Becoming a Mammogram Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a mammogram technician? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a mammogram technician is right for you.
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Mammogram Technician Pros and Cons

Mammogram technicians - also often called mammogram technologists - help patients through the stressful mammogram process while using low-dose X-ray imaging equipment. Read about the pros and cons of being trained and certified to perform mammograms.

PROS of a Career as a Mammogram Technician
Radiography field is fast-growing (21% from 2012-2022)*
Less than four years of postsecondary education is required*
Salaries are good for this career (average of about $57,500 per year as of May 2014)*
Those specializing in mammography could have more job opportunities*

CONS of a Career as a Mammogram Technician
Must have physical strength to lift or turn patients*
There is some risk of radiation exposure*
Most employers require advanced certification*
Licensure is mandatory in many states*
Need to pursue continued education throughout your career*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Mammogram technicians and technologists (also called mammogram techs) use advanced medical imaging technology to examine breast tissue for tumors, cysts, lesions and other disease-causing abnormalities. As a mammogram tech, you could be responsible for creating a clear, readable image that can be used by radiologists, oncologists or other doctors to make an informed diagnosis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the majority of radiologic technologists and technicians work in hospitals operating various types of imaging equipment (www.bls.gov).

Depending on your role, some mammogram techs are asked to service and repair imaging equipment as needed. Other duties may include processing confidential patient records, as well as consulting with physicians and surgeons.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, job opportunities for radiologic technologists were predicted to rise 21% from 2012-2022, which was faster-than-average growth. A mounting elderly population with increased health needs has led to a shortage of qualified healthcare workers in all fields. Also, radiologic technology is increasingly used to monitor the treatment of diseases, such as the progression of cancer. As of May 2014, the BLS indicated that radiologic technologists earned an annual average salary of approximately $57,500.

Career Requirements

Education and Certification

To become a radiologic technologist or technician who performs mammograms, most employers - as well as some states - require that you're certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). According to ARRT, several steps are included in the process to become certified in mammogram technology (www.arrt.org). First, you must have an associate's degree from an ARRT-accepted program to get your primary certification as a Registered Technologist (R.T.). After earning R.T. certification, you can enter a post-associate certificate program in mammography at a community college or 4-year institution, which generally helps you accomplish the coursework and clinical experience you need to take the ARRT mammography advanced certification exam.

During a radiology program, you can expect to take classes that cover radiation safety, patient care, pathology and imaging techniques. Mammography and breast imaging certificate programs generally have courses in instrumentation, patient assessment and breast anatomy.

Licensing

Depending on where you live, you might be mandated to obtain a state license to perform mammography. State laws vary, but licensing requirements sometimes can be fulfilled by earning certification from an organization such as ARRT.

Useful Skills

Even a routine mammogram can be a cause of great stress for patients, so you should be able to develop an excellent rapport with patients. Being conscientious and able to follow instructions is important in order to avoid making errors during the test. The most important skills for a mammogram tech are:

  • Ability to explain tests to patients
  • Knack for helping patients feel at ease
  • Attention to detail
  • Technical expertise when using medical equipment

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

Most companies are seeking employees who have outstanding customer service skills and the ability to lift and move equipment, indicated a March 2012 search for mammogram tech job postings. While ARRT certification is voluntary, employers generally seek mammogram techs who have ARRT credentials. Below are examples of some real job postings from March 2012.

  • A network of hospitals in Florida is seeking an experienced mammogram technician to perform radiological testing. You must have completed an accredited program in radiology or imaging; you also need to have current ARRT advanced certification in mammography and basic life support certification. The ideal candidate should have good decision-making and interpersonal skills.
  • An agency is looking to hire a mammography technologist with ARRT mammography certification to work at a hospital located in the Chicago, Illinois, area. You must have an associate's degree in radiology from an approved program and current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. The employee also needs breast ultrasound experience and must be able to complete patient documentation and assist with invasive procedures.
  • A mammography technologist with at least one year of experience is needed at a university hospital in Washington, D.C. You need current ARRT certification in mammography and an associate's degree in radiology from an approved program. The candidate must be able to work in a stressful environment.

Standing Out from the Crowd

While basic ARRT certification is optional, a March 2012 job search for mammogram techs revealed that employers often look for workers with advanced certification in mammography. According to the BLS, if you have mammography certification and experience, you could have the best job prospects. Training and experience in ultrasound technology might also be helpful. You might further want to gain your CPR and basic life support certifications. You can enroll in certification prep classes through the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org).

Other Careers to Consider

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

If you want to perform breast imaging, another technology used in diagnosis is sonography, or ultrasound. Most sonography programs take two years to complete. ARRT offers credentialing for breast sonography; other specializations in sonography are also available, such as obstetric, abdominal, neurological, cardiac or vascular sonography. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that diagnostic medical sonographers earned an annual average salary of almost $66,000, and job opportunities were predicted to increase at an extremely fast rate of 44% from 2010-2020.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine is used to diagnose and treat illness; like mammography, this field uses imaging equipment and has some risk of radiation exposure. You can earn a degree or certificate in nuclear medicine at many community and technical colleges; the certification and licensing requirements are similar to those of a mammogram tech. According to the BLS, job openings in this field were expected to go up 19% from 2010-2020. The BLS indicated that nuclear medicine technologists earned a mean salary of about $70,000 per year as of May 2011.

Radiation Therapist

A radiation therapist works as part of an oncology team to treat cancer in patients by using machines to administer radiation. You might work in a hospital or other cancer treatment facility; job opportunities were estimated to increase faster than average, at 20% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. You need an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy, and many states require that you have ARRT certification to receive a professional state license. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that radiation therapists earned a mean yearly salary of about $79,000.

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