Career Definition for a CAT Scan Technician
A CAT scan, or CT scan, technician is a radiologic technologist trained to operate a sophisticated x-ray machine that produces 3D images of a patient's tissues, organs, circulatory system and bones. These images can help physicians detect cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses.
|Required Education||Generally, an associate's or bachelor's degree; CAT scan technologies training available|
|Job Duties||Include operating a machine that produces 3D images of patients' tissues, organs, circulatory system and bones|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$56,670 (all radiologic technologists)|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||9% growth (all radiologic technologists)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Radiologic technologists (the category CAT scan technicians fall under) have typically earned a 2-year associate's degree at a community college or a 4-year bachelor's degree at a university. Diagnostic imaging professionals who would like additional training in CAT scan technologies can also complete short-term certificates. Curricula in these degree and certificate programs typically consist of didactic instruction and clinical labs covering patient care techniques, anatomy, equipment instrumentation and image evaluation.
Licensing and Certification Info
Some states mandate that CAT scan technicians become certified or licensed before they can practice. Requirements typically include the completion of a state-approved training program and passing scores on an exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the applicant's state of residence.
With extra training, CAT scan technicians can earn additional voluntary certifications from the ARRT in such specialty areas as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job applicants with multiple certifications could face the best employment prospects.
CAT scan technicians are responsible for positioning patients to ensure they're properly aligned with the scanner and operating the CAT scan equipment. To do so, technicians will need physical strength and stamina, not to mention an understanding of complicated diagnostic machinery. Interpersonal skills are also essential to help reassure patients who might be nervous or in pain.
Career and Economic Outlook
The median salary for radiologic technologists as of May 2015 was $56,670, according to the BLS. The BLS also projected an employment increase of 9% from 2014-2024, thanks in large part to a growing elderly population in need of diagnostic services.
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Here are some examples of alternative career options:
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Performing many of the same job duties as CAT scan technicians, nuclear medicine technologists capture diagnostic images of internal body structures and organs using highly technical machines. What differs is that these professionals are trained to administer radioactive drugs used to help detect abnormalities in the resulting images. These technologists also observe reactions to the drugs and take detailed notes that are added to a patient's medical file. An associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine technology is how most enter this profession, but others with experience or a degree in a related healthcare field, such as nursing, can complete a 1-year certificate program. Some states also require licensure of nuclear medicine technologists. The BLS predicts a slower than average job growth of 2% between 2014 and 2024 for these professionals. They earned a median annual income of $73,360, as of May 2015.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Individuals interested in medical imaging might also consider a career in diagnostic medical sonography. Medical sonographers prepare patients for diagnostic procedures, capture video images using an ultrasound transducer, note abnormal findings through detailed reports, clean equipment and communicate with doctors. To qualify for employment, an associate's degree in sonography is generally required, although a certificate program may be sufficient for those already working in a healthcare position. Many employers also prefer applicants with professional certification. According to BLS data from 2015, diagnostic medical sonographers received a median wage of $68,970 per year. A 26% increase in job opportunities was projected for these healthcare workers during the 2014-2024 decade.