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Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist
Significant Points
  • Employment is projected to grow faster than average; those with knowledge of more than one diagnostic imaging procedure will have the best employment opportunities.
  • Formal training programs in radiography are offered in hospitals or colleges and universities and lead to a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree.
  • Most States require licensure, and requirements vary.
  • Although hospitals will remain the primary employer, a number of new jobs will be found in physicians' offices and diagnostic imaging centers.
Nature of the Work

Radiologic technologists and technicians perform diagnostic imaging examinations like x rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and mammography.

Some radiologic technologists and technicians, referred to as radiographers, produce x-ray films (radiographs) of parts of the human body for use in diagnosing medical problems. They prepare patients for radiologic examinations by explaining the procedure, removing jewelry and other articles through which x rays cannot pass, and positioning patients so that the parts of the body can be appropriately radiographed. To prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation, these workers surround the exposed area with radiation protection devices, such as lead shields, or limit the size of the x-ray beam. Radiographers position radiographic equipment at the correct angle and height over the appropriate area of a patient's body. Using instruments similar to a measuring tape they may measure the thickness of the section to be radiographed and set controls on the x-ray machine to produce radiographs of the appropriate density, detail, and contrast.

Radiologic technologists and technicians must follow physicians' orders precisely and conform to regulations concerning the use of radiation to protect themselves, their patients, and their coworkers from unnecessary exposure.

In addition to preparing patients and operating equipment, radiologic technologists and technicians keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. They also may prepare work schedules, evaluate purchases of equipment, or manage a radiology department.

Radiologic technologists also perform more complex imaging procedures. When performing fluoroscopies, for example, radiologic technologists prepare a solution for the patient to drink, allowing the radiologist (a physician who interprets radiographs) to see soft tissues in the body.

Some radiologic technologists specialize in computed tomography (CT), as CT technologists. CT scans produce a substantial amount of cross-sectional x rays of an area of the body. From those cross-sectional x rays, a three-dimensional image is made. The CT uses ionizing radiation; therefore, it requires the same precautionary measures that are used with x rays.

Radiologic technologists also can specialize in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR) as MR technologists. MR, like CT, produces multiple cross-sectional images to create a 3-dimensional image. Unlike CT and x rays, MR uses non-ionizing radio frequency to generate image contrast.

Radiologic technologists might also specialize in mammography. Mammographers use low dose x-ray systems to produce images of the breast.

In addition to radiologic technologists, others who conduct diagnostic imaging procedures include cardiovascular technologists and technicians, diagnostic medical sonographers, and nuclear medicine technologists.

Work environment. Physical stamina is important in this occupation because technologists and technicians are on their feet for long periods and may lift or turn disabled patients. Technologists and technicians work at diagnostic machines but also may perform some procedures at patients' bedsides. Some travel to patients in large vans equipped with sophisticated diagnostic equipment.

Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by the use of lead aprons, gloves, and other shielding devices, and by instruments monitoring exposure to radiation. Technologists and technicians wear badges measuring radiation levels in the radiation area, and detailed records are kept on their cumulative lifetime dose.

Most full-time radiologic technologists and technicians work about 40 hours a week. They may, however, have evening, weekend, or on-call hours. Some radiologic technologists and technicians work part time for more than one employer; for those, travel to and from facilities must be considered.

Diagnostic Radiologic Technician, GS-0647-03

Nature, range, and complexity of work

Under close supervision, gains experience in the operation of radiographic equipment by performing diagnostic radiographic examinations which are routine and require no deviation from standard positioning and technical factors (control settings).

  • Operates radiographic equipment to produce X-ray films of chest, joints, feet, hands, long bones of arms and legs, and other routine views (posterior and anterior) of other parts of the body. Working with outpatients or ambulatory patients, positions patients and determines and sets technical factors in accordance with standardized procedures and techniques.
  • Operates automatic film processing machines to develop X-ray film and prepares film processing chemicals.
  • Performs related clerical duties such as identifying film and recording pertinent data on charts, work requests, and records.
  • Diagnostic Radiologic Technician, GS-0647-04

    Nature, range, and complexity of work

    Performs most routine diagnostic radiographic procedures under general supervision and gains experience in the performance of more difficult techniques and procedures by assisting higher grade technologists.

  • Operates radiographic equipment to produce X-ray films of chest, joints, feet, hands, long bones of arms and legs and other routine views of other parts of the body. Working with outpatients or ambulatory patients, positions patients and sets technical factors in accordance with standardized procedures and techniques.
  • Assists higher grade technologists to position patients, determine and set technical factors, deal with patient's questions, administer contrast materials and take fluoroscopic and film exposures in procedures such as gastrointestinal series, barium enema examinations, cholangiograms and pyelograms. Procedures involve contrast materials which are administered orally or by enema.
  • Assists higher grade technologists to perform radiologic examinations which are routine but require deviation from standard guidelines for positioning and setting technical factors due to patient's disability, i.e., unconscious, paraplegic, acutely ill, etc.
  • Diagnostic Radiologic Technician, GS-0647-05

    Nature, range, and complexity of work

    Working at a dispensary, technician independently performs a variety of diagnostic radiographic examinations.

