Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations like x rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and mammography. The allied medical professions include many branches such as, respiratory therapist, physical therapist, surgical technologist, nursing, laboratory technologists, radiologic technologist and others. The branch of the allied health field known as Radiologic Technology also has its own fields or specialties. The term radiologic technologist is an all encompassing term relating to all the different modalities within this allied health profession. Specifically, there are other titles used to describe the nature of the work, such as nuclear medicine technologist, radiographer, sonographer, radiation therapist, etc.
Nature of the Work
Radiologic technologists prepare patients for radiologic examinations by explaining the procedure, removing jewelry and other articles through which x rays cannot pass, and positioning patients so that the parts of the body can be appropriately radiographed. To prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation, these workers surround the exposed area with radiation protection devices, such as lead shields, or limit the size of the x-ray beam. Radiographers position radiographic equipment at the correct angle and height over the appropriate area of a patient's body. Using instruments similar to a measuring tape they may measure the thickness of the section to be radiographed and set controls on the x-ray machine to produce radiographs of the appropriate density, detail, and contrast.
Radiologic technologists employ a wide range of sophisticated equipment to produce medical images with the least amount of radiation to the patient, so that doctors and other medical professionals may better diagnose and treat injury or disease. Radiologic Technologists use their expertise and knowledge of physics, anatomy, physiology and pathology to assess the patient, develop optimal radiographic technique and evaluate resulting radiographic images to determine if additional procedures are warranted. They care for the patient even when acutely ill or traumatised. Radiologic technicians need good stamina because they work on their feet for long periods of time and may have to lift heavy and disabled patients.
The practice of radiologic technology includes the following modalities (or specialties):
Diagnostic radiography – deals with examination of internal organs, bones, cavities and foreign objects; includes cardiovascular imaging and interventional radiography.
Sonography – uses high frequency ultrasound and is increasingly used due to its economy, safety, and versatility in obstetrics (including fetal monitoring throughout pregnancy), necology, abdominal, pediatrics, cardiac, vascular and musculo-skeletal regions.
Fluoroscopy – live motion radiography (constant radiation) usually used to visualize the digestive system; monitor the administration of contrast agents to highlight vessels and organs or to help position devices within the body (such as pacemakers, guidewires, stents etc.)
CT (computed tomography) – which provides cross-sectional views (slices) of the body; can also reconstruct additional images from those taken to provide more information in either 2 or 3D.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – builds a 2-D or 3-D map of different tissue types within the body;
Nuclear medicine – this uses radioactive tracers which can be administered to examine how the body and organs function, for example the kidneys or heart. Certain radioisotopes can also be administered to treat certain cancers such as thyroid cancer.
Radiotherapy - uses radiation to shrink, and sometimes eradicate, cancerous cells/growths in and on the body.
Mammography - use low dose x-ray systems to produce images of the breast.
Education requirements slightly vary worldwide because of common references. A high school deploma is manditory to become a radiologic technologist. Formal training programs in radiography range in length from eighteen months to four years and leads to certificate, an associate's degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Prior to this profession's liberalization program towards a mandatory four-year bachelor's degree, one to two-year certificate or associate degree programs were most prevalent in Canada and the United States. Since these professionals use ionizing radiation, which is potentially harmful to the living cells, most countries have strict regulations, certifications and registration process regarding the practice of this profession.
Physical stamina is important in this occupation because technologists and technicians are on their feet for long periods and may lift or turn disabled patients. Technologists and technicians work at diagnostic machines but also may perform some procedures at patients' bedsides. Some travel to patients in large vans equipped with sophisticated diagnostic equipment.
Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by the use of lead aprons, gloves, and other shielding devices, and by instruments monitoring exposure to radiation. Technologists and technicians wear badges measuring radiation levels in the radiation area, and detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime dose.
Most full-time radiologic technologists and technicians work about 40 hours a week. They may, however, have evening, weekend, or on-call hours. Some radiologic technologists and technicians work part time for more than one employer; for those, travel to and from facilities must be considered.
The median expected salary for a typical Radiologic Technologist in the United States is $48,080. This basic market pricing report was prepared using our Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes, industries and geographies.