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Home > Articles > Careers in Radiography: A Guide to this Growing Field

Careers in Radiography: A Guide to this Growing Field

By Candice Mancini
Published on December 7, 2009.

Job Duties

Radiographers, also called radiologic technicians, take x-rays of patients and administer nonradioactive materials into the bloodstream in order for them to be diagnosed by a physician. Radiographers must carefully prepare patients before each x-ray, so that results are accurate and so patients are not unnecessarily exposed to radiation.

To prepare patients, radiographers remove jewelry and other items the x-ray can not pass through, position patients so they can accurately x-ray the part of the body in question, and surround the exposed area with lead shields or other radiation protection devices. Radiographers also explain the procedure to patients, and position the radiographic equipment at the right angle and height. Once all is prepared, they place the x-ray film under the part of the patient's body to be captured and take the image and develop the film.

Radiographers also must keep patient records, communicate with physicians, adjust and maintain equipment, and might prepare work schedules, evaluate equipment purchases, or manage a radiology department. Radiographers with considerable work experience often perform more complex procedures, including performing flouroscopies (using special liquids which the patient drinks so a physician can see and analyze resulting tissue images) and operating CT scans.

Job Skills

Radiographers must be extremely detail-oriented and have the ability to follow technical details very well. They also should possess excellent communication skills, since they will spend most of their days communicating with either patients or physicians. Being physically fit and strong is also important, as is possessing solid mechanical skills and manual dexterity.

Income

According to the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2008 median salary of radiographers was $52,210 per year, or $25,10 per hour. The lowest 10 percent of radiographers earned a median of $35,100, or $16.87 per hour, while the highest 10 percent earned $74,970, or $36.04 per hour. Salaries varied depending on employer and geographical location. The highest paying employers were in scientific, research and development services, and of all states, Massachusetts paid the highest mean wage.

Training and Education

According to the BLS, in 2007 there were over 600 radiography programs in the U.S. that were accredited by The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. While most of these programs award 2-year associate's degrees, others offer 1-year certificates, bachelor's or master's degrees. Most often, radiographers earn their training at community or junior colleges to receive an associate's degree in radiography. Most students attending 1-year certificate programs are experienced radiographers hoping to gain more skills and/or advance in their careers, or are individuals from other health occupations, such as registered nurses. Those pursuing bachelor's or master's degrees are often seeking careers in supervisory, administrative, or teaching positions.

Radiography programs include classroom and clinical instruction in:

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Patient care procedures
  • Radiation physics
  • Radiation protection
  • Principles of imaging
  • Medical terminology
  • Positioning of patients
  • Medical ethics
  • Radiobiology
  • Pathology

In addition to completing an accredited program, radiographers may be required by their states to become licensed. Voluntary certification through The American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (AART) is also available.

Employment

Hospitals are and should continue to be the primary employer of radiographers, according to the BLS, although jobs in doctors' offices and diagnostic imaging centers are expected to grow rapidly. Other employers in the industry include scientific, research and development services, employment services, and colleges, universities, and professional schools.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicts radiologic technologist jobs to increase by 15 percent between 2006 and 2016, from 196,000 to 226,000 employees, faster than average for all occupations. An ever-aging population is considered to be the primary reason for the growing demand for employees in the field.

About the Author
Candice Mancini is a freelance writer and a teacher of AP English literature and college writing. She has an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in English and history.
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