If you’re interested in working in a field that offers great salaries and plenty of job opportunities, look no further than medical imaging. People who work in the field of medical imaging are known as radiologic technicians. A more common moniker is known as “x-ray technicians”. Radiologic technicians have gone to school to learn about things like patient positioning, equipment protocols, radiation safety, anatomy, examination techniques, patient care and radiation protection. As a radiologic technician, you will have the opportunity to specialize in one or more specific medical imaging techniques. For example, you may decide to specialize in x-rays, bone densitometry, computed tomography, mammography or cardiovascular-interventional radiology. You may also consider going into magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, sonography, radiation therapy or quality management.
In 2010, the radiologic technology profession made headlines when it was selected as one of the U.S. News and World Report’s 50 Best Careers of 2011. This was a big deal for the medical imaging field; with the economy finally starting to improve, people looking to find jobs or change careers were bound to take into account such information when it came to selecting a field in which to work. U.S. News based its analysis on information provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimates that the radiologic technician job market will grow faster than average. According to the BLS, in 2008, there were 214,700 jobs, and it estimates that the number of jobs in this field will jump to 251,700 by 2018, which is a 17 percent increase. The BLS says that these 37,000 jobs will be created in response to the aging baby boomer population; with so many people aging all at once and suffering from illness or injuries, more and more people will need medical imaging. In addition, because medical imaging is becoming increasingly accurate and advanced, it is used more frequently for early detection of diseases. Since early disease detection usually results in a lower cost of treatment on a long-term basis, insurance companies will be happy to reimburse the cost of medical imaging procedures more often.
In 2008, the median annual wage for a radiologic technician was $52,210, and 50 percent of all radiologic technicians made between $42,710 and $63,010. More than 60 percent of jobs in this field can be found in hospitals; other places where radiologic technicians work include doctor’s offices, diagnostic laboratories, mobile medical imaging units and outpatient care centers. Thanks to medical imaging equipment becoming less expensive, more doctor’s offices are purchasing their own equipment and doing medical imaging onsite instead of referring patients elsewhere to have these procedures performed.
Like the BLS, Kyle Thornton, the department chair of the medical imaging program at the City College of San Francisco, feels that going into radiologic technology even after 2011 is a great idea. However, Thornton notes that this field is not for everyone; oftentimes, you will have to deal with very ill patients, and it can be difficult to work with doctors and nurses in high pressure situations. Although radiologic technicians can make good money, don’t consider going into this field just for the big bucks; if you’re not interested first and foremost in helping people, then this isn’t the field for you.
The BLS suggests that if you want to have the best possible employment opportunities, you should specialize in more than one medical imaging procedure. Technicians with extensive experience and the right training can aim for high level positions such as supervisor, chief radiologic technician or department administrator. You may also need to get additional education in order to advance your career. Most radiologic technicians start out with associate degrees, and some people choose to get certificates or bachelor’s degrees instead.
However, having a degree isn’t enough for most radiologic technicians; many go on to get certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) as well. Getting ARRT certification is a great way to make yourself into a more attractive candidate. There are two main reasons to get ARRT certification. The first reason is that many states will require you to be licensed. As part of the licensing process, the states may use the same exams administered by the ARRT for certification purposes. If you have to take the exams to get licensed, why not kill two birds with one stone and get certified as well? The second reason to get ARRT certification is that although it may not be mandatory, employers prefer candidates who have gone the extra mile and become certified; employers feel good about hiring candidates who have essentially been prescreened by a respectable organization.