  • Follows standard operating procedures to perform X-rays of skull, chest, pelvis, extremities, spine, and abdomen for purposes such as routine industrial health examinations, preemployment physicals, and diagnosis of injuries and illnesses reported on the job. Occasionally deviates from standard procedures to adapt for deformities of body, injuries, and other variable considerations such as age and weight of patient.
  • Performs darkroom duties such as loading and unloading cassettes, operating automatic film processing machines, and mixing and replenishing processing chemicals.
  • Maintains records such as daily log of patients, statistical reports, films on loan from the department, and X-ray files.
  • Performs routine X-rays of skull, chest, pelvis, spine, abdomen, and extremities for diagnosis of injuries and illness such as broken bones, sprains, and tuberculosis when unusual deviations from standard positioning and technical factors are often required to adapt to physical considerations such as deformities of body, injuries, or serious illness of patient.
  • Assists radiologist in the less complex fluoroscopic and spot film examinations which require administration of contrast material. Typical examples are gastrointestinal series, barium enemas, pyelograms and cholangiograms. Prepares contrast media. Administers contrast media orally or by enema.
  • Performs darkroom operations, loading and unloading cassettes, operating automatic film processors or hand developing film, and mixing processing chemicals.
  • Maintains records of patients examined, examinations performed, views taken, and technical factors used.
  • Diagnostic Radiologic Technician, GS-0647-06

    Nature, range, and complexity of work

    Performs a variety of difficult radiographic examinations. Receives patient, explains method of procedure, positions patient, selects and sets technical factors, sets up and adjusts accessory equipment required, and makes exposures necessary for the requested procedure.

  • Performs procedures such as cholangiography, linear tomography, xerographic mammography, lumbar and thoracic myelography, bronchography, lymphangiography, or femoral arteriography. Sets up the X-ray room. Assures that sterile supplies, contrast materials, catheters, or other required equipment are present and laid out. Prepares and administers contrast material orally, by enema, or, under close control of radiologist, intravenously. As required by procedure or patient's condition, monitors vital signs such as heart beat and blood pressure and notifies radiologist of significant changes.
  • Performs examinations of head, trunk, and extremities for routine physical examinations and for diagnosis of illness or of injuries of accident victims.
  • Processes exposed radiographs and prepares film processing chemicals.
  • Maintains records of patients examined, examinations performed, views taken, and technical factors used.
  • Assists radiologists and higher grade technologists to perform more complex procedures such as carotid arteriograms.
  • Diagnostic Radiologic Technician, GS-0647-07

    Nature, range, and complexity of work

    Working in an outpatient clinic as technologist in charge of the radiology section, performs a variety of difficult radiographic examinations. Receives patients, explains methods of procedures, positions patients, selects and sets technical factors, sets up and adjusts accessory equipment and makes exposures necessary for the requested procedure.

  • Independently makes routine radiographic examinations of head, trunk, and extremities for diagnosis of illness or injuries.
  • Performs procedures as a team member, with a radiologist, such as bronchograms, cholecystograms, cholangiograms, urethrograms, G. I. series, and barium and air contrast barium enemas. Sets up the X-ray room. Assures that sterile supplies, local anesthetics, contract materials, catheters, and other required equipment are present and laid out. Prepares and administers contrast material.
  • Schedules patients for examinations. Maintains logs of patients and procedures used. Prepares file jackets on patients X-rays. Requisitions supplies.
  • Cleans, oils, makes minor repairs and adjustments to X-ray equipment, accessories, and automatic film processing machine. Operates film processing machines.
  • Reviews new developments in the field and recommends to the head of the clinic adoption of those which would improve the operation of the radiology section.
  • Diagnostic Radiologic Technician, GS-0647-08

    Nature, range, and complexity of work

    Performs computerized axial tomographic scanning of heads and/or bodies. Directs the work of one or two lower grade technologists/ technicians when procedures require assistance.

  • Receives patient, explains methods of procedure, positions patient and makes exposures necessary for the requested examination.
  • Independently makes standard examinations.
  • Confers with radiologists to establish requirements of nonstandard examinations and determines technical factors, positioning, number and thickness cut of scans, etc., to satisfy the requirements.
  • Schedules patients for examinations. Evaluates the nature of critical and emergency procedures and rearranges patient priorities to accommodate them. Maintains records of patients treated, examinations performed, scans taken, etc. Maintains permanent record of scans in a tape library.
  • Advises radiologist or referring physician of results of examination and provides them with a preliminary diagnostic evaluation. Notifies them of significant scans requiring their immediate attention and visualization while patient is undergoing examination.
  • Makes minor adjustments to equipment such as setting up wedges or changing traverse length adjusters. Performs preventive maintenance as required. May operate film processing machines.
  • Reviews new developments in the field and recommends to supervisor those which would improve the operation of the section.
  • Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

    There are multiple paths to entry into this profession offered in hospitals or colleges and universities. Most States require licensure, and requirements vary.

