What happens when someone gets injured? Eventually, you'll likely have to see a physician. Physicians are one of a greater team of medical experts that work together to ensure you get the treatment you need as quickly and carefully as possible. One person on that team is the radiologist technologist, which specializes in various medical imaging techniques that help discover where these injuries originate by using the most advanced imaging technology available on the planet. For people interested in joining this league of medical diagnostic experts, there are countless University radiology programs available across the country.
What Is an X-Ray Technician?
X-ray technicians, otherwise known as radiologic technologists, are people that determine what ailments a patient may have when they come to an office in search for medical advice. X-rays are the most well-known way to receive medical analysis to reach a diagnosis, but there are others available. Radiologists use a variety of technology to examine our bodies and analyze the data they record after. Some choices include MRI scans, CT scans, and fluoroscopy, and mammographies.
Radiologist technologists also talk to patients about their diagnosis and during treatment. People that have a chronic disease or injury that requires complex imagery techniques may be alarmed by what the techniques require. That's understandable. X-rays emit a form of radiation that can have dangerous effects if administered improperly. Fortunately, x-ray technicians are thoroughly trained in managing patient concerns and the imagery techniques they use to reach a diagnosis.
Some responsibilities on the job include ensuring that patients bodies are appropriately positioned to prevent x-rays and other potentially dangerous beams from reaching the wrong areas of their body. This may involve laying a lead apron across the patient's body to assist in minimizing x-ray emissions. During diagnostic procedures, x-ray technicians are the front line in reducing patient stress.
Technicians might have to answer questions the patient has in order to reassure them about the process before, during, and after imaging techniques are complete. After the medical imaging is over, technicians have to keep records of procedures to retrieve during future visits. It's also essential to monitor how much radiation they've been exposed to throughout the day. A patient only has to go through an imaging procedure once, while the technician will be near x-ray emitting machines the entire day. Excessive exposure to radiation could lead to cancer.
From there, technicians have to examine the data they gather from imaging techniques. Doing so requires an eye for details that can distinguish between normal physiology and any possible abnormalities. Sometimes this can be simple. Finding a broken bone out of x-ray images and determining the extent that the bone broke is relatively easy. Determining the nature of someone's nervous or circulatory system, however, may require extensive training and an understanding of human anatomy. The amount of training they go through is crucial to a patient's well being.
X-ray technicians will continue receiving some form of training or learning to keep up with the constant discoveries in imaging technology that allow for more precise diagnosis of patients. Along with adapting to perpetually shifting technology, they must ensure that the technology they have is kept clean. They're responsible for maintaining them to reduce the likelihood of malfunction.
Technicians can specialize in particular fields, or become generalists. Their specializations can vary based on the technology they use or the organ system they study. Some specializations that technicians can get certificates for include:
Career Outlook & Salary
Unless technology reaches a point that allows for us to automate the profession, x-ray technicians have a stable career with a positive job outlook. As people grow older and modern medicine allows people to live for longer than they have in the past, more people will need diagnostic procedures done. Efforts towards giving everyone healthcare in the United States should also increase the number of people receiving medical care and increase the work available for radiologist technologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for radiology technologists will increase by 13% between 2016 to 2026.
Salaries for radiology technologists vary based on their training and prior experience. To become a radiology technologist typically requires some amount of training and certifications through a University radiology program. How much training is involved determines how much leverage they have in earning higher wages. People that graduated with Bachelors degrees will probably receive better wages than those that graduated from associate programs, and people graduating from accredited programs will probably make more than those that haven't.
The overall range of salaries for x-ray technicians is between around $30,0000 and $90,000 a year. The median annual salary reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $58,440. The lowest salaries were below $39,840 while the top 10% earners made over $84,110.
University Radiology X-Ray Technician Programs
The most important aspect of any University radiology program is making sure it's accredited by the proper institutions. This reasoning is two-fold. It's difficult to gain government-funded financial aid for attending a University radiology program unless it's an accredited program, typically through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, or JRCERT.
Even if someone completed an unaccredited program, they may not be able to legally work in most states. What requirements there are for radiologic technologist varies from region to region, but to have the most viable chance at becoming an x-ray technician means getting certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, or the ARRT.
Gaining certification from ARRT requires attending a JRCERT accredited program and passing the ARRT exam afterward. This may sound like a lot of hoops to jump through, but x-ray technicians work with machines that can be extremely dangerous if handled improperly. Holding them to a single standard helps prevent accidents on the job that could permanently harm patients and themselves.
Programs vary on how much work they require. There are plenty of programs offering associates degrees in radiologic technology. These programs will give you the essentials to doing your job responsibly, but they won't allow you to become a radiologist without further education. To people that may consider specializing or advancing in their career later on, getting a Bachelor's degree through a University radiology program may be a better option.
Points of Interest
The University of North Carolina has a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Only two students have ever failed their first attempt at their ARRT exam since the University began offering radiologic science degrees back in 1976. All graduates interested in pursuing a position in radiologic science found a job within twelve months of graduation.
All graduates from 2012 to 2016 that sought employment were still employed in medical imaging. During the 2012-2016 period, 88% completed the program. Courses include studying human anatomy and physiology, radiologic science, imaging, and clinical education.
California State University in Northridge California has a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic science that takes two-and-a-half years to complete after finishing the pre-requisite classes. This University radiology program has a lot of on-hands experience to help students prepare for the job once they're out of college.
Students have to complete at least 2,600 hours of clinical practice and shadow radiologic technologists for at least 40 hours before graduating. They're given a general education in medical imaging and some education on specialized imaging procedures such as MRIs, CTs, and cardiovascular imaging. Training in these specific areas allows students to more easily specialize if they choose to later on.
The program is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, so they're guaranteed to provide the maximum amount of job opportunities compared to an unaccredited institution. From 2011 to 2016, only one student didn't pass their ARRT exam on the first try.
Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls offers a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science that students can do online or on campus. The school focuses on specializations too, providing classes focused on general radiography, surgical radiography, and mobile radiography and fluoroscopy.
Students can also receive certifications in specific imaging procedures like CT, MRI, Mammography, and Interventional Radiography. After taking classes focused on these forms of medical imaging, students have to do an 11-month externship at an affiliated healthcare facility with the supervision of a clinical instructor. If they successfully complete the externship they can move on to take the ARRT exam.
Externships may take them to states such as Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Washington. From 2015 to 2017, 99% of students that went into the program completed it and passed their ARRT exam. The starting median salary for graduates during this period was $52,000.
These aren't the only programs available — just some of the most prolific ones. There's the possibility that none of these programs may be what you're looking for, but these programs serve as is a guideline for embarking on your own search for a university radiology program. Wherever you decide to fulfill your training, it should have a high completion rate, some form of accreditation, offer real-world experience in the field, and give you some room for specialization during your undergrad endeavors and beyond.