Reader Lisa Livingston submitted this guest post helping demystify one of the very important but poorly understood roles in medical care: radiology technician.

________________________________________________________

Most of us have had an x-ray at some point in our lives, and it was probably performed by a radiology technician. But what else does the job entail, and why would someone be interested in it?

What Do They Do?

Radiology technicians perform imaging of the human body for medical treatment. The most common type of imaging is x-ray films, but they may also work with more sophisticated forms of imaging such as fluoroscopy or sonography, which are used to visualize various organs. They may also assist with MRIs or mammograms. They also ensure patient safety before performing imaging, check positioning and operations of equipment, and keep track of patient records.

X-ray of a normal hand.

Where Do They Work?

Radiology technicians may work in hospitals, clinics, medical laboratories, or private practices. They usually work in a room with the diagnostic machines, but they may also perform imaging at a patient’s bedside or even travel to a patient’s home in a van equipped with the necessary diagnostic machines.

What Type of Education is Needed?

Formal training to become a radiology technician can vary. Programs may lead toward a certificate, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree, though an associate’s degree is the most common. Most programs involve both classroom and clinical instruction in areas such as anatomy, physiology, medical ethics, radiation physics, and pathology. Anyone interested in science, math, technology, and the medical field may be interested in this work.

What Rewards Does the Job Offer?

There are many opportunities for advancement in this job. A radiology technician may specialize in a certain type of imaging. With further education, they could become a radiologist, a supervisor, administrator, or even teach at the university level.

Radiology technicians also have a good amount of job security, because demand for qualified professionals is high. There are jobs available in any area of the country, and the demand isn’t expected to go away for some time.

They also have a significant amount of contact with a variety of people. Radiology technicians contribute to a patient’s treatment in a meaningful way and they will see many different patients on a daily basis. They also make up an important part of a team of other medical professionals such as physicians and radiologists.

What is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to increase by 17 percent by 2018. There will be more demand for diagnostic imaging with the aging Baby Boomer population. As medical technology continues to find new and better ways to treat diseases, diagnostic imaging will constantly be in high demand. There will also be more jobs available as imaging technology becomes less expensive and more clinics invest in them. A radiology technician’s average salary is around $50,000.

Lisa Livingston is a radiologist. She writes about health care and has a website devoted to radiology technician educational information.