Radiographers use diagnostic imaging equipment to produce images of the body's tissues, organs, bones and vessels. They may also specialize in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or mammography. Sonographers use high-frequency sound waves to produce ultrasound images. Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases using highly-focused forms of radiation. And nuclear medicine technologists administer tiny amounts of radioactive material and use imaging equipment to produce images of organs and their function.
Students Get A Preview
Century College offers students an overview to give them an idea of what could be in their future, according to Diane Fleury-Evans, director of the White Bear Lake College's radiologic technology program.
"In the two year RT programs, the students don't learn how to do CTs or MRIs," she explains. "They get an introduction to it and that's when many of them might decide their next step." Some choose to go right into on-the-job training for CT or MRI and may take formal course work before taking a national certification examination administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (www.arrt.org).
Check For Accreditation
"As far as formal programs, students want to make sure they're going to be accredited programs so they're eligible to take the certification exam at the end," Fleury-Evans advises. "Before selecting any program, be aware of the program's accreditation status – is the program in good standing with the national accreditation group?"
To determine accreditation status, visit www.jcert.org, the website of the Joint Commission on Education in Radiologic Technology.
"There are many educational tracks to achieving the education required for the different imaging careers," Fleury-Evans says. "Some require completion of a two-year program while others areas require more education and may include obtaining a Bachelor's degree. Choosing the correct education may seem confusing, so seek advice from experts in your field of interest."
Don't Rule Out Management
Radiologic techs should also consider management as part of their career ladder, according to Nancy Good, who started as a tech and is now director of clinic operations for Consulting Radiologists Ltd., a physician-owned radiology practice based in Minneapolis. Consulting radiologists employs experienced techs as regional specialists providing business support to the small hospitals that work with the practice. Techs have also risen to clinic managers. "We encourage that," says Angie Williams, Consulting Radiologists' director of human resources.
The job outlook for radiologic technologists remains strong, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. In 2008, the department included radiologic technology as one of 15 long-term, high-growth and high-pay occupations. In the third quarter of 2008, the median pay rate for radiologic techs in the seven-county metropolitan area was $27.50 an hour, higher than the state and national medians.