Nearly 200,000 individuals were employed as radiologic technologists in the U.S. in 2013, making it one of the most popular fields in health care. As part of a medical team, radiologic technologists are responsible for administrating diagnostic imaging exams, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.
Employment opportunities for radiologic technologists are expected to be robust between 2012 and 2022, meaning prospective students could see a solid return on their educational investment.
Radiologic technologist career overview
Radiologic technologists provide patient care in a variety of health care settings, including the following:
- Physician offices
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Outpatient care centers
Besides providing a variety of medical imaging services, they may also perform a range of tasks, such as maintaining imaging equipment, preparing patients for imaging procedures, updating and keeping patient records, assisting the physician to evaluate images and more.
Radiologic technologist specializations
Radiologist technologists generally work in one of two areas: medical imaging or radiation oncology. Medical imaging is a broad field, where radiologic techs work with a radiologist to diagnose injuries or diseases.
There are multiple specialization paths within the medical imaging field: bone densitometry, mammography, sonography, cardiovascular interventional radiography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, general radiography and quality management.
- Bone densitometry. These technologists measure bone mineral density of patients in order to provide physicians with information to diagnose bone loss to ailments such as osteoporosis.
- Mammography. Technologists working in mammography are responsible for taking and producing breast tissue diagnostic images, typically used to diagnose breast cancer.
- Sonography. Sonography uses specialized imaging equipment that leverages sound waves to produce images of organs and tissues within the body.
- Cardiovascular-interventional radiography. Individuals trained in this field use a variety of techniques and tools, such as stents or catheters to treat heart disease and cardiovascular issues.
- Computed tomography. Radiologic techs trained in computed technology use CT technology to produce slices of images within the body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging. Techs trained as MRI technologists are trained to use magnetic resonance technology, which uses magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the patient's body.
- Quality management. Using data analysis and collection methods, quality management technologists are responsible for monitoring the quality of imaging procedures, accuracy and more.
- Radiographers. Radiographers use X-ray equipment to create black and white images of a patient's body for radiologists and physicians.
- Nuclear medicine. Radiologic techs working in nuclear medicine use radiopharmaceuticals and gamma rays to create images of the patient's body.
Radiation oncology deals with the treatment of various types of cancers. Radiologic technologists in oncology usually work with a radiation oncologist, which is a type of physician. Specializations in the field include:
- Radiation therapy. In radiation therapy, trained technologists use radiation to help physicians treat diseases, such as cancer, in their patients.
- Medical dosimetry. In this field, medical dosimetrists are responsible for calculating the proper dosage amounts of radiation to treat a tumor in accordance with and under the supervision of a treating physician.
Radiologic tech education and certifications
There are several types of radiologic technologist training programs, with the most common being the completion of an associate degree program. However, there are bachelor's degree and professional degree programs available in areas such as imaging sciences.
Data from ONET, which compiles data from the Department of Labor, reveals that 63 percent of surveyed radiologic techs possess an associate degree, 24 percent hold a post-secondary certificate and 6 percent have a professional degree.
In order to become a registered radiologic technologist (R.T.), individuals must successfully complete at least a two-year hospital-based program of study or a two to four-year educational program offered by accredited academic institutions. Additionally, they must pass the national certification examination sponsored by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART).
AART also sponsors primary, post-primary pathway and physician extender certifications. Examples of primary pathway certifications include magnetic resonance imaging, radiography or radiation therapy. For post-primary pathway certification, prospective students may qualify for sonography, mammography, vascular sonography, computed tomography and more.
Finally, students may also pursue certification as a Registered Radiologist Assistant (R.R.A.), which requires additional qualification steps from the AART.
It's important to note that some states require radiologic technologists to be registered with the state or hold additional licenses to practice certain types of radiography.
Salary and career information for radiologic techs
The career outlook for the industry is extremely positive, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov)projecting 21 percent national employment growth between 2012 and 2022. However, numerous states are expected to have even more potential career openings, with Utah leading the country at 32.5 percent projected job growth.
The top 10 states with the largest number of radiologic technologists in 2013 included the following:
- California: 15,000
- Texas: 13,350
- New York: 12,410
- Florida: 12,330
- Pennsylvania: 9,710
- Ohio: 8,770
- Illinois: 7,680
- North Carolina: 6,650
- New Jersey: 5,920
- Tennessee: 5,680
For prospective students, job growth is expected to be the strongest in these 10 states:
- Utah: 32.5%
- Texas: 30.4%
- Arizona: 29.4%
- Colorado: 25.9%
- Idaho: 25.3%
- Florida: 25.2%
- North Carolina: 23.9%
- North Dakota: 22.8%
- Georgia: 22.7%
- Alaska: 22.2%
On the earnings front, radiologic technologists earned a national annual average wage of $56,760 in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Twenty states actually had higher average annual salaries, led by California, Alaska and Massachusetts.
Below is a list of the ten best paying states for the industry in 2013:
- California: $72,030
- Alaska: $68,920
- Massachusetts: $68,890
- Rhode Island: $67,860
- Hawaii: $66,580
- Washington: $66,040
- New York: $65,770
- New Jersey: $64,800
- Nevada: $64,760
- Oregon: $64,440
With significant employment opportunities, several educational paths and an average salary above $56,000, radiologic technology is a career path that should be attractive to prospective students.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Radiologic and MRI Technologists, OOH, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (https://www.arrt.org/Certification)
State licensing requirements - https://www.arrt.org/State-Licensing/
Individual state-licensing information - http://www.asrt.org/main/standards-regulations/state-legislative-affairs/individual-state-licensure-info