What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?

A radiologic technologist, or radiographer, performs medical exams with diagnostic imaging using x-rays and administers radiation therapy to treat medical conditions. Other imaging equipment they use includes computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose patients.

The technologist is responsible for following the physician’s orders on what part of the body patients need to be examined. Radiographers also prepare patients for the exam by moving them into position for the imaging procedures, operating the equipment, and minimizing patient exposure to harmful radiation levels.

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Before you decide if you would like to pursue a radiology degree in the medical field, you should learn more about what it means to be a radiology technologist and how to become one.

Here’s a complete guide on what radiologic technologists do on a daily basis, including how much t always be needed.

What Are the Duties of Radiologic Technologists?

Radiologic Technologists work alongside doctors to treat patients and carry out diagnostic imaging procedures beyond taking the images and being done for the day. Radiologic technologists are skilled at operating diagnostic equipment to ensure the care of every patient.

Technologists do more than just operate the equipment. They aid in outpatient care and coming up with treatment plans. Radiologic technologists work hard to keep the community healthy.

Some of their duties include:

  • Assessing, evaluating, and running tests on patients
  • Preparing and positioning patients for imaging procedures
  • Instructing and attending to the needs of patients during their visit
  • Protecting patients from radiation exposure to keep them safe
  • Performing or assisting physicians in performing procedures including mammograms, x rays, MRIs, and administering radiation to patients with cancer
  • Preparing, administrating, and documenting medical scripts in adherence with state and federal laws and regulations

Radiologic technologists fill an important role in patient care and within the healthcare community. Radiologic technology is essential for diagnostic care. These health professionals help every patient by using their skills and their knowledge.

Doctors rely on radiologic technicians to create images, whether they’re CT scans, MRIs, mammograms, or any other image technology, to help accurately diagnose and treat every patient. Without the dedicated work of those in the radiology career, none of these tests would be possible.

How to Become a Radiologic Technologist

Are you interested in working with other health care professionals in radiology? Starting a career as a radiologic technologist requires additional education beyond high school. You should excel in math, science, communication, and critical thinking because these are some of the most important skills required for the job. You may consider taking high school courses that include anatomy, biology, physiology, computer sciences, chemistry, physics, and algebra to lay down a strong foundation for your higher education.

Education Requirements

After high school, higher education paths require students to complete prerequisite courses and apply to an accredited radiography program. Some of the courses taken in high school may need to be taken again to receive credit towards your certification, but you can use the information you learned to enhance your work.

You have the choice of attending college-based or clinic-based programs that are accredited to get a college degree either directly or through affiliation with a nearby college or university. If you already have an associate’s degree or higher before starting the program, you can reduce the time needed to become qualified by seeking certification from an accredited radiography program at the school you’re attending. You can also find an internship that practices in a clinic and takes a radiology residency.

The opportunity to receive advanced degrees for employment is available within the medical imaging sciences field. If you’re worried you may not be able to afford one of the programs offered in your area, most schools offer financial aid that you can use.

The Certification Process

Once you have graduated from an accredited program before reaching employment eligibility, radiography students must pass the certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Passing this exam is one of the requirements to become a certified and registered radiologic technologist, RT. Some states may have additional requirements to meet state licensure to practice in the state legally.

The ARRT states that to meet the educational requirements to be eligible for the exam, students must have earned an associate’s degree or higher from a program recognized by the ARRT. There are also ethics requirements needed to pass, including having a good moral character, showing responsibility, and being trustworthy.

Fields of Specialization

Radiologic technologists may specialize in a variety of fields, including:

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

Radiologic technologists working in any of these fields will work in different locations and may perform various duties. Patient care looks similar, but how they help will differ. Whether in a clinic or other facility, you will spend most of your time making images and working directly with patients.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you are interested in pursuing a profession in the radiology field, you might be interested in learning more career details. You might have some questions about the profession’s outlook and how much radiological technologists are expected to earn each year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for radiologic technologists is expected to grow 7% through 2030. This is faster than the national average for all other professions. This may result from the large aging population that keeps the demand for health care professionals high because of an increased need for medical conditions to be diagnosed and monitored. This is great news for students looking to become radiologic technologists within the decade.

Another bonus is this is an entry-level job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree to start. You can choose to acquire higher education for specialized fields, but you only require an associate’s degree and state certification to enter the radiology field.