    Education and training. Formal training programs in radiography lead to a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. An associate degree is the most prevalent form of educational attainment among radiologic technologists and technicians. Some may receive a certificate. Certificate programs typically last around 21-24 months.

    The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology accredits formal training programs in radiography. The committee accredited 213 programs resulting in a certificate, 397 programs resulting in an associate degree, and 35 resulting in a bachelor’s degree in 2009. The programs provide both classroom and clinical instruction in anatomy and physiology, patient care procedures, radiation physics, radiation protection, principles of imaging, medical terminology, positioning of patients, medical ethics, radiobiology, and pathology.

    Students interested in radiologic technology should take high school courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.

    Licensure. Federal legislation protects the public from the hazards of unnecessary exposure to medical and dental radiation by ensuring that operators of radiologic equipment are properly trained. However, it is up to each State to require licensure of radiologic technologists. Most States require licensure for practicing radiologic technologists. Licensing requirements vary by State; for specific requirements contact your State’s health board.

    Certification and other qualifications. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers voluntary certification for radiologic technologists. In addition, a number of States use ARRT-administered exams for State licensing purposes. To be eligible for certification, technologists must graduate from an ARRT-approved accredited program and pass an examination. Many employers prefer to hire certified radiologic technologists. In order to maintain an ARRT certification, 24 hours of continuing education must be completed every 2 years.

    Radiologic technologists should be sensitive to patients' physical and psychological needs. They must pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and work as part of a team. In addition, operating complicated equipment requires mechanical ability and manual dexterity.

    Advancement. With experience and additional training, staff technologists may become specialists, performing CT scanning, MR, mammography, or bone densitometry. Technologists also may advance, with additional education and certification, to become a radiologist assistant. The ARRT offers specialty certification in many radiologic specialties as well as a credentialing for radiologist assistants.

    Experienced technologists also may be promoted to supervisor, chief radiologic technologist, and, ultimately, department administrator or director. Depending on the institution, courses or a master's degree in business or health administration may be necessary for the director's position.

    Some technologists progress by specializing in the occupation to become instructors or directors in radiologic technology educational programs; others take jobs as sales representatives or instructors with equipment manufacturers.

    Job Outlook

    Employment is projected to grow faster than average. Those with knowledge of more than one diagnostic imaging procedure—such as CT, MR, and mammography—will have the best employment opportunities.

    Employment change. Employment of radiologic technologists is expected to increase by about 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. As the population grows and ages, there will be an increasing demand for diagnostic imaging. With age comes increased incidence of illness and injury, which often requires diagnostic imaging for diagnosis. In addition to diagnosis, diagnostic imaging is used to monitor the progress of disease treatment. With the increasing success of medical technologies in treating disease, diagnostic imaging will increasingly be needed to monitor progress of treatment.

    The extent to which diagnostic imaging procedures are performed depends largely on cost and reimbursement considerations. However, accurate early disease detection allows for lower cost of treatment in the long run, which many third-party payers find favorable.

    Although hospitals will remain the principal employer of radiologic technologists, a number of new jobs will be found in offices of physicians and diagnostic imaging centers. As technology advances many imaging modalities are becoming less expensive and more feasible to have in a physician’s office

    Job prospects. In addition to job growth, job openings also will arise from the need to replace technologists who leave the occupation. Those with knowledge of more than one diagnostic imaging procedure—such as CT, MR, and mammography—will have the best employment opportunities as employers seek to control costs by using multi-credentialed employees.

    Demand for radiologic technologists and technicians can tend to be regional with some areas having large demand, while other areas are saturated. Technologists and technicians willing to relocate may have better job prospects.

    CT is continuing to become a frontline diagnosis tool. Instead of taking x rays to decide whether a CT is needed, as was the practice before, it is often the first choice for imaging because of its accuracy. MR also is increasingly used. Technologists with credentialing in either of these specialties will be very marketable to employers.

    Earnings

    The median annual wage of radiologic technologists was $52,210 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,710 and $63,010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,100, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,970. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of radiologic technologists in 2008 were:

    Medical and diagnostic laboratories $55,210
    Federal Executive Branch 53,650
    General medical and surgical hospitals 52,890
    Outpatient care centers 50,840
    Offices of physicians 48,530

    Sources of Additional Information

    For information on careers in radiologic technology, contact:

    • American Society of Radiologic Technologists, 15000 Central Ave. SE., Albuquerque, NM 87123. Internet: http://www.asrt.org

    For the current list of accredited education programs in radiography, contact:

    • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 2850, Chicago, IL 60606-3182. Internet: http://www.jrcert.org

    For certification information, contact:

    • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, 1255 Northland Dr., St. Paul, MN 55120-1155. Internet: http://www.arrt.org

    Information on obtaining Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

    Sources:

    • Office of Personnel Management, Position Classification Standards.

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