Radiation Technologist: Job Description & Career Requirements

A radiation technologist assists a medical doctor with patient diagnosis by taking x-rays or introducing other nonradioactive materials into the patient's bloodstream. Learn what it takes to work in this field.

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Career Definition for a Radiation Technologist

A radiation technologist prepares patients for radiologic exams by explaining the procedure, positioning patients correctly and protecting them from unnecessary exposure to radiation. Radiation technologists also protect themselves and coworkers from radiation over-exposure by wearing shielding devices, monitoring equipment and measuring radiation levels in the work place.

Education Associate degree is most common
Job Skills Patience, empathy, physical fitness, ability to comfort patients
Median Salary (2015)* $56,670 for radiation technologists
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% for radiation technologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

An associate's degree in radiation technology is the most common educational requirement for working as a radiation technologist. Coursework for this degree includes anatomy, medical ethics and radiobiology. In some cases a 1-year certification program is considered adequate if related medical experience can be shown. At least 40 states also require radiation technologists to pass a licensing exam in order to handle the potentially hazardous materials and equipment used by radiation technologists.

Required Skills

A radiation technologist must be patient and empathetic in order to work with people who are frightened, ill or in pain. They must also function well in a team and be meticulous in the care of their equipment and attention to safety procedures. A reasonable level of physical fitness is also required for radiation technologists since they must sometimes lift or position patients who are unable to maneuver themselves.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster than average job growth of 9% in the field of radiation technology. With technological advances and affordability of radiation equipment, new jobs will be available in doctors' offices and diagnostic centers; however, the majority of opportunities for radiation technologists will continue to be in hospitals. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for radiation technologists was $56,670 in 2015.

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Alternative Career Options

Consider these other careers in radiologic therapy:

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Like radiation technologists, nuclear medicine technologists use imaging equipment to help doctors diagnose medical problems in patients. Nuclear medicine technologists formulate and administer radioactive solutions that make internal abnormalities stand out during a body scan. They also perform the scans, and provide the resulting images to doctors. Nuclear medicine technologists must complete a 2 or 4-year degree in nuclear technology. These workers may seek professional certification and, in some states, are required to be licensed. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for nuclear medicine technologists was $73,360. The BLS projects that jobs for these workers will increase by 2% from 2014 to 2024.

Radiation Therapists

For those interested in using radiation as a treatment rather than a source of imaging, the career of radiation therapist may be a good fit. Radiation therapists use linear accelerators to administer doses of radiation to specific spots on a patient's body in order to decrease the size of a cancerous tumor or to eliminate it altogether. Typically, radiation therapists complete an associate's or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy. Professional certification and licensure are required for radiation therapists in most states. According to the BLS, radiation therapists earned a median annual salary of $80,220 as of May 2015. The BLS projects this career field is expected to grow by 14% from 2014 to 2024.

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