The views that radiologic technologists give doctors and patients aid in diagnosis and treatment of problems with bones, soft tissue and blood vessels.
General or specialty
Radiologic technologists may work in general radiology or specialize in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans or interventional radiology (such as angiograms). X-ray and fluoroscopy yield images of bones and organs, and ultrasound uses radio waves to produces images of soft tissue.
Radiologic technology students need a two-year degree and must take a certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (www.arrt.org). Technologists specializing in ultrasound take different courses and certification exams. Nuclear medicine technologists, who use small amounts of radioactive material and radiation-detecting equipment, need a four-year nuclear medicine degree and must pass a certification exam.
"Some technologists stay in general radiology because of the variety," says Diane Kelly, director of radiology at Hennepin County Medical Center. At Hennepin, which is a Level 1 Trauma Center, general radiologic technologists take the first x-rays to help determine the treatment that a trauma patient will need. They also work in the operating room, taking x-rays that guide surgeons during a procedure. They perform x-rays on patients, too ill to be transported, with portable x-ray equipment in the patient's room.
Radiologic technologists who want to learn MRI and CT scanning as well as interventional radiology get specialty training on the job, according to Kelly. These specialists receive higher compensation, according to Angie Williams, director of human resources for Consulting Radiologists Ltd., a physician-owned radiology practice based in Minneapolis. Consulting Radiologists employs radiologic technologists who work in their imaging centers and mobile units that visit hospitals without the necessary equipment to perform certain scans.
Compensation for radiologic technologists ranges from $22 to $36 per hour, and for radiology nurses from $26 to $45 an hour, depending on experience, according to Williams.
The job market for radiologic technologists is fairly saturated now, following a shortage only three years ago, according to Kelly and Williams. However, there are openings for radiology nurses. "They need to have strong ICU skills, because the patients that we see are critical," adds Kelly