What does a radiologic technologist do?
Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform medical exams using X-rays on patients to create images of specific parts of the body. The images are then interpreted by a doctor for diagnosis and monitoring of disease. Radiographers prepare patients for the exams, move patients to the correct position, operate the equipment, and use their knowledge and skill to minimize the radiation dose to the patient.
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
- Attending to patient needs during imaging procedures
- Applying and maintaining up-to-date knowledge of radiation protection and safety practices
- Independently performing or assisting a licensed practitioner in performing procedures such as mammograms, X-ray exams, MRIs, or administering radiation to cancer patients
- Preparing, administering, and documenting activities related to medications in accordance with state and federal regulations and institutional policy
Radiologic technologists can specialize in many different areas, including:
- Bone densitometry
- Cardiac-interventional radiography
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Vascular interventional radiography
- Nuclear medicine
Radiographers work in hospitals, medical labs, doctors’ offices, and outpatient centers. They may work a full-time, part-time, or as-needed schedule, which may include evening, weekend, or on-call hours. Radiographers may specialize and provide imaging in operating rooms, emergency departments, procedural suites, and specialized imaging departments.
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 anatomy and physiology, computer sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra.
Higher education requirements
After high school, higher education paths for radiography include completing prerequisites and applying for an accredited radiography program. There are college-based programs and hospital-based programs that may award a college degree directly or through affiliation with major colleges and universities. Students who have already obtained an associate’s degree or higher can also seek a certificate from an accredited radiography program. Further advanced degree opportunities exist within the imaging sciences.
After graduating from an accredited program, radiographers must pass a certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) in order to become certified and registered as an R.T.(R). Depending on the state of residency, radiologic technologists may also be required to meet additional state licensure requirements to practice as an R.T.(R).
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 from an ARRT-recognized educational program. 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.