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Radiologic Technologists

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Career Overview

When you were a kid, did you ever break a bone or have a serious injury? If you did, then you probably remember getting an x-ray of the injury, so the doctor could see what the problem was. Radiologic technologists are the ones who use special equipment, like that x-ray, to help the doctor take a look at the problem inside your body.Radiologic technologists specialize in something called diagnostic imaging, which is a fancy way of saying they use machines to take pictures of a person's body to narrow down the cause of an injury or illness. Complicated machines like x-rays and computed tomography (CT) equipment take pictures of a patient's insides to get a better look at what's going on under their skin. As the radiologic technologist, you'll be working closely with physicians to scan specific parts of the body and produce the images that they'll refer to for their diagnosis and treatment.But the benefits of diagnostic imaging aren't without risks. You see, these machines work because they emit a type of radiant energy, similar to light waves, that are able to pass through the body and capture an image of what's inside. But direct exposure to this kind of radiation can cause changes in the cells that might cause tissue or organs to stop working properly. There are many safety precautions you must take in order to protect yourself and your patients, and you'll have to know and understand all of them before you use these types of machines.These imaging machines are very complicated and potentially very dangerous to use, which is part of the reason that they require specialized individuals to operate them. You're the expert when it comes to this type of equipment, and the doctors will rely on you when they need diagnostic imaging. Believe it or not, it's a lot more than just pressing buttons and taking pictures. It's providing doctors with the tools and resources they need to help people.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
12.3 %

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Associate's Degree in Radiography or related fields State License

It's pretty common to find radiography programs, but choosing the right one mainly depends on your career goals. Though the most common path that people choose is to earn an associate's degree, you could just earn a graduate certificate. But if you're looking to advance in the field or even specialize, you'll definitely need to pursue your bachelor's degree. Whichever path you choose, you can expect coursework in anatomy, pathology, radiation physics, and image evaluation.You might also need to earn a license depending on the state you live in. In most cases, you'll have to pass an exam either from the state or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Requirements vary from state to state, so contact your state's health board for more information.

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Valued Traits & Abilities

Quantitative Abilities
Communication Skills
Detail Oriented

Career Opportunities

Even though x-rays and CT scans are heavily relied upon in the medical field, it isn't just a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. They can't tell us everything we need to know, and that's why there's a lot more to it than just those two types of equipment. It's a broad field that covers many different kinds of machines and imaging techniques, so you aren't limited to just the basic radiologic technologist position.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Though they are very similar to radiologic technologists, there is one major difference: nuclear medicine technologists give patients radioactive drugs before scanning them in order to detect abnormal concentrations of radioactivity in the body. This helps them find tumors and other deformities, as well as monitor tissue and organ function.

MRI Technologists

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners are more complicated pieces of machinery that many radiologic technologists choose to specialize in. These machines use magnetic fields and contrast dyes to produce images of organs and tissues within the body.

Work Environment

Radiologic technologists typically work in healthcare facilities and medical laboratories. Most work normal, full time hours, but it's pretty common to be called in for emergency situations on nights or weekends.Keep in mind the potential health and safety risks that come with the job. Working with radiologic technology makes you open to radiation poisoning, which could lead to serious health problems in the future. To counteract this risk, you must wear all the protective equipment, such as lead aprons, gloves, and constantly monitor the radiation levels in your work area.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013