Radiologic Technology Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about salaries in the field of radiologic technology. Read job descriptions and learn about education and training requirements and career prospects to decide if a radiologic technology career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Radiologic Technology Career

Radiologic technologists or radiographers help physicians evaluate and diagnose a patient's condition in order to decide on appropriate treatment. Take a look at the table below to see a quick comparison between jobs as a radiologic technologist, diagnostic medical sonographer and radiation therapist:

Radiologic Technologist Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Radiation Therapist
Career Overview Radiologic technologists prepare patients for procedures and operate imaging machinery. Diagnostic medical sonographers prepare patients for procedures and operate ultrasound machinery. Radiation therapists apply doses of radiation to patients to treat cancer and other diseases.
Education Requirements Associate's or bachelor's degree, but 6-12 month certificate programs are also available Associate's or bachelor's degree, but 1-year certificate programs are available for professionals in another healthcare occupation Associate's or bachelor's degree, but 1-year certificate programs are also available
Program Length 2-4 years 2-4 years 2-4 years
Certification and Licensing Certification or licensure required in most states Certification is preferred and some states require licensure Licensure required in most states
Experience Required None; entry-level None; entry-level None; entry-level
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 21% employment growth* 46% employment growth* 24% employment growth*
Mean Salary for 2014 $57,510* $68,390* $83,710

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists prepare patients for diagnostic imaging examination procedures. While the most common procedure is the application of x-rays, radiographers may also practice CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In some cases, radiographers are required to inject the patient with a contrasting agent that can better define a targeted area. This is sometimes known as interventional radiography.

Requirements

According to the BLS, the most common educational route for radiologic technologists is to earn an associate's degree. Some schools also offer bachelor's degrees in radiography, in addition to 6-12 month programs leading to a certificate. Programs consist of classroom work and clinical training.

Most states require radiologic technologists to be certified and/or licensed. Some states offer certification exams, while others require you to pass an exam from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). You can determine your state's licensure requirements by contacting your state's health board. Most require you to graduate from a program that is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) before you can earn licensure.

Below are a number of job listings posted in November 2012:

  • A medical center in Pennsylvania was looking for applicants to fill a full-time position as a radiologic technologist supervisor. Candidates were to hold a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree from an approved school of radiologic technology, be ARRT-registered and preferably have accumulated at least two years of clinical and supervisory experience.
  • A Georgia hospital was seeking an individual for a position as an interventional radiologic technologist on a full-time basis. Candidates were to be graduates of a radiologic technology school approved by the American Medical Association (AMA), registered by the ARRT, hold state licensure and have at least two years of experience at a hospital or similar healthcare provider.
  • A hospital in Connecticut was seeking an individual for a part-time, weekend, day shift position as a radiologic technologist. Candidates were to have graduated from an AMA-accredited radiography program, be credentialed by the ARRT as a radiology technologist and hold state licensure. Two years of recent, continuous experience was preferred.

Standing Out

According to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), certification is the minimum requirement to practice as a radiologic technologist in 39 states. State licensure may also be required. Therefore, in order to qualify in the in the largest number of states, it would be a good idea to become certified by the ARRT. The ASRT states that in order to retain ARRT certification, you must earn 24 continuing education credits every two years. Certification in a number of procedures can be to your advantage in getting hired and career advancement.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

A diagnostic medical sonographer applies and directs sound waves to a targeted area of a patient's body. Known variously as sonograms, ultrasound or echocardiogram, the process results in computer images that can help physicians diagnose an existing condition and determine the correct course and amount of treatment necessary.

Requirements

The BLS states that in order to qualify as a diagnostic medical sonographer, you will have to complete a formal education program that leads to an associate's degree. Some colleges also offer programs leading to a bachelor's degree in sonography. If you're already a healthcare professional in another area, such as nursing, you can complete a 1-year certificate program that provides the necessary education to qualify as a sonographer. No matter what educational route you select, the program should be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Many employers prefer to hire professionally certified sonographers. Once you graduate from an accredited program, you may be eligible to sit for a specialty certification examination administered by the ARRT, Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) or the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). The BLS also notes that some states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed. In order to qualify for state licensure, you must be certified. Continuing medical education courses are required every two years to retain certification.

Here are a few employers who were seeking diagnostic medical sonographers in November 2012:

  • A medical group in Colorado was looking for an individual to fill a position as a part-time medical sonographer. Candidates were to be certified in diagnostic ultrasound, with at least six months of experience as a technician in an obstetric or neonatology setting. Candidates were to hold current CPR certification and provide evidence of continuing education credits.
  • A health corporation in Alaska was seeking to employ a sonographer to work in a general acute care facility. Candidates were to be registered or eligible to be registered with ARDMS, be graduates of an approved sonography program and have at least two years of qualifying postgraduate work experience.
  • A North Carolina radiology practice wanted to hire a full-time medical sonographer. Candidates were to hold an associate's degree and be ARRT-certified in ultrasound or medical sonography. Applicants were to hold current CPR certification and have the ability to complete OSHA training.

Standing Out

You may have the best possibility of securing employment if you become certified in several specialties, according to the BLS. Your marketability can grow with each succeeding certification. In addition, you may find that a supervisory or managerial position can enhance your reputation as a professional and broaden your career horizons.

Radiation Therapist

Working under the direction of a radiologist and using a linear accelerator, radiation therapists apply doses of high-energy x-rays to a target area in a patient's body. Radiation technologists work largely in the field of cancer treatment. Regimens of repeated applications of directed radiation are designed to shrink or kill cancer cells.

Requirements

The BLS points out that while you may be able to qualify as a radiation therapist by completing a 1-year certificate program, employers tend to hire individuals who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. Most states require that radiation therapists be licensed.

In order to be licensed, you must first complete a JRCERT-accredited program in radiation therapy. In addition to degree programs, JRCERT does accredit a number of certificate programs. Once you've graduated from the program, you may qualify to sit for the ARRT certification exam in radiation therapy. The examination includes testing in such areas as treatment planning and delivery, patient education and care, radiation oncology and radiation protection.

Here's what some employers were looking for in November 2012:

  • An oncology practice in Arizona was looking for a full-time senior radiation therapist. Applicants were to hold a 4-year degree and have at least six years of experience as a radiation therapy technologist (RTT). Candidates were also to hold certification from ARRT and the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency (ARRA) and be licensed to practice radiation therapy in the state.
  • An Indiana oncology practice wanted to hire a lead radiation therapist. Candidates were to be radiation therapy school graduates and have at least five years of experience in the field. The employer preferred that applicants hold a Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy. Applicants were also to hold ARRT registration and current state licensure.
  • A healthcare provider in Virginia was seeking a radiation therapist on a part-time, per diem basis. Applicants were to be graduates of an accredited radiation therapy program, registered with ARRT and have at least two years of experience as a radiation therapist. Applicants were also to be certified in Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS).

Standing Out

You may find your chances of employment increase by earning a bachelor's degree. The advanced curriculum of such a program could give you an advantage over those who hold a certificate or associate's degree. Since certification is a prerequisite for licensure, and seems to be preferred by most employers, you should get certified. In addition, if you can secure a management position, you may find that the experience gained can increase your marketability. With additional training, you may qualify in dosimetry, which deals with the application of accurate and appropriate measurements of radiation.

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Kaplan University

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Northcentral University

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Trident University

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Regent University

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Virginia College

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Brightwood College

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Argosy University

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The George Washington University

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