Following a year with unprecedented clinical demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, a number of career roles in health care are experiencing immense growth and present a strong career outlook moving forward. Health care career professionals in these positions play an important role in the care of patients across the country, who rely on them…
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How to Become a Radiologic Technologist
Alternate Career Titles:
X Ray Tech, Radiologic Tech
Radiologic Technologist Job Description: Radiologic Technologists take x-rays, CAT scans and administer non-radioactive materials into patient bloodstreams for diagnostic purposes
Radiologic Technologist Salary (Annual): $60,510
Radiologic Technologist Salary Range: $41,480 to $89,760
How Long To Become a Radiologic Technologist: 2 years
Radiologic Technologist Requirements: Associate’s Degree and Certification
Become a Radiologic Technologist
A Radiologic Technologist’s career includes specializing in x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging in order to produce clear and accurate images of the body. In order to obtain these images, some Radiologic Technologists must prepare a mixture for a patient to drink, allowing the soft tissue to be seen as well. Another role of the Registered Radiologic Technologist (RT(R)) is to simply help alleviate the anxieties of patients who may be concerned about the procedure or their condition.
“I chose to become a Rad Tech because I genuinely like working with patients and caring for them. I also found imaging of the human body to be very fascinating,” Rhiannon Domalewski, RT(R), a Rad Tech practicing in Pennsylvania, said. “I also wanted to work with patients of all ages and x-ray is one of those positions where your patients range from babies to elders.”
Note: The medical community, American Society of Radiologic Technologists and most educational programs use the more appropriate term “Technologist,” rather than “Technician” which accurately reflects the educational level, responsibilities and skill set of registered and Certified Radiologic Technologists.
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Education & Training
In taking the first step toward becoming a Radiologic Technologist, a professional must first pursue their Associate’s Degree and earn accreditation. This process usually takes 21 to 24 months and the coursework will include classes in anatomy, pathology, patient care, radiation, physicals, protection and image evaluation, as well as working clinical experience. From there, the next step is to obtain a state license or certification.* Although not every state requires that a Radiologic Technologist be certified, most employers typically prefer it.
“An Associate’s Degree is required to be able to sit for your registry boards. It took me four years to complete because I decided I wanted to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree as well,” Domalewski said. “It was slightly difficult, managing school work on top of going to clinical was tough and definitely took some getting used to.”
She added that personally, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Gwynedd Mercy University, with her certification in Radiologic Technology from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Then she went on to pass her state registry exam and became accredited.
For a Radiologic Technologist who wishes to advance their career, there are post-secondary education programs available that lead to graduate certificates or Bachelor’s Degrees. Additionally, there exists the possibility to specialize in a particular area, such as mammography. The Technologists who graduate from accredited programs, and who possess multiple certifications, tend to have the best career prospects and potential for upward mobility. Furthermore, certified Radiologic Technologists can also be asked to train or manage entry-level Technologists, advancing their careers.
“If a Rad Tech wants to advance their career, they can go back to school for other radiologic modalities such as Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Ultrasound, Radiation Therapy, etc,” Domalewski said. “These programs can vary from 6 months to 2 years depending on the modality, and once completing a program, you again have to pass a registry exam to obtain your credentials.”
Experience & Skills
Along with strong math and science skills, Registered Radiologic Technologists should also be able to adjust and maintain the imaging equipment, and be able to precisely follow orders from Physicians in regards to what areas of the body to image. Additionally, they must be able to prepare patients for each procedure, take note of their medical history and protect them from excess radiation by shielding all exposed areas that are not being imaged.
Once the patient is ready to undergo the imaging, the Radiologic Technologist must be able to position the patient and equipment correctly, operate the computerized equipment, take the images and work directly with the Family Physicians to evaluate the results. Based on the findings, the Radiologic Technologist should be able to determine whether additional images are needed, while also keeping a detailed patient record.
“Experience in patient care is very important to have while working in Radiology,” Domalewski said. “Not every patient is the same, and can require different type of attention. It is important to be able to have the knowledge and experience to know how to work in different situations.”
Aside from skill set needed to be a RT(R), a professional should also consider whether or not their personality is aligned with the position. That being said, these professionals should possess strong interpersonal skills, patience and empathy, as they may work directly with patients who are in pain or who are undergoing mental stress. They must also possess physical stamina, as the career often comes with working on their feet for long periods of time, or having to physically assist patients who have difficulty moving or turning on their own. Lastly, as imaging requires that all steps be completed with precision, Radiologic Technologists must be detail oriented and focused.
“I believe that every Rad Tech should be caring, compassionate and creative,” Domalewski expressed. “In x-ray, you are often dealing with patients who are sick and/or in pain, and they need someone who is willing to be caring and compassionate towards them.”
She added that is it important to be creative because there are many times in which RTs must assist patients who are not able to move in certain ways. Then, it is the RTs duty to “think outside the box” and determine how to best adjust the patient and obtain the necessary images.
“Also, looking at images of broken bones, and hearing the backstories to the breaks are fun and exciting to me,” Domalewski added.
In addition to being prepared to be on their feet for long periods of time during a standard 40-hour week, Radiologic Technologists should also be aware that the position often entails working on-call, evenings, nights and weekends based on the employing facilities and emergency situations. There professionals are also required to wear badges that measure regional levels within the radiation area, and detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime radiation dose, to avoid radiation hazards. Learn the dangers of being a Radiologic Technologist.
“The lifestyle of a Rad Tech can vary depending on where they choose to work,” Domalewski explained. “If they choose to work in a hospital setting then they may have the responsibility to be on call, work weekends and work holidays.”
She also noted that, because hospitals are open 24/7, working second shift or overnight may be asked of an RT. However, for those professionals seeking a more “regular” schedule, Domalewski recommends an outpatient facility, such as a doctor’s office.
“The majority of doctor’s offices are closed on major holidays and weekends, and are often not open past 8 p.m,” Domalewski said. “Yet working in this kind of facility may result in a decrease of pay compared to working at a hospital.”
Careers as Radiologic Technologists are certainly on the rise. The most Radiologic Tech positions are held in California, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and in Pennsylvania. Of these working professionals, most Radiologic Technologists find employment in healthcare facilities, such as Physician’s offices and labs, with more than half additionally choosing to work in hospitals. Projected to grow at a rate of 11 percent over the next decade, increased employment is due to a rise in medical conditions including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
“When the time comes to start looking for employment, I would recommend going on websites such as Indeed and LinkedIn. Or, if there is a hospital or facility you are interested in working at then going straight to their website and looking for career openings would be a good start,” Domalewski advised.
A career as a Rad Tech can lead to a very comfortable income. For example, while the median annual wage in this profession rests at $60,510, the lowest 10 percent earns just less than $41,480 and the top 10 percent earns more than $89,760. Additionally, the top paying states are the District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts, Washington and Oregon, and the top paying employers are the federal government, hospitals and laboratories.
“The earnings for Rad Tech mainly depend on where they find a position,” Domalewski said. “Hospitals often pay more and offer shift differential when working overnights or on the weekends. Also, earnings can increase if you go back to school for other modalities and there may also be opportunities to move up to management at your employer which would increase your earnings.”
Unions, Groups and Associations
“The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) are two of the many associations that helps Rad techs advance their careers,” Domalewski said. “They can also stay up to date on the latest news in radiology. Looking into their websites is a good way to get more information about the careers in radiology.”
The American Society of Radiologic Technologists is the premier professional association of people working in medical imaging and radiation therapy. It’s mission is to advance and elevate the medical imaging and radiation therapy profession and to enhance the quality and safety of patient care.
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists is the world’s largest organization offering credentials in medical imaging, intervention procedures, and radiation therapy. They certify and register technologists in a range of disciplines by overseeing and administering education, ethics and examination requirements.
- Look into different schools and programs that offer Radiologic Technology
- Talk to someone that works at these programs and ask what the steps and requirements for applying to them are
- Since many Radiologic Technologist programs are competitive, prepare a interview for acceptance
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: Rhiannon Domalewski
Practice: Bucks County Orthopedic Specialists
Location: Warrington/Doylestown, PA
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“The biggest suggestion I could give to someone wanting to get into this career is to do research and do some time shadowing RT’s at a local hospital or facility around you. I also found it very helpful to have a career in a healthcare setting before I started x-ray school, this helped tremendously with experience in patient care and helped make some of my classes a little easier.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“When people try to get into this career, I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people often make is thinking that Radiology Technologists do all modalities such as x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, and CT. Whereas this may be true, when entering the field of radiology, you often start out as a radiographer (x-ray tech) and then can further your education by learning other modalities. Some modalities don’t require you to become a radiographer first but it may be preferred. It is important to do your research before choosing to go into this career.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“‘What does this career entail?’ Many people don’t realize that they have to be in the OR, fluoroscopy, and that you have to learn a lot of physics for the position.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Credentialing organizations: Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, American Registry of Radiologic Technologists