Here it comes, your biannual dentist visit. What will the dental hygienist find? Do you have any cavities? Or maybe you need a root canal? Whatever might need fixing first needs an X-ray to better understand what treatment is needed. This is where the expertise of a radiologic technologist comes in.
What Is a Radiologic Technologist?
While you sit in the dentist’s chair, wearing that huge vest for the X-ray, you may not be thinking of the details of what’s happening. This is what the radiologic technologist assisting you went to school for.
A radiologic technologist is a master of medical technology. These rad techs, also known as radiographers, are diagnosticians that produce X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, and more.
What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?
Takes Diagnostic Images for Doctors
Radiologic technologists assist doctors and other medical professionals by producing diagnostic images. Diagnostic images are pictures that give doctors a better idea of what’s happening inside your body.
X-rays and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI), in particular, are the main specialties of a radiologic technologist.
There’s a pretty good chance you’re familiar with X-rays. Whether you’ve broken a bone or gotten an X-ray image of your teeth at the dentist, X-rays are some of the most essential diagnostic images in medicine. This is why X-ray techs, in particular, are so vital in the medical field.
They use electromagnetic radiation to show potential damage and give other valuable medical information to help doctors do their jobs better.
Magnetic resonance imaging is some of the most advanced and helpful imaging available to doctors. The radiologic technologist’s skills are crucial during this process.
During the MRI, the patient needs to lie entirely still for some time. These detailed images show multiple processes and statuses of the patient’s bodily functions. Contrast dyes are injected into the patient for more exact images on the MRI scan.
Magnetic resonance imaging provides pictures of the brain, circulatory system, anomalies, developmental irregularities, and more.
Operates Advanced Medical Equipment
Radiographers and medicine technologists need extensive education and practice using machines that produce diagnostic imaging to ensure the best image possible is captured. They also protect patients from residual radiation during whichever procedure they are conducting.
Works Alongside Medical Professionals
A rad tech never works alone. They are invaluable assistants to physicians and other medical professionals like nuclear medicine technologists.
Essential Radiologic Technologist Skills
Extreme Vigilance and Care
There’s no way around it. Radiologic technologists need to be extremely detail-oriented. They keep and maintain detailed patient records, operate the aforementioned medical equipment, and help patients undergo radiation therapy.
If radiologic technologists aren’t vigilant, it could result in botched test results and even patient injury.
Radiologic technologists must be able to communicate with their patients. While they may not be the ones diagnosing patients, they need to keep a clear channel of communication open so procedures run smoothly. If there is a lack of communication, patients could get inaccurate medical results from radiologic techs.
Knowledge of Anatomy
Any rad tech worth their salt needs to know the ins and outs of the human body. This means an extensive knowledge of every body system, bone, and muscle. Rad techs take images of a patient’s body as designated by doctors, so they need to understand where and when to take an X-ray or MRI.
Radiologic Technologist Salaries and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average salary for a radiologic technologist in the United States is $62,280 per year, or $29.94 per hour. This varies by location and how advanced a rad tech is in their career.
Magnetic resonance imaging techs are some of the highest-paid radiologic techs in particular. Work locations that pay rad techs the most are outpatient centers, labs, and hospitals.
There will always be a steady need for radiologic technologists. People continuously need X-rays and MRIs. Whether it’s at the dentist or for a mammogram, doctors and other experts need extremely detailed diagnostic images.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a seven percent growth rate for rad techs. This is above average, and much faster than other jobs.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Radiologic Technologist?
It depends on the exact career path one takes to become a radiologic tech. Overall, it could take anywhere from a little over a year to two years. You need to have a high school education and an associate degree to even consider a career as a radiologic tech.
How to Become a Radiologic Technologist: A Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Get an Associate Degree in a Relevant Major
Pretty much the only base requirement to become a radiologic technologist besides a high school diploma is an associate degree. Community colleges are great institutions for earning an applicable associate degree in something like radiology, biology, or chemistry. Associate degrees take around two years to complete, depending on the program and what pace you learn.
Step 2: Complete an Internship
Like any detailed and delicate medical procedure, you can’t learn something like magnetic resonance imaging and radiation therapy only from a textbook. You need to get out there and apply for internships.
An internship is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the medical community. Whether you find an internship as an X-ray tech or rad tech, internships are fundamental to starting fruitful career paths.
Step 3: Get Your Rad Tech License
Operating complicated medical equipment and interacting with patients aren’t things to take lightly. That’s why any aspiring rad tech needs a license to work in the United States. License requirements vary by state.
Obtaining radiologic technologist licenses often includes getting one or more certifications from certification exams and different organizations.
Step 4: Get Certified
A valuable way to show patients and employers that you know what you’re doing is by earning certification. Luckily, there are multiple certification organizations to choose from, all of them boasting unique requirements to pass.
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These are entirely optional, but we recommend pursuing certifications as early as you can. They can give you a valuable edge during the hiring process.
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is a great certification board that shows you are a rad tech of note. It specializes in accreditation for diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy. It offers multiple certifications for radiologic techs.
Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board
The NMTCB is a board that offers certification programs, certification exams, and more to test future and current nuclear medicine technologists. It regularly updates its certification exams to ensure nuclear medicine technologists learn the most up-to-date knowledge in their field.
A Quick Note on How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Working alongside radiologic technologists are experts called nuclear medicine technologists. These are advanced professionals who can diagnose patients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights a few key points on becoming a nuclear medicine technologist.
You absolutely need your associate degree, as well as accreditation for a nuclear medicine technology program. You need to take a certification exam from the nuclear medicine technology certification program for a career as a nuclear medicine technologist.
Nuclear medicine technologist salary
Since we briefly mentioned nuclear medicine technologists throughout this post, let’s see what they earn as well. The average salary for a nuclear medicine technologist is $77,950 per year, or $37.48 per hour.
Should You Become a Radiologic Technologist?
If you want to join the medical community without shelling out a large amount of money and time for medical school, then becoming a radiologic technologist may be the right career path for you.
The requirements to become a radiologic technologist are reasonable and the pay for someone who is just entering the field is substantial, with room to grow. So, next time you’re at the dentist or in an MRI machine, mull over whether you’d like to be on the other side of the interaction.
Radiologic Technologist FAQ
Some key differences between the two career paths are their specific duties. Rad techs prepare patients for X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging. Nuclear medicine technologists use advanced chemicals and drugs in radiation therapy and other procedures.
Besides a few key responsibilities, education requirements and the average salary of both rad techs and nuclear medicine technologists aren’t too different.
While some medical jargon may intimidate people, it will feel natural once you have the basics of being a radiologic technologist down.
This doesn’t mean that the responsibilities a rad tech has aren’t serious. However, like anything else, once you establish a good routine it will be easier than it looks.
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