X-ray vision may be a superhero's secret power, but it is also the expertise of radiology technicians. Radiology technicians use imaging equipment, such as x-rays and computed tomography (CT), to examine internal structures such as bones and help physicians diagnose patients. As integral members of a patient care team, radiology technicians are also responsible for preparing patients for procedures, operating and maintaining the equipment and working with physicians to evaluate the images.
As the U.S. population ages, breaks and fractures caused by osteoporosis are likely to increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). This growth in medical imaging needs, combined with the expanded number of patients with health insurance who will begin seeking medical care, could lead to ample job opportunities for qualified radiology technicians. The BLS projects employment growth of 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.
A radiologist career begins with the right training. Most radiology technicians hold an associate degree, while others have bachelor's degrees and graduate certificates. Some states require radiology technicians to be licensed. These states require candidates to complete an accredited program and pass a certification exam. Radiology programs usually include a combination of classroom and clinical training.
Radiologic technologist careers generally begin at the staff level and can reach the level of lead radiographer or chief technologist. Many radiologists also decide to specialize at some point in their careers and learn imaging areas such as MR, mammography, nuclear medicine and sonography. Specialty areas are sometimes learned on-the-job, although there are multiple opportunities for formal training through certification programs.
In 2013, radiology technologists earned a national mean annual wage of $56,760 and a national mean hourly wage of $27.29, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent earned a mean annual wage of $78,440 and a mean hourly wage of $37.71. Top-paying states included California, Alaska, Massachusetts, District of Columbia and Rhode Island.
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According to the BLS, radiology technologists worked in the following areas:
- State, local and private hospitals, 59 percent
- Physicians' offices, 22 percent
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories, 7 percent
- Outpatient care centers, 4 percent
As of 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Labor O*Net, 67 percent of radiology technologists held the following educational attainment:
- Associate degrees, 67 percent
- Post-secondary certificate, 26 percent
- College with no degree, 4 percent
With the right training and education, a career as a radiology technologist may offer stable employment and a promising future.
Radiologic and MRI Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
Radiologic Technologists, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
Summary Report for: Radiologic Technicians, O*Net OnLine, U.S. Labor Department, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2099.06