If you want to work in the healthcare industry but don’t have the time, money or patience for a lengthy university stay then you might want to pursue a career as a radiology technician, also known as a radiologic technologist. In this profession, your main task will be to obtain radiologic images using various kinds of diagnostic imaging methods, such as X-rays, mammography, computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging scans. Under the supervision of a radiologist, you will be preparing patients for the procedure. This includes explaining to them the process, taking their medical history and answering any concerns they may have. You will be following the order of the doctor who requested the procedure especially in terms of the area of the body to get images of.
Before doing the procedure, you will be responsible for preparing a liquid mixture and giving it to patients to drink to make soft tissue more visible in the images. You will also be tasked with protecting the patient’s other body parts by shielding it. This task is particularly important for pregnant patients whose bellies need to be protected with an abdominal lead shield to protect their babies from the harmful effects of radiation. In the course of the imaging, you may need to reposition the patient or the imaging equipment to get the correct image of a particular spot. It will also be your responsibility to keep diagnostic imaging equipment in order.
As a radiology technician, you need to be comfortable operating large pieces of complex medical equipment. You should also be detail-oriented so that you can get the best and clearest images possible. Moreover, you should also be compassionate and patient since you will be taking the pictures of individuals who are in pain and stressed due to their physical condition.
Why Become A Radiology Technician
One reason to become a radiology technician is the chance to help sick patients and their families. The images you take will be used by doctors to diagnose a patient’s condition so that appropriate treatment can be given. Getting clear and sharp images becomes your mission and being able to do so is very gratifying.
Another reason why you should consider becoming a radiologic technologist is the fact that it enables you to go into the healthcare field without having to undergo the intense educational preparation that marks other medical professions. It is also a fast-growing field which means that there are good employment opportunities for radiology technicians in the coming years. It gives decent pay as well.
Majority of radiology technicians work in hospitals. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 59 percent of radiologic technologists were employed in state, local and private general medical and surgical hospitals in 2012. Around 22 percent were hired in offices of physicians while 7 percent worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories and 4 percent worked in outpatient care centers. They usually work fulltime, although emergency situations may require them to work on weekends, evenings or holidays. As in any healthcare job, they may also be on-call.
Since radiologic technologists operate radiation equipment, the main hazard of the job is getting exposed to radiation. As such, they wear badges that track the radiation levels in the radiation area and keep records of the dose they have accumulated over their lifetime. However, exposure to radiation is lessened by utilizing protective equipment and devices as they go about their work.
Radiology Technician Salary
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that radiologic technologists received a mean annual wage of $56,760. Those who specialize in getting images using magnetic resonance imaging or MRI technologists were paid higher at $65,960. The lure of higher pay has encouraged many radiologic technologists work their way towards becoming MRI technologists. Comparatively speaking, radiology technicians actually earn more than cardiovascular technologists and technicians which are paid $53,990 but are paid less than diagnostic medical sonographers whose mean annual wage is $67,170.
Radiology Technician Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a rosy job outlook for radiology technicians. From 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of radiologic technologists is expected to rise 21 percent, a rate that is faster than the average for all job types. The prospects are even better for MRI technologists whose employment rate is set to grow 24 percent in the same time period.
The demand for radiology technicians and MRI technologists will be fueled by the growing number of older people who are more prone to medical issues that require imaging for diagnosis. In addition, the demand will also stem from the fact that there will be more people who will seek medical care because of new federal health legislation requiring people to get health insurance coverage. Radiologic technologists and MRI technologists will also be employed by a growing number of outpatient imaging centers and doctors’ offices.
Radiology Technician Degree
Those who are still in high school and see themselves in this career can start preparations by studying anatomy, biology, chemistry, math and physics. After graduation, there are different educational paths that can be taken to become a radiology technician. The most popular one is by getting an associate degree which typically takes two years to complete. Another educational path to take is by obtaining a four-year bachelor’s degree in radiography. In both these programs, students are taught through a mixture of classroom training and clinical training. Topics covered include radiation physics and protection, image evaluation, patient care and anatomy, among others.
It’s important to get a radiography course that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) as some states require this for one to obtain a license. In states that require a license, radiologic and MRI technologists need to pass a certification exam given by the state or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) after graduating from an accredited program. Licensing and certification requirements vary by state so aspiring radiology technicians should inquire with their state’s health board for the specific details.
Radiologic technologists who want to specialize as MRI technologists must first gain experience in radiologic technology for a number of years. When they have accumulated enough work experience, they must take and pass an MRI certification exam so they can become MRI technologists. Another path towards getting this designation is to finish specific imaging examinations of patients and then having a doctor check the work before they can be called as MRI technologists.