A radiologic technologist, or radiographer, is a healthcare professional who uses ionizing radiation to create medical images of the body to help doctors diagnose and treat illness and injury. They work in hospitals, clinics, medical laboratories, nursing homes, and in private industry.
By the definition of Health Professions Council of The United Kingdom, "Diagnostic Radiographers produce & interpret high-quality images of the body for doctors to diagnose injuries and diseases. For example, X-rays, Ultrasound or CT scans carried out in hospital".
Nature of work
Diagnostic radiologic technologists employ a range of sophisticated equipment to produce high quality images for doctors and other healthcare professionals to diagnose an injury or disease. Radiographers/technologists use their expertise to employ the most optimal radiographic technique to examine the patient, taking into account their physical ability, nature of injury or disease presenting, and after interpreting inital images, deciding on alternative intervention if warranted.
The They use a range of techniques including:
- X-rays– to look through tissue to examine bones, cavities and foreign objects;
- Ultrasound – uses high frequency sound and is increasingly used due to its versatility in obstetrics, including fetal monitoring throughout pregnancy, gynecology, abdominal, pediatrics, cardiac, vascular and musculo-skeletal; Note: in most settings this is conducted by a specially trained Sonographer.
- Fluoroscopy – live motion X-ray (constant radiation) usually used to image the digestive system;
- CT (computed tomography) – which provides cross-sectional views (slices) of the body;
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – builds a 2-D or 3-D map of different tissue types within the body;
- Nuclear medicine – this uses radioactive tracers which can be administered to examine how the body and organs function, for example the kidneys or heart. Certain radioisotopes can also be administered to treat certain cancers such as thyroid cancer.
The education of a radiologic technologist varies worldwide. Usually their educational qualifications may include a diploma after secondary schooling or a three year to four year bachelor's degree and or master's degree. Formal training programs in radiography range in length from 1 to 4 years and lead to a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Two-year associate degree programs are most prevalent. Since these professionals are using ionizing radiation, which is potentially harmful to the living cells, most countries have strict regulations and certifications regarding the practice of this profession.
The educational curriculum also varies in different countries. Usually during their formal education they must learn human anatomy and physiology, general and nuclear physics, mathematics, radiation physics, pathology, medical imaging sciences and diagnosis, radiologic instrumentation, radio diagnosis, and photographic imaging techniques and chemistry.
This is a blend of medical sciences and physical sciences.
Radiologic technologist in the U.S
A radiologic technologist in the U.S. goes to school for at least two years, unless their state allows a four-week education program for a limited license, through a program accredited by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or through an accredited military program such as the US ARMY MOS 68P. They then must pass a written examination, as well as final exams at the place of their clinical education. There are associate degree programs at community colleges and many bachelors degree programs as well.
Federal legislation protects the public from the hazards of unnecessary exposure to medical and dental radiation by ensuring that operators of radiologic equipment are properly trained. Under this legislation, the federal government sets voluntary standards that states may use for accrediting training programs and certifying individuals who engage in medical or dental radiography.
In 2005, 38 states certified radiologic technologists and technicians. Certification, which is voluntary, is offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. To be eligible for certification, technologists generally must graduate from an accredited program and pass an examination. Many employers prefer to hire certified radiographers. To be recertified, radiographers must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years.
Radiologic technologist in the Philippines
A bachelors degree and passing the licensure examination given yearly by the Professional Regulation Commission are required to practice radiologic technology in the Philippines. The radiologic technology programs in the Philippines are based and in accordance with the existing standards of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.
Radiographers in the U.K
Radiologic technologists in the U.K are known as diagnostic/therapy radiographers. The title diagnostic radiographer is a protected by law. Training in the UK is a three-year university degree, culminating in a BSc.Hons. (Bachelor of Science) qualification. Once qualified the candidate is required to register with the Health Professions Council (HPC) before they are allowed to practise. Radiographers who qualified before 1990 can still maintain their license with the diploma in diagnostic radiography. To maintain their license with the HPC, radiographers are required to continue their education, known as CPD (continuing professional development). All healthcare professionals are required to do this in the UK.
Radiographers can specialize by undertaking postgraduate courses at master's level (M), usually a postgraduate diploma is required to practice in the field of Ultrasound /MRI / CT / Nuclear Medicine / formal reporting etc. Some radiographers proceed to gain their full Master's Degree and PhD to work as Consultant Radiographers in the UK.
In the NHS, radiographers are now undertaking many of the roles historically undertaken by radiologists (doctors specialising in medical imaging). This includes the reporting of plain films and CT scans, and performing of procedures such as barium enemas IVUs and nerve root injections.
With experience and additional training, staff technologists may become specialists, performing CT scanning, angiography, and magnetic resonance imaging. Experienced technologists also may be promoted to supervisor, chief or lead radiologic technologist, and, ultimately, department administrator or director. Depending on the institution, courses or a master’s degree in business or health administration may be necessary for the director’s position.
Some technologists progress by leaving the occupation to become instructors or directors in radiologic technology programs; others take jobs as sales representatives or instructors with equipment manufacturers.
Other imaging modalities such as mammography, ultrasound (sonography), nuclear medicine, MRI and CT scanning may be performed by a radiologic technologist, but only one who has further training and/or accreditation from the basic levels. (the results of a pilot study on using sonography as a primary certification was published by the ARRT in 2005).
Some ultrasound and MRI technologists are not radiologic technologists. They are able to perform exams specifically and solely in these areas because these modalities don't use ionizing radiation.
Wage and salary information
The 2005 U.S. Department of Labor Statistics had the median salary in the country for Radiologic Technologists at approx. $47,000 per year. The 2007 American Society of Radiologic Technologists salary survey had the mean earnings nationwide at $58,673 per year. California had the highest mean earnings at $75,873 per year while West Virginia was on the low end at less than $46,000 per year. The survey is computed by information provided by the technologists themselves. In Great Britain Diagnostic and Therapy Radiographers are getting a minimum salary of 20000 pounds and the supd.radigraphers are getting about 40000 to 60000 pounds annually.
- American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- The British Society of Radiographers
- Health Professions council in the UK
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition - Detailed outlook of the Radiologic Technologist And Technician vocation, provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Dept. of Labor.
- Bureau Labor of Statistics - Occuptional Outlook Handbook - US
- UK QAA Benchmark Statement for Radiography
- British Nuclear Medicine Society - Nuclear Medicine Radiographer
- British Association of MRI Radiographers
- British Medical Ultrasound Society
- British Institute of Radiology -the oldest radiological society in the world. The origins of the BIR can be traced back to a first meeting held on 2 April 1897 to form "The X-ray Society".
- Society for Radiological Protection
- UK Radiography careers website
- X-ray Martyrs
- US X-ray Martyrs