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Radiography is an established and growing field in the paramedical community essential to many diagnostic and treatment practices in the US medical landscape. The demand for certified, educated and trained radiographers is predicted to continue to grow in the next ten years. Radiography salary and job prospects are reassuring to individuals who are seeking to explore getting the education and training required to pursue this important position.
What Is Radiography?
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According to the FDA, radiography is a broad term that refers to the types of medical studies designed to view internal body parts using x-ray technology. X-ray technology is most often used to create still or moving images for treatment, treatment planning or diagnosis. It is an aspect of medical diagnosis and care that is integrated into most hospitals, many clinics, and many physician’s offices.
In diagnosis, radiography is used most often to detect structural damage to the skeletal system, foreign objects, disease or anomaly. It is also commonly used in dental, orthopedic, and chiropractic examinations. Specialty uses of radiography include mammography for screening and detection of breast cancers, surgery preparation and surgery markers such as marking the edges of a tumor, and fluoroscopy which is a moving version of a still x-ray.
The process of creating a still image using x-ray involves passing an x-ray beam through the body. The x-rays are either absorbed or scattered by the internal structures and the remaining parts of the x-ray beam move through to a detector to be recorded. The recording occurs electronically or on film. Exposure to x-ray radiation no matter which technique is being utilized is limited and the image remains after the exposure has ended.
Radiography carries the risk of x-ray exposure to the radiographer and the patient, although appropriate safety practices and procedures such as minimizing the number of images and using shielding can minimize risks. Radiation dose varies by type of imaging and the number of exposures but leads to a significant increase in risk for radiation-induced cancers, radiation-induced cataracts, and is teratogenic for embryos and fetuses in utero.
What Does A Radiographer Do?
A radiographer plays an essential part of the medical team, providing valuable information through radiology that allows healthcare providers to accurately diagnose and treat various conditions. Radiographers are also referred to as radiography technicians and x-ray technicians. The difference in titles is usually due to training, education or licensing requirements while the job requirements remain the same.
Radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians commonly work in clinics, urgent care, hospitals, private physician offices or radiography clinics. They work directly with the medical equipment that creates the x-ray images used to provide information needed by health care providers, and they are often required to upkeep that equipment. They set up and prepare the area and x-ray equipment, help the patient prepare and complete the procedure, and create the radiologic image.
Usually, radiographers work on patients who have a referral or an order from a health care provider that specifies what information is needed from the x-ray imaging procedure based. The radiographer then decides which imaging techniques are best to provide that information. Once this diagnostic image is complete, it is given to a radiologist or physician for interpretation. Later, radiographers may receive follow up orders to further clarify or measure treatment progress.
Tasks Of Radiographers
Radiography Salary, Job Outlook, Education, And Certification
Radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians make a reasonable living wage that often includes benefit packages and bonuses. Benefits packages including health insurance, vision, dental, paid time off and retirement plans are common for professionals who are also paid a fair radiography salary.
Median hourly salaries stand at about $$ per hour with a range between $ and $$$ per hour for radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians with fewer than five years of experience. Annual radiographer salary ranges between $ and $$$ with an average entry-level radiography salary at $ to $$. The median overall annual radiography salary is $$$.
Experience levels affect radiography salary greatly, with individual radiographers seeing greater reimbursements the more experience they acquire. Very experienced radiographers with more than 20 years experience will earn more than $$$ per year. Similarly, radiography salary will increase by pursuing higher levels of training with a focus on specialized fields. These fields include things such as mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).
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Job Outlook Of A Radiographer
Job growth in health care careers are expected to continue to increase in the coming years, and radiographers will be ready within two years to catch the wave of healthcare job market. Radiographers are expected to have a 9% job growth over the next ten years which is as high as any medical field. Currently, it is a highly demanded profession. The demand radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians is projected to grow as radiography services become increasingly integrated with other growing medical fields.
Most radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians report feeling very satisfied with their jobs, especially after obtaining some experience that moves them beyond entry-level positions. They can interact with patients directly, interface with other healthcare professionals, and provide needed information that aids in diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, they are fairly compensated and in demand.
Radiographers with substantial experience find it easy to advance into supervisory roles for radiology departments. Additionally, many employers will offer education reimbursement incentives that further advance a radiographer, radiology technician, or x-ray technician’s job prospects. These compensations may be provided in on-the-job training, continuing education opportunities, or tuition reimbursement.
An associate’s degree or certificate program are the two most common routes to becoming a radiographer. Either education path takes about two years or less to complete. Most radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians will begin education at a local community college or technical school, where classes are small, and support from instructors is easier to access than degrees which require university attendance.
Often, the most in-demand radiographers, radiology technicians, or x-ray technicians and those with the highest radiographer salaries are radiographers that hold an Associate Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree or an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree. Some radiographers obtain a Bachelors level education before certification and licensing, although this is rare and oftentimes unnecessary to be competitive in the job market.
Certification And Licensing
A license or certification is required in most states to practice as a radiographer. A certificate awarded by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) can be obtained by passing certification examinations following completion of an approved program. ARRT certification can provide more employment opportunities as certification is often a required or preferred qualification of employers. Some states require ARRT certification and registration before licensing.
Licensing will vary state by state, and each state sets their own requirements for qualifications, education, and examinations. Legal requirements are usually in place for abilities to license or renew a license, safety expectations, practice restrictions, and practice protocols. Each state has different requirements, and according to ARRT, 75% of states require state-level licensing to legally practice as a radiographer, radiology technician, or x-ray technician.
Prospective radiographers are encouraged to check with the state(s) in which they plan on working before deciding on an education or certification path. Some states will accept an out-of-state license, but others require the applicant start anew. Some require AART certification and/or registration or a certain education and experience level. Taking the time to research options may prevent having to obtain further requirements after initial education.
The role of the radiographer, radiology technician, or x-ray technician is a vital and in-demand profession. Radiography is essential for many diagnostic and treatment methods. It is a satisfying career which provides the radiographer the chance to interact directly with patients and collaborate with other members of the healthcare team. Education requirements are a short two years at a local college or vocational school, and certification and licensing vary.
An annual radiography salary can be expected to start at $$ to $$$ plus benefits and bonuses for radiographers with little to no experience. Job projections are positive, and most radiographers can feel certain they will obtain employment directly out of school and continue to advance in their career for years to come. Further specialization and years of experience will increase the radiography salary potential.
Individuals searching for a new career in a paramedical field may find that pursuing education, certification, and employment as a radiographer, radiology technician, or x-ray technician is a viable path. Condensed schooling and training time are rewarded with great job satisfaction, career advancement, and good compensation all while serving a vital role in health care.