Radiologic Technologist Salary and Outlook

Along with a positive employment outlook in the radiology field, radiologic technologists can be expected to make an average annual salary of $64,000. This is also higher than the national average for individuals in other career fields, around $42,000.

Advanced experience and training can move you up to higher employment roles as a shift supervisor or chief radiologic technologist. There is also the opportunity to shift gears and move into the education field by becoming a clinical instructor or program director.

The employment earning potential for technologists will vary depending on education level and your employment location. Technologists working in entry-level positions will make less than someone full-time in a hospital or other imaging center. Higher compensation is awarded to radiologic technologists working in outpatient care.

Where Can you Find Them?

Technologists work in various environments, including:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Medical labs
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Outpatient facilities

They work a range of hours from full-time to part-time on weekends and weekdays. Their areas of specialization also vary, so they can be found leading imaging procedures in emergency departments, operating rooms, procedural rooms, and specialized imaging centers.

Although about 57% of these medical professionals work in hospitals, their skills are needed in all of the locations listed above. Other professionals are unable to perform the same duties technologists can.

Some Common Misconceptions About Radiologic Technologists

Having a career in radiology is an incredibly rewarding experience. Unfortunately, every career comes with challenges and misconceptions. These are a few of the most common misconceptions people have about radiologic technologists that are simply untrue.

They only take x-rays

Most people assume the work of all radiologic technologists revolves around taking an x-ray or MRI. Some of the areas of specialization require additional training, but they don’t include using an x-ray or MRI machine. This health care profession includes sonography, mammography, and other diagnostic imaging procedures.

A radiologic technologist is the same as a technician

These two radiologic technology careers are often mistaken for one another but involve very different duties and responsibilities. Radiologic technicians primarily prep imaging equipment and the patients for the procedure. Radiologic technologists work with a broader scope of responsibilities. They assist physicians with performing procedures and administering therapeutic doses of radiation to patients with cancer and other things.

A radiologic technologist’s job is done after they capture the image they need

The main focus of all radiologic technologists is taking an x-ray or performing an MRI. Their job doesn’t end there. They have to ensure the quality of the image is acceptable for usage, maintain the medical imaging equipment, and assist physicians as they make a diagnosis.

Types of Imaging

What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging?

Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI is a procedure in which the body’s internal structures can be seen. The scanner looks like a big magnet that the patient lays inside. A magnetic field is created that forces the protons in the body to line up in the same direction as the magnet to locate where they are in the body.

During the MRI, hort bursts of radiation radio waves are released to the body to force the protons out of alignment. When the radio waves are turned off, the protons realign, sending the signals that the waves were received.

The signals created by this exchange give information about where the protons are located in the body. This also helps distinguish between the different types of tissue. Protons in different tissue types respond to the radio waves from the MRI at different speeds and produce individual signals.

Magnetic resonance imaging is used for various medical purposes, like identifying:

  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Diseases in the blood vessels
  • Internal injuries such as bleeding

The MRI is one of the most important diagnostic methods you would be working with.

Computed Tomography CT

CT scans are used for detecting diseases and injuries in the body. It works by using a series of x-ray images and a computer to create a 3D image of the bones and soft tissues. These scans are a non-invasive and painless method for doctors to diagnose any health issues a patient may be experiencing.

Technologists will perform CT scans at the hospital and other imaging centers. They are essential for routine checkups, including mammography. Mammography technologists will most likely not be the only specialized field in one center, but not all specialized technologists are present at every center.

These scans are different from MRI in a lot of ways. The patient lies down on a table that slowly goes into a doughnut-shaped machine that houses the scanner that will go around their body. They have to remain very still, or else the image will blur and be unusable.

The series of images will only take a few minutes to complete, but the time will vary depending on what part of the body is being examined, similar to the MRI process. Doctors can compare the images during treatment to see any progress. Comparing CT images is common when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Radiologic Technologist?

Now you know what radiologic technologists do and what you need to do to become one. If this sounds like the career you are interested in pursuing, get in touch with a radiology program in your area. Having a career in the medical field is a noble pursuit. 

Technologists work in various environments and specializations, so you have plenty to choose from. There may be a specialization that piques your interest. 

An advisor for the program will steer you in the right direction and help you hone in on the skills you have to further your education. They will provide you with all the information you need to enter the field of radiology.