Radiology Technician: Important Informations

x-ray result

How much are people paid for helping save a life? A radiology technician salary might not appropriately reflect the crucial role they have in diagnosing injury and ailments. Let's say something related to your health has bothered you recently. It could be as seemingly benign as a cough, mild pain focused in one area of the body, or an itch that doesn't seem to ever disappear.

Many people would, reasonably, try to tough it out. Maybe that cough isn't that big of a deal. Perhaps the pain in your leg is just that and nothing more. What if the itch began after you brushed against poison ivy in a nearby park? In all of those scenarios, it's possible that the paranoia for your health is pointless.

As we grow older, that paranoia slowly becomes more sensible to have. Our bodies age and carry a variety of biomarkers along for the ride. Mutations accumulate over time and prevent us from functioning as optimally as we did in our youth. Some of those mutations could ultimately lead to contracting cancer that our body can't get rid of on its own.

Whether you get checked up is a personal decision, but if you do, a radiologist would be the person who finds the answer. Radiologists use a variety of imaging techniques to analyze our bodies for possible warning signs. A common example would be an x-ray, which emits beams of x-rays to create images of a person's skeletal system. Their expertise expands beyond that, though; they're capable of discovering nearly anything that modern technology can detect within our bodies, ranging from cancer to pregnancies to the quality of your teeth.

What Is a Radiology Technician?

Radiology is a diverse field that requires multiple people working together from the process of imaging a patient to determining the results of said imaging. Radiology technicians are the people who work one-on-one with patients to make sure they're comfortable during medical imaging procedures and that the process happens in a safe and swift fashion. They're the ones who people meet in the MRI room or the person who prepares a patient's body for x-ray scans. Because of this, a radiology technician salary can eventually approach $60,000.

Since radiology technicians act as the bridge between the patient and the physician for discovering a diagnosis, people skills are essential to the job. Countless people encounter radiologists when they're unsure of what a diagnosis may entail or what the long-lasting effects of radiation exposure via x-ray imaging could do. A radiologist quells any concerns patients might have during imaging procedures and ensure that the images produced are clear enough for physicians to analyze.

X-Ray Experts

Working with radiation is a fundamental aspect of the profession. Improper imaging procedure can lead to x-rays affecting the wrong parts of a patient's body, and that can consequently lead to complications beyond what the patient already needs imaging for. While half of the job is socially oriented, the other half focuses on minimizing doses of radiation to either the patient or the technicians themselves.

Radiology technicians have to wear a badge that measures their exposure to radiation, and they record these levels throughout the entirety of their career. Radiation has the potential to increase someone's chances of getting cancer, which is why it's crucial for a technician to pay attention to their exposure over the course of their life. The increased risk of cancer is considered when gauging a radiology technician salary.

One way to minimize radiation exposure is to make sure that the patient isn't receiving x-ray radiation from any other point other than what's being scanned for a diagnosis. Additionally, lead aprons aid in this by preventing radiation from reaching unintended areas of the body

Career Path

Becoming a radiology technician involves a series of individual goals that gives plenty of room for specialization towards the latter parts of one's career.

Whatever the end goal is, the path begins with some form of post-secondary education. People interested in becoming a radiology technician can start by getting either an associate's degrees or by attending one of the few programs that offer a bachelor's degree in radiologic technology.

Students would learn about the fundamentals of human anatomy and how radiation interacts with it. Anatomy, radiation physics, pathology, and radiobiology are some courses to expect from an undergraduate curriculum.

Clinical training starts here as well. Since an important aspect of a radiology technician's job involves interacting with patients, they get hands-on training as soon as possible to grow accustomed to working with patients.

Earning a Certification

Next on the itinerary is becoming certified. Certifications involve training that builds upon the foundation that undergraduate learning creates. They aren't necessary in order to find a job, but realistically they're required — few healthcare institutes would hire a technician otherwise. Having a certification also improves a radiology technician's salary.

The organization that controls most certifications is the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. They'll require a background check and a passing score on the certification exam to earn a certificate. Even after earning one, technicians must continue education to keep the certificate. They require a minimum of 24 hours of schooling every two years.

The classes you take to earn your certificate continue building an understanding of radiology that began in undergraduate school. Some coursework may involve learning about proper radiographic positioning, the physics behind ionizing radiation, anatomy and how it relates to x-ray imaging, and common x-ray imaging techniques.

With their pre-requisites satisfied, radiology technicians can earn a license to practice, which is necessary to practice legally in most of the United States. Since the requirements vary depending on the state, contact your state's health board for specific information.

Radiology Technician Salary

Woman holding us banknote

A radiology technician salary can vary. Their annual salary depends on a range of variables, from the path they took to become a technician, to the locations they search for jobs in.

The Bureau for Labor Statistics reported that, in 2017, the median annual wage for a radiology technician was just over $60,000. The low-end of the spectrum has wages as low as $30,000, while the highest-paid technicians reap upwards of $60,000 a year.

Hourly wages are usually around $14 to $29 an hour. Most technicians have flexible schedules that allow them to clock their 40-hour workweek as they see fit. Sometimes it's a disadvantage as much as it's a benefit — depending on where a technician works, they may have to clock in extra hours over the weekend to help patients. That's frequently the case for radiologist technicians who work at urgent care centers and emergency centers, where the need for diagnostic imaging fluctuates depending on the overall health of the surrounding population.

Finding a Specialization

Many people work as a radiology technician to either become a radiologist technologist or to specialize in a specific form of imaging. Technologists serve a similar role that technicians do, but also direct technicians to ensure they're following proper diagnostic procedures and acting in accordance with a hospital's personal philosophy.

Since they govern over other radiology technicians, their jobs carry more responsibility, so they usually have larger incomes than an average radiology technician salary.

For people who wish to remain a technician but go beyond an average radiology technician salary, there are opportunities for earning certificates in the following areas:

  • Mammography
  • Computed tomography, or CT
  • MRI scans
  • Vascular interventional radiography
  • Bone densitometry
  • Sonography
  • Cardiac interventional radiography
  • Vascular sonography
  • Quality management
  • Breast sonography

Irrespective of their specialization, radiology technology will remain a secure job in the future. As the older generations continue aging, many of them will contract an illness that requires a diagnosis to manage properly.

Presuming that specializing and changing job titles weren't ways a prospecting technician wanted to increase their income, there's an alternative, slower solution: experience. Experience appears to be one of the largest influential factors for determining a radiology technician's annual wage.

Entry-level technicians with below five years of experience can expect wages at an average of $41,0000 a year. Technicians at the middle of their career, or ones with 5 to 10 years of experience, earn $50,0000 on average. At the height of their careers, technicians with a decade or two of experience earn the same amount as their mid-career brethren, but this average annual wage increases again after two full decades of experience — to $59,000 a year.

Conclusion

A radiology technician salary reflects the work which has been put into the career. Many medical professions require a list of hurdles to climb through before meeting the goal at the end of the finish line. Each hurdle serves as a reminder of the importance of their work and the dangers underlying it.

Radiology technicians, at best, can be a part of the early diagnosis process and help prevent cancers, tumors, or broken bones from becoming a fatal or chronic injury. At worst, these tools can inadvertently increase a patient's cancer risk or the technician's own. A mix of procedure mindfulness and social poise can ease any concerns either the practitioner or the patient may have.