Medical Radiographer Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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The mean annual wage for medical radiographers is about $57,510. Are the earnings worth the training requirements? Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of a career as a medical radiographer.
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Pros and Cons of a Medical Radiographer Career

Medical radiographers are responsible for adjusting imaging equipment and shielding patients during x-ray, MRI and CT imaging. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a medical radiographer to find out if it's a good fit for you.

Pros of a Career as a Medical Radiographer
Faster-than-average job growth (21% from 2012-2022)*
Various training paths available (programs ranging from 1-4 years)*
Certifications available in various areas of specialization*
Opportunity assist doctors in medical diagnosis*

Cons of Becoming a Medical Radiographer
Must take precautions for protection from radiation*
Because of emergencies working on-call, weekends or evenings is possible*
Physically demanding (lifting or turning patients and working on your feet for long periods)*
May experience exposure to infectious diseases*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

Job Description

The diagnostic imaging exams performed by medical radiographers include radiographs (x-ray), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). Mammography also falls under this occupation. As a medical radiographer, you'll prepare the patients for procedures in a variety of ways, such as by taking medical histories, answering any questions, shielding areas that don't need to be imaged and positioning the patients. Using computerized equipment, you'll take the images. Sometimes you'll make mixtures for patients to drink so that soft tissue could be seen on images. You might also work with the radiologists to decide if more images are needed. Keeping patient records would also be a part of your job duties.

Working in radiology, you would take measures, such as protective lead aprons and gloves, to prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation. Wearing a special badge to measure radiation levels would also be required. You might find employment in hospitals, doctor offices or imaging centers.

Salary Information

According to the BLS in May 2014, the mean annual wage for medical radiographers, or radiologic technologists and technicians, was approximately $57,510. However, wages in the 10th to 90th percentiles ranged from $37,610-$80,080. At that time, the top-paying industries were equipment leasing and rental companies, postsecondary educational institutions, skilled nursing facilities, specialty hospitals and scientific research and development services. The top-paying states included Massachusetts, California, Hawaii, the District of Columbia and Alaska.

What are the Requirements?

Education

There are various career paths in radiology, ranging from a certificate to a bachelor's degree; however, an associate's degree is the most common degree. To qualify for licensure in most states, you'll need to make sure that your program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Your program involves both clinical and classroom training. Classes probably include pathology, anatomy, radiation physics and protection, image evaluation and patient care. In addition to classes, you'll gain hands-on training through radiology clinics. You might choose to specialize in x-ray, MRI, CT or mammography.

Licensing and Certification

Most states require licensing or certification for technologists working with radiation; however, requirements vary by state. In most instances, you must complete an accredited program and pass one or more state-specific exams offered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Continued education is necessary to maintain your certification.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Even with ample experience and certifications, you might need to be willing to work on-call, evenings or weekends to gain a position. It's not uncommon for employers to seek medical radiographers to work on an as needed basis. Additionally, most employers seek workers that meet specific education and training requirements. Read the following excerpts from real job listings in April 2012, to find out what employers were looking for:

  • A nonprofit medical group in California advertised for a radiology technologist to operate a wide variety of radiology equipment. This employer required completion of an accredited program in CT, MRI and/or mammography or a minimum of six months experience in those areas and approval of the radiologist and radiology manager.
  • A hospital district in Texas was looking for a full-time radiology technician with an associate's degree in radiology and current ARRT registration. This employer also preferred CT and ultrasound experience.
  • An imaging center in Louisiana advertised for a radiographer to work on an 'as needed' basis. Applicants should have certification through ARRT (or within six months of start date, for new graduates) and be licensed through the state of Louisiana. This job did not require experience, but at least six months was preferred.

How to Stand Out

You might have the best prospects in the field if you complete certification through the ARRT. ARRT certification demonstrates excellence in the field. You could complete continuing education. While most medical radiographers complete an associate's degree, you may choose to gain additional training through a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs offer advanced clinical training working with equipment and patients. Membership in professional organizations, like the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, may also be beneficial.

Other Careers to Consider

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

If working with radiation does not interest you, consider a career in diagnostic medical sonography. Instead of radiation, individuals in this field use sound waves for imaging ultrasounds, echocardiograms or sonograms. They diagnose and assess a variety of medical conditions, including pregnancy. An associate's degree is required and the mean annual wage, according to the BLS in 2011, was about $66,000. Predicted job growth from 2010-2020 is much faster than average. Most employers require certification.

Radiation Therapist

Another alternative career that you can consider in the field of radiation is a radiation therapist. Projected job growth in this career from 2010-2020 is faster than average and the mean annual wage in May 2011 was about $79,000, according to the BLS. You'd earn either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, and most states require a license. Radiation therapists treat many diseases, such as cancer, by giving radiation treatments.

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