Radiologic technologists take x rays and administer nonradioactive materials into patients’
bloodstreams for diagnostic purposes.
Radiologic technologists also referred
to as radiographers, produce
x-ray films (radiographs) of parts of the human body for use in diagnosing
medical problems. They prepare patients for radiologic examinations by
explaining the procedure, removing jewelry and other articles through which x
rays cannot pass, and positioning patients so that the parts of the body can be
appropriately radiographed. To prevent unnecessary exposure to radiation, these
workers surround the exposed area with radiation protection devices, such as
lead shields, or limit the size of the x-ray beam. Radiographers position
radiographic equipment at the correct angle and height over the appropriate area
of a patient’s body. Using instruments similar to a measuring tape, they may
measure the thickness of the section to be radiographed and set controls on the
x-ray machine to produce radiographs of the appropriate density, detail, and
contrast. They place the x-ray film under the part of the patient’s body to be
examined and make the exposure. They then remove the film and develop it.
Radiologic technologists must follow physicians’ orders precisely and conform
to regulations concerning the use of radiation to protect themselves, their
patients, and their coworkers from unnecessary exposure.
In addition to preparing patients and operating equipment, radiologic
technologists keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. They also
may prepare work schedules, evaluate purchases of equipment, or manage a
Experienced radiographers may perform more complex imaging procedures. When
performing fluoroscopies, for example, radiographers prepare a solution of
contrast medium for the patient to drink, allowing the radiologist (a physician
who interprets radiographs) to see soft tissues in the body.
Some radiographers specialize in computed tomography (CT), and are sometimes
referred to as CT technologists.
CT scans produce a substantial amount of cross-sectional x rays of an area of
the body. From those cross-sectional x rays, a three-dimensional image is made.
The CT uses ionizing radiation; therefore, it requires the same precautionary
measures that radiographers use with other x rays.
Radiographers also can specialize in Magnetic Resonance Imaging as an MR
technologist. MR, like CT, produces multiple cross-sectional images to
create a 3-dimensional image. Unlike CT, MR uses non-ionizing radio frequency to
generate image contrast.
Another common specialty for radiographers specialize in is mammography.
Mammographers use low dose x-ray systems to produce images of the breast.
In addition to radiologic technologists, others who conduct diagnostic
imaging procedures include cardiovascular
technologists and technicians, diagnostic
medical sonographers, and nuclear
Work environment. Physical
stamina is important in this occupation because technologists are on their feet
for long periods and may lift or turn disabled patients. Technologists work at
diagnostic machines but also may perform some procedures at patients’ bedsides.
Some travel to patients in large vans equipped with sophisticated diagnostic
Although radiation hazards exist in this occupation, they are minimized by
the use of lead aprons, gloves, and other shielding devices, as well as by
instruments monitoring exposure to radiation. Technologists wear badges
measuring radiation levels in the radiation area, and detailed records are kept
on their cumulative lifetime dose.
Most full-time radiologic technologists work about 40 hours a week. They may,
however, have evening, weekend, or on-call hours. Opportunities for part-time
and shift work also are available.
Median annual earnings of radiologic technologists were $48,170 in May 2006.
The middle 50 percent earned between $39,840 and $57,940. The lowest 10 percent
earned less than $32,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,920.
Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of
radiologic technologists in 2006 were:
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories
|General medical and surgical hospitals
|Offices of physicians