How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
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Radiologic technologists learn the ins and outs of particular diagnostic imaging machines and the best practices for performing imaging examinations. They are part of the backbone of healthcare businesses alongside other key workers like surgery techs and medical assistants.
The work requires precision and an eye for detail, but the reward is higher than average pay, with an average radiologic technologist salary of $64,840 a year. Getting the radiography and magnetic resonance associate degree required to join this field often requires two years of education, but this usually costs less than half (and in some cases, five or 10 times less) than a traditional bachelor's degree, especially if you can work while you take coursework through a hybrid or virtual program.
What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?
Radiologic technologists are trained to operate and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment used in the medical field. They may perform x-rays or other screenings. They also can perform mammograms, CT scans, and MRI imaging.
Steps to Becoming a Radiologic Technologist
To begin the process, you'll either need to complete high school successfully or take the GED exam. Preparing for the GED takes three months on average and can cost $120-$140, depending on the state.
Community colleges, universities, and vocational schools offer radiologic technology programs. You can find accredited programs through the professional organization that evaluates them, JRCERT. Most students earn a two-year associate or certificate. These programs can cost as little as $5,000 in total, though prices rise if you choose a university or are getting a more specialized degree in radiologic technology.
While not every state requires an American Registry of Radiologic Technologist certification, most employers will prefer for you to have it. Application fees start at $200 and can go higher depending on the specialty you are pursuing. You'll also need to pass an exam.
Once you're certified, you can apply for jobs doing the imaging you are certified to complete initially before expanding your versatility through more education.
Radiologic technologists continue learning on the job as machines are updated, but they also take continuing education classes for certifications employers consider valuable. You can also take specialized coursework on MRI technology to move into higher-difficulty or more in-demand imaging work.
Specializing in mammography or working on an MRI machine can require more skills, but you may also find that you can make more money in those roles as well.
If you find yourself particularly satisfied with the work in one niche, you can choose to work in a practice or imaging office where you'll get to do more and more of the kind of imaging work you enjoy most.
Radiologic Technologist Salaries and Job Growth
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Projections Central, a Department of Labor website.
Top 10 States With the Highest Job Growth
- Arizona: 31.8%
- Utah: 25.7%
- Colorado: 25.1%
- Maryland: 22.9%
- New York: 22.3%
- Idaho: 20.8%
- Georgia: 20.1%
- Nevada: 18.7%
- Washington: 17.6%
- Florida: 17%
Career Paths for Radiologic Technologists
When you first receive your certificate or associate degree and get certified, you should be eligible for entry-level radiologic technologist work.
Years as a radiologic technologist can help you become adept at a variety of imaging needs. At this point, you could become a supervisor of other technologists, including those who are just coming out of school. Your role may still be chiefly to perform imaging, but you'll also supervise and train new technologists. This role will come with a step up in pay.
Some forms of diagnostic imaging are particularly tricky or difficult, for example, MRI technologists may be in charge of administering contrast or dye to make sure that the images can clearly identify key parts of the image.
Choosing a high-demand or high-difficulty specialty within radiology can be one way to higher salaries and greater job security that doesn't have to include management roles. That said, having more specialties and experience, including MRI and other specialties, may make you a particularly sought-after candidate as a manager.
Large hospitals and other programs with major radiology departments may have room for you to move into a radiology director role. This would include overseeing the imaging in a department, which places you above even the first-line managers in many cases.
Your days would include more administration and supervision duties. You'd bring your expertise to bear in mentoring other team members to ensure they are getting the best and most useful images possible.
Radiologic Technology Training Programs
Radiologic technology training programs tend to include both classroom study and practical curriculum components. This could include classes in:
- Medical Informatics
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Medical Terminology
- Radiologic Pathology
- Image Analysis and Exposure
There are almost always clinical practicum courses and capstone courses where you'll gain practical work experience.
FAQ on Earning Your Radiologic Technology Degree or Certification
How long is a radiologic technology program?
Associate degrees and certificate programs are often two years or four semesters, but if you take the bachelor's degree route (only a quarter of radiologic technologists do), you'll likely spend four years in school.
Is admission to radiologic technology programs competitive?
Many radiologic technology programs limit the number of participants yearly because the coursework is challenging, and they want to take the best candidates. This is not necessarily true of all programs, however.
Are there jobs for all of the radiologic technology graduates?
While there's no way to absolutely verify that every program graduate gets a job in this field, the field is growing more rapidly than most, at 7%, meaning that finding a strong job after certification is a promising prospect.
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