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Choosing a specialty as an x-ray technician

By Lisa Tortorello, Aug 04 '11

Opportunities for professionals in the majority of health care professions continue to grow, and x-ray technicians are no exception. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of radiologic technologists and technicians to increase by about 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster growth than the average for all U.S. occupations. According to the BLS, the aging of the U.S. population may expand the demand for diagnostic imaging. Also, as advances in the field of medicine allow for more success in treating chronic diseases, greater amounts of diagnostic imaging may be used to monitor conditions and treatment progress.

The field of x-ray technology may includes various specialties and roles. Radiologic technologists take x-rays and computerized axial tomography or CAT scans. The Department of Labor includes in this group the technologists who use computed tomography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance. Radiologic or x-ray technicians, also called radiographers, maintain and use equipment and supplies necessary to create x-rays or fluoroscopic images for diagnostic purposes.

Other occupations working with diagnostic imaging procedures may include cardiovascular technologists and technicians, diagnostic medical sonographers, and nuclear medicine technologists. Another related field is radiation therapy. Radiation therapists work with radiation oncologists and administer treatments under the physicians' supervision. Dosimetrists calculate the dose of radiation used for tumor treatment; these professionals are often radiation therapists who have taken additional, intensive training.

X-ray technician career opportunities and salaries

The American Society of Radiologic Technologists announced in May 2010 that radiologic technologists' salaries averaged $61,733 per year. The ASRT performs a wage and salary survey every three years. The latest survey showed that average annual wages and also salary increases depended on discipline and specialty, as in these examples:

  • Nuclear medicine technologists: from $69,083 in 2007 to $70,822 in 2010
  • Radiographer: from $52,336 in 2007 to $53,953 in 2010
  • Cardiovascular interventional technologists: from $61,294 in 2007 to $64,614 in 2010
  • Computed tomography technologists: from $57,927 in 2007 to $60,586 in 2010
  • Magnetic resonance technologists: from $61,928 in 2007 to $65,098 in 2010

According to the ASRT, the following occupations showed higher rates of salary increase than some other specialties. The rate by which the salary rose from 2007 to 2010 is indicated here:

  1. Radiation therapists: 10.7 percent
  2. Quality management technologists: 10 percent
  3. Medical dosimetrists: 9.3 percent
  4. Sonographers: 8.5 percent
  5. Mammographers: 6.5 percent

A career as an x-ray technician: getting started

An important step in launching a career as an x-ray technician is determining which education program fits one's goals. Students may have several options, including pursuing a one-year certificate, two-year associate degree program or four-year bachelor's degree track of study. Radiology technician schools may or may not be certified. Some employers may have a policy to hire only employees who have completed certified programs, so it is important for students to be informed in regards to a school's credentials. More information on professional credentials and continuing education is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Prospective students may investigate the job conditions and requirements of x-ray technology to see if they fit the bill. The BLS explains that radiologic technologists and technicians must follow orders carefully and conform to regulations that govern the use of radiation. Techs may also need administrative skills if they prepare work schedules and keep patient records. The occupation may be best suited for individuals who like to work with their hands, since x-ray techs can also adjust and maintain equipment. Prospective techs may need to do research on the many career paths related to x-ray technology so that they can plan their future in this growing field.

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