallow where nonradioactive materials are put into the patient’s digestive tract or bloodstream, helping with diagnosis of certain conditions. Another area is cardiovascular where technicians take pictures of the heart. One other specific discipline would be training as an ultrasound technician (or medical sonographer).

Advanced training can result in promotions to the position of a supervisor or as a chief radiologic technologist, even to a fulfilling position as a director or department administrator. Job prospects for those with multiple certifications will be even better.

Salary for a Radiology Technician

The average annual salary for a Radiology Technician can vary depending on the location in which you work. For example, if you work at a clinic in a rural area, the salary will most likely range lower. Generally annual earnings average around $39,600. With an associate’s degree you could make as much as $75,400 per year.

When you wish to get the highest possible salary for working as a Radiology Technician you should go to Maryland, Massachusetts or Nevada as salaries in those states range between $65,800 and $68,500. When you get hired in a specialty hospital such as a cancer treatment center, you will find one of the highest paying jobs in the field.

The Job Outlook for a Career in Radiology

This field is expected to grow very fast. The career outlook is such that by 2020 the field should grow by twenty-eight percent. Aging populations are increasing and more people will need medical attention. Radiology will be used more and more for examinations, thus achieving accurate diagnosis for the common ailments of the elderly, such as the breaks and fractures that come about due to osteoporosis. Qualified applicants are in high demand in hospitals even now.

Employment in hospitals will remain the premiere place for Radiologic Technologists, but physicians’ offices and imaging centers will also be hiring. As the method of healthcare shifts more towards outpatient care, more and more clinics will be hiring technicians to operate imaging equipment. There will never be a lack of employment as time marches on.

A wonderful career full of promise and pleasure! Becoming a Radiology Technician gives you a certain confidence in helping others using the technology of today and providing needful images of the body that doctors can use to treat ailments and disease. Nothing could be quite as satisfying!