While exact education requirements differ based on the specialty, health technologists often need at least an associate's degree. Learning about these different education requirements can help you make a more informed decision on whether or not becoming a health technologist is right for you.
Health technology workers provide a range of assistive medical and health technology services and work in various medical facilities, from medical offices and hospitals to nursing and residential facilities. Some of the jobs in this field include nurse, dental assistant, diagnostic sonographer and radiology technologist. Many of these jobs require the completion of an associate's degree or certificate. Licensing and certification requirements vary by career and state, but many health technologist positions do require some form of credentialing.
|Career Titles||Registered Nurse||Physical Therapy Assistant||Dental Hygienist||Medical Sonographer||Radiologic Technologist|
|Required Education||Diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in registered nursing||Associate's degree in physical therapy assisting||Associate's degree in dental hygiene||Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree in sonography or a related science||Associate's degree in radiologic technology|
|Licensing and Certification||Licensing required in all states; RNs must pass the the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN||All states except Hawaii require licensing or certification||Licensing required in all states||Certification preferred by employers, if not mandated by the state||Licensing or certification required in some, but not all, states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||16%*||41%*||19%*||26%*||9%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$67,490*||$25,120||$72,330*||$68,970*||$56,670*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Registered nurses (RNs) are a category of health technologists who work beside doctors and other medical professionals in hospitals, physicians' offices, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and many other health-related settings. RNs must complete an educational program in registered nursing and earn a license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) predicts that RNs will see job growth of about 16% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS indicated in May 2015 that the median annual salary earned by all registered nurses was $67,490.
Physical Therapy Assistant
As the title suggests, physical therapy assistants (PTAs) work with and under the supervision of physical therapists, helping patients heal and build strength after illnesses, accidents or other trauma to their bodies. Far less education is required to become a PTA than to be a physical therapist: completion of an associate's degree and meeting state requirements for certification or licensing is usually sufficient. The BLS predicts that the employment of PTAs could grow by 41% during the 2014-2024 decade and reported the median annual salary earned by such professionals in 2015 as $25,120.
Dental hygienists work in dental offices, assisting dentists in caring for patients' gums, teeth, and mouths by performing cleanings, educating patients, and assisting during examinations. Licensing is required to be a dental hygienist in all states, and the majority of hygienists hold at least an associate's degree in their field. The median salary earned by dental hygienists was published as $72,330 in 2015 by the BLS, which also reported that employment of these professionals should increase by 19% from 2014 to 2024.
Medical sonographers use diagnostic equipment to scan and take internal pictures or videos of patients' bodies in order to assist physicians in determining the cause of illness, pain, or other symptoms. A number of specializations are available in this field, allowing sonographers to work primarily with particular machines and/or parts of the human body. The need for medical sonographers is expected to increase in the coming years, with the BLS reporting that employment of such professionals will grow by 26% between 2014 and 2024. The median salary for diagnostic medical sonographers was $68,970 in 2015, per the BLS.
Radiologic technologists are similar to medical sonographers in that they use specialized equipment to scan and image the human body. However, the types of machines they use differ, with radiologic technologists using machines that incorporate low levels of radiation to take pictures, such as x-ray machines. They must complete radiology safety training in order to minimize radiation exposure to themselves and their patients, outside of the specific body part they need to scan. Radiolgist technologists earned a median of $56,670 a year in 2015, per the BLS, and should see employment grow by about 9% from 2014-2024.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the BLS, the health care industry is expected to generate 2.3 million new jobs between 2014 and 2024. Advancements in medical technology, a growing aging population requiring more gerontology care and a greater awareness of the need for preventative care have contributed to this rise.
Each segment of the industry provides a range of salaries that vary according to the level of duties, education and training. According to the BLS, the average earnings of non-supervisory workers in most healthcare segments are higher than the average for all private industries, with hospital workers earning more than workers in nursing and institutional care facilities. Home health care workers earned the least. In May 2015, all other types of health technologists and technicians, combined, earned a median salary of $41,260.
There are many jobs involving health technology, including registered nurse, dental hygienist and radiologic technologist. All require postsecondary training through certificate, diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree programs, and most require passing a licensing or certification exam. Jobs in the health care field are growing rapidly as the U.S. population ages.