Allied Health Guides

Radiology Tech Career Overview

Amanda Lundberg, RN, BSN
April 11, 2023
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What is a Radiology Tech?

Radiologic technology is the art and science of taking images using radiation. A radiology tech is the health professional who's responsible for taking those images. This role is sometimes referred to as an X-ray tech. 

There are several types of image technology, each of which utilizes a professional with the specific skill set needed to use the equipment. This includes MRI tech, CT tech, nuclear medicine Tech, and mammography tech. While each of these positions is responsible for getting clear images, they use different technology and equipment to accomplish the task.

The job of a radiology tech is not for everyone. As with any job, there are pros and cons to the position and education requirements that help to advance your career.

What Does a Radiology Tech Do?

On a day-to-day basis, a radiology tech uses X-rays to take images of specific parts of a patient's body. The radiology tech will also help prepare a patient for the test, placing them in the correct position and operating the equipment. 

They work with physicians and patients of all ages. Radiology techs can specialize in a variety of areas, including computed tomography (CT tech), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI tech), mammography tech, nuclear medicine tech, and densitometry tech. Some of the common daily tasks include:

  • Assessing and evaluating patients
  • Preparing patients for X-rays or other types of  imaging
  • Applying radiation protection and safety practices for themselves and their patients
  • Independently taking images or assisting a healthcare provider in procedures, including administration of radiation to cancer patients
  • Ensuring the images are clear
  • Documenting activities according to state and federal regulations

What Skills Does a Radiology Tech Need?

A radiology tech requires the right mix of personality and skill to be a success. They work within a medical environment and collaborate with other healthcare providers to diagnose disease or trauma. The technology of imaging has advanced dramatically in the past 10 years and is increasingly replacing the need for invasive procedures. Some of the skills necessary for radiology techs include:

Examination: Radiology techs take part in several aspects of patient examinations, including positioning the patient, conducting the scan, ensuring safe conditions, and recording data in the patient's chart.

Communication: Radiology techs must be comfortable communicating with patients and other members of the healthcare team. Nervous patients may need comfort. Radiology technicians must be able to interpret nonverbal cues that may offer further clues to the patient's condition.

Computer skills: Nearly all imaging technologies utilize computers to direct the equipment. Radiology techs must also be comfortable with computerized communication systems and electronic health records.

Technology: Some radiology techs are responsible for maintaining and calibrating the equipment. Having an aptitude for technological and mechanical skills can help ensure safety and improve the quality of the images.

Work Settings For Radiology Techs

Radiology techs have the opportunity to work part-time or full-time. Most techs must work evenings, weekends, or on-call hours to meet patient needs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57% of radiology techs work in hospitals, 18% work in medical and diagnostic laboratories, and the remainder work in private offices or outpatient care clinics. Those who have specialized, such as MRI techs, CT techs, or nuclear medicine techs, frequently work in hospital environments.

Common Cases Radiology Techs Encounter

Radiology techs encounter a variety of medical, surgical, and traumatic cases. MRI and CT techs may work with patients who are undergoing tests to diagnose cancer, evaluate an injury, or provide a clear picture of abnormal tissue. Nuclear medicine techs use small amounts of radioactive material to analyze how internal organs are functioning or get a clear view of tissues, bones, and other structures. 

Radiology techs may work with patients who have undergone significant trauma, are being evaluated for broken bones, or determine the presence of a solid tumor. X-rays are used to identify blockages in the gastrointestinal tract, look for foreign objects, or are used as routine screening for cancer and other diseases.

Education Requirements & Helpful Certifications

Radiology techs must have a strong understanding of anatomy, examination techniques, and radiation safety and protection. Hospitals prefer radiology techs to complete a 2-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Radiologic Technology. It is critical the program you choose is accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology

Accreditation ensures that the program you attend meets specific standards and allows you to take a certification examination administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Depending on where you live, radiology techs may be required to meet other state licensure requirements to practice.

How to Become a Radiology Tech

Individuals who would like to become radiology techs should have a strong foundation in math, science, critical thinking, and communication. High School classes that support your education include biology, physics, algebra, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. 

To take the ARRT certification exam, you must have at least earned an associate's degree. Many states require radiology techs to be licensed and some have stricter policies than others. After completing one to two years in an entry-level position, you may want to consider advancing your career by specializing.

How to Advance Your Career as a Radiology Tech

Radiology techs have several options to advance their career. You may choose to earn additional certifications in other areas, such as MRI tech, CT Tech, and mammography. With additional experience and training, you may choose to move into an administrative or managerial role. Radiology techs who enjoy teaching may move on to become clinical instructors.

Average Salary For Radiology Techs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for radiology tech is $66,490 and the median hourly wage is 31.97. There is a strong Outlook with a 6% anticipated growth rate until 2031. California has the highest employment rate and the highest annual mean wage. 

The state also has the top 10 highest-paying metropolitan areas. It is important to note that California also has a high cost of living. States with the highest concentration of jobs include West Virginia, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

The Pros of Being a Radiology Tech

  • Variety
  • Flexible work hours
  • Increasing employment opportunities
  • 2-year program to enter the workforce
  • Strong salary potential
  • Ability to relocate easily

The Cons of Being a Radiology Tech

  • Long hours standing
  • Working weekends, holidays, nights, and on-call hours
  • Requires constant learning
  • Technology changes frequently
  • Infrequent opportunities to socialize

Specialty Organizations & Communities

Ideal Personality Traits

  • Adaptable and flexible
  • Detail oriented
  • Collaborative team player
  • Conscientious
  • Empathetic
  • High energy
  • Organized
  • Reliable
  • Problem solver

If this sounds like the right career for you, check out Trusted Health's Allied Jobs to search for radiology tech opportunities all over the country and get started today!

Amanda Lundberg, RN, BSN

Amanda is a nurse with over ten years of experience in clinical settings. She is an expert in family medicine as well as various specialties. Her holistic approach to health focuses on wellness and preventative care. She now writes content for health and wellness brands under her company name, Locksley Content.

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