Diagnostic Radiological Technician: Job Outlook & Career Info

Mar 20, 2019

Explore the work duties of a diagnostic radiological technician. Learn about educational and certification requirements as well as employment outlook and salary to make an informed career decision.

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Career Definition for a Diagnostic Radiological Technician

The diagnostic radiological technician goes by many titles, but you may know this position most commonly as an x-ray technician or radiographer. The radiologic technician uses a machine that emits x-rays, which are a certain wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, to take and develop still photos of a patient's bones or organs for the physician to peruse. Radiological technicians will, at minimum, know how to do radiologic procedures for the chest, extremities, the skull and sinus area, spine and feet, as the American Registry of Radiation Technologists' 'limited scope' examination entails. The exam also determines the student's skills in patient care and education as well as in equipment operation and quality.

Required Education An associate's or bachelor's degree in radiology or a similar subject; a trade school diploma
Job Duties Include using an x-rays machine to take and develop photos of patients' bones or organs
Median Salary (2017)* $58,440 (all radiologic technologists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 12% growth (all radiologic technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Necessary

An Associate of Science or Applied Science in Radiography or similar subject is standard, though radiography educational programs range from a trade school diploma to a university-issued bachelor's degree. To see all available programs, visit the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology website. To have a job, radiological technicians will almost certainly need to pass the ARRT radiography certification exam.

Skills Required

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management's 'Position Classification Standard' notes that the diagnostic radiologic technician must account for the time of X-ray exposure, amount of voltage, peak voltage, and machine's correct distance to the targeted body area. Radiological technicians will use various devices or screens as well as narrow the x-ray beam to protect himself the patient, in addition to himself or herself, from needless radiation exposure.

Salary and Career Outlook

As of May 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median salary of radiologic technologists was $58,440. The BLS also projected that job growth for radiologic technologists would be faster than average - at 12% for the period of 2016-2026.

Alternative Careers

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

For those interested in conducting more complex imaging procedures, a career in diagnostic medical sonography could be the right choice. Sonographers use a special wand called a transducer to bounce ultrasonic waves off of internal organs. They set up the computerized equipment, apply gel to the body area, record video and still images, take detailed notes and prepare reports for physician review.

An associate degree in sonography is usually required in order to work in this field, but those currently in another healthcare position, like radiation therapy or nursing, can qualify for sonography jobs by completing a certificate program. Professional certification is also required by many employers and some insurance companies.

The BLS expects employment of diagnostic medical sonographers to grow by 23% during the 2016-2026 decade. Sonographers earned a median income of $71,410 in 2017, as seen in BLS figures.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Although performing work that is similar to what a radiologic technician does, nuclear medicine technologists differ in their use of radioactive drugs that enhance body structure images. They administer the drugs to patients, program the machines to take pictures, record observations, watch patients for drug reactions and maintain the equipment.

Nuclear medicine technologists can find employment with an associate degree in nuclear medicine, but many technologists choose to earn a bachelor's degree in order to be competitive in the job market. Licensure is also required in many states. In 2017, about 18,930 nuclear medicine technologists worked in the U.S. and received a median salary of $75,660, based on BLS data. The BLS also projected a 10% increase in job opportunities for these technologists from 2016-2026.

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