Mayo Clinic radiographers performing a scan on a patient

What does a radiologic technologist do?

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform X-rays on patients to create images on specific parts of the body. The images are then reviewed by a doctor for diagnosis. Radiographers prepare patients for X-rays, careful to protect the patient from radiation exposure. They also move patients to the right position and operate the equipment to take the images.

Scope of practice

Radiographers work with doctors to treat patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Some common tasks and duties include:

  • Assessing, evaluating, and testing patients
  • Preparing and positioning patients for imaging
  • Administering radiation to cancer patients
  • Performing mammograms, X-rays, and MRIs

Specializations

Radiologic technologists can specialize in many different areas, including:

  • Bone densitometry
  • Cardiac-interventional radiography
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Mammography
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Sonography

Work environment

Radiographers work in hospitals, medical labs, doctors’ offices, and outpatient centers. They many times work a typical full-time schedule, which may include evening, weekend, or on-call hours. Depending on their specialty, radiologic technologists might work in a lab, an operating room, or another setting such as the emergency room. 

Becoming a radiologic technologist

Individuals considering a career as a radiographer should excel in math and science, communication, and critical thinking. Be sure to take advantage of high school courses like biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra.

Higher education requirements

After high school, higher education paths for radiography include obtaining an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree and then continuing their education with a specialized certificate program specific for radiologic technologist education. 

Certification process

After graduating from an accredited program, radiographers must pass a certification exam either from their state or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) in order to become licensed.

According to the ARRT, in order to meet the education requirement for the certification exam, you must have earned an associate’s degree or higher in an ARRT-approved educational program in the same discipline as the credential you’re pursuing. There are also some ethics requirements including demonstrating good moral character, responsibility, and trustworthiness.

Career opportunities and outlook

Radiographers can expect a median annual salary of $58,000.

Radiographers are in high demand throughout the U.S., and career opportunities in radiography are excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of radiographers to grow faster than average. With a large aging population, there may be an increase in medical conditions that require imaging for making diagnoses.

With additional training and experience, some radiographers move into managerial roles such as shift supervisor or chief radiologic technologist. Others move into education positions such as a clinical instructor or program director. Radiographers can also earn specialty certificates to increase opportunities for advancement such as in mammography, magnetic resonance imagining (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or interventional radiology.

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