Career Profile: Radiology Technician

Nurse Anesthesiologist

Job Description:

Radiological technicians are those healthcare professionals who primarily take X-rays and administer nonradioactive materials to patients for diagnostic purposes. (Not to be confused with nuclear medicine technologists, although the fields are somewhat related in terms of diagnostics.) Some radiological technicians specialize in certain diagnostic imaging technologies, such as computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.

Radiological technicians prepare patients for exams, explain the x-ray procedure, prep patients properly for the x-ray, and position patients so that the correct part of the body can be radiographed. Technicians take the x-rays, develop them, and pass them along to a radiologist (a physician who interprets radiographs) for diagnosis.

Radiologic technologists and technicians must follow physicians' orders precisely and conform to regulations concerning the use of radiation to protect themselves, their patients, and their coworkers from unnecessary exposure.

In addition to preparing patients and operating equipment, radiologic technologists and technicians keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. They also may prepare work schedules, evaluate equipment purchases or manage a radiology department.

Work Environment:

Most full-time technologists work 40 hours weeks, although there are part-time opportunities. Radiologic technologists may have evening or weekend shifts, and may also have some on-call hours, depending on their place of employment.

Physical stamina is an important part of the job, as technologists are on their feet most of the time and may have to lift or move disabled patients to position them for the procedure.

While there are radiation hazards to some extent in this profession, the risk is greatly minimized through safety measures, including the use of lead aprons and other shielding devices, as well as instruments which measure radiation exposure.

Education and Training Requirements:

Formal training programs range between one and four years, and lead to a formal certificate, or an associate's or bachelor's degree (a two-year associate's degree is the most common program for training.) Hospitals, where most radiologic technologists work, prefer to hire workers who have formal training. Experienced health care professionals who wish to specialize in radiological technology, such as CT or MRI diagnostics, can earn a certificate program in the specialization of their choice.

Radiologic technologists need to follow instructions closely, pay attention to detail, and be able to operate complicated medical equipment.

With experience and additional training, staff technologists may become specialists, performing CT scanning, angiography and magnetic resonance imaging. Experienced technologists also may be promoted to supervisor, chief radiologic technologist and, ultimately, department administrator or director. Depending on the institution, courses or a master's degree in business or health administration may be necessary for the director's position. Some technologists progress by leaving the occupation to become instructors or directors in radiologic technology programs; others take jobs as sales representatives or instructors with equipment manufacturers.

Salary Range:

Median annual earnings of radiologic technologists and technicians were $38,970 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $32,370 and $46,510. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $55,430. Salary also varies depending on work setting, and the median incomes of radiological technicians in the most common settings are as follows:

  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories: $42,470
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $39,580
  • Offices of physicians: $36,490
Job Outlook:

Generally good. Technologists with training and/or experience in multiple procedures, such as CT or MRI diagnostics, will have better employment opportunities because of their multiple skills, and employment in general for radiologic technologists is expected to grow faster than the average as the population ages and the demand for diagnostic images rises. For more information, please visit Dave’s Places in Radiology.

Most work for technologists will be in hospital settings. A growing number of jobs are available, however, in diagnostic imaging centers and offices of physicians, as these facilities continue to become more prevalent.

To start your career as a radiological technician, select a recommended school listed on the right and request free information.

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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics