Becoming a CT Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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

CT technicians, also called radiologic technologists, are medical professionals responsible for administering diagnostic exams using medical equipment. Read on to weigh more pros and cons:

Pros of a Career as a CT Technician
High return on investment (CT technicians may earn upwards of $80,000 a year)*
Bright employment outlook (the national employment of CT technicians is expected to grow by 21% from 2012-2022)*
Close patient interaction*
Effective preparation (a career as a CT technician may be good training ground for going into another healthcare career, such as nursing)*

Cons of a Career as a CT Technician
Physical demands (CT technicians may need to be on their feet for long amounts of time and move equipment)*
Work hazards (although the risk may be minimal, technicians may still be exposed to radiation levels)*
Work schedule (technicians may be on-call and/or available to work evenings and weekends)*
Few advancement opportunities without continuing education*

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

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

CT technicians are radiologic technologists who specialize in computed tomography (CT) medical equipment. This equipment is capable of producing x-ray images of the body from different angles and cross-sections for a variety of purposes, such as locating internal injuries sustained during traumatic episodes. In addition to manipulating and maintaining this equipment, CT technicians are also responsible for prepping patients to take the diagnostic exams and assisting physicians in interpreting the images.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The optimistic employment outlook for CT technicians is due to several factors, including a population that is getting older and the ability to perform this procedure in an outpatient facility. This shift to outpatient care will mean more CT technicians employed by private physicians and imaging centers. In 2014, the mean annual wage of radiologic technicians nationwide was about $57,000.

Career Paths and Specializations

Although CT technicians specialize in CT equipment, they may also become specialized in other diagnostic areas as well. Areas of specialization include mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, quality management and sonography. Most CT technicians work in hospitals, while others can find employment with private doctor's offices, medical labs, outpatient facilities and/or government agencies.

Career Skills and Requirements

CT technicians are typically required to complete training that is specific to computed tomography and radiologic technology. Individuals will initially earn an associate's degree in radiologic technology and gain experience in the field as a radiologic technologist. These professionals will then pursue a certificate in computed tomography to specialize in the field.

All prospective technicians are required to obtain a license by completing a certifying exam administered by the state or through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In addition to the radiography designation that is required for employment, the organization also offers CT certification. The ARRT requires that candidates have graduated from an accredited program and pass an examination. Once you're certified, you must complete a certain amount of continuing education hours every two years in order to maintain certification.

Useful Skills

You'll need to rely on a number of hard and soft skills to successfully complete your professional tasks. These may include:

  • The ability to identify abstract patterns and organize information
  • Proper hand and limb coordination for operating equipment
  • The ability to communicate effectively to patients, doctors and peers
  • Sensitivity to context for effective problem-solving
  • The ability to effectively engage with people

Job Postings from Real Employers

A 2012 search conducted on the job site revealed several postings for CT technicians to work in a variety of professional settings. Most employers sought applicants who were already licensed and held at least an associate's degree. Some postings also required applicants to hold certifications in other areas. Here are some actual listings taken from that search:

  • A Roseville, CA, medical center advertised for an ARRT-registered CT technologist with additional CPR certification, state licensure and previous professional experience in acute care settings. The successful applicant would also hold a fluoroscopy license.
  • A medical center in Naples, FL, sought a registered CT technologist with knowledge and/or prior experience in conducting biopsies. The successful candidate would be responsible for operating CT machinery and working with patients in an outpatient setting.
  • A healthcare company in Winston Salem, NC, sought a registered CT technician with at least a year of experience, basic computer proficiency and effective communication skills. The successful candidate would work with the company's radiologic staff in delivering optimal patient care.

How to Stand Out

Those who want to stand out can pursue a bachelor's degree in radiologic technology. Bachelor's degrees are designed for current professionals in the field who are interested in career mobility. These are 2-year programs that accept transfer credits from the associate's degree level. Advanced courses in the program include radiation biology, radiographic pathology, radiation physics and cross sectional anatomy.

Other Careers to Consider

Biological Technician

If you yearn for work that is more involved in the deeper physiological aspects of healthcare, you may consider becoming a biological technician. Unlike CT technicians, these professionals are typically required to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Moreover, they're responsible for working with blood samples, food samples and bacteria cultures. They also may need to clean lab tools and equipment, analyze computerized data and operate advanced robotics equipment. In 2011, the mean annual wage of biological technicians nationwide was about $42,000.

Cardiovascular Technician

If the earning potential of a CT technician doesn't quite meet your expectations, you may consider becoming a radiation therapist. These professionals are typically required to hold at least an associate's degree and a state license, similar educational requirements as CT technicians. However, unlike CT technicians, they usually work with an oncology team that is responsible for treating cancer patients. They operate treatment equipment called linear accelerators, monitor the physical status of patients and maintain patient records. In 2011, the mean annual wage of radiation therapists practicing nationwide was about $79,000.

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Purdue University Global

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Fortis College

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Penn Foster High School

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