Radiologists have the knowledge to look at scans and x-rays of the human body and determine what might be wrong, as well as how to treat the condition. Those in radiologic science work with many different imaging tools to help physicians decide on the best course of action for treating their patients.
What Types of Jobs Are Available in Radiologic Science?
Working in radiologic science can cover a wide range of responsibilities. Producing x-ray films, using various imaging equipment to see the soft tissues of the body, and injecting dyes into the veins during imaging are all common tasks that fall to the radiologic technologist. Radiologists are responsible for reading and interpreting the results of the tests.
There are numerous specialities in the world of radiologic science. Here are just a few:
- Radiographers, otherwise known as radiologic technicians, handle x-rays and all the preparation required for them.
- Radiologic technologists tackle more advanced imaging equipment.
- Radiologists are physicians who are trained to read the results of x-rays and images and make a diagnosis for the patient.
- Computed tomography technicians handle CT scans of patients.
- MR technologists specialize in magnetic resonance imaging.
- Mammographers specialize in images of the breasts, usually to look for breast cancer in female patients.
- Other specializations include medical sonographers, cardiovascular technologists, and those who handle nuclear medicine.
Formal Training Required to Work in Radiologic Science
There are several different ways to earn your degree in radiologic science. Formal radiologic training programs must be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.
- Certificate programs are available, and typically last for 21-24 months. There are currently over 200 accredited radiology certificate programs.
- An associate's degree in radiologic science can be earned in about two years and is the most common route of formal education taken to earn the radiology degree. There are currently almost 400 accredited programs through which to earn your associate's degree in radiology.
- Earning your bachelor of science in radiologic science typically takes four years. There are currently 35 accredited programs through which you can earn your bachelor's degree.
- For many years, the bachelor of science in radiologic science was the terminal degree for the radiology profession. However, a master's degree in radiologic science is now offered at select schools across the country.
Radiologic science courses cover a broad spectrum of knowledge, as well as hands-on experience. Radiology students learn about anatomy and physiology, radiation physics and protection, patient positioning, medical terminology, imaging techniques and principles, radiobiology, pathology, patient care, and medical ethics. A strong background in chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics provides a firm foundation.
In addition to the courses and required hands-on work, a license is required to work in radiologic science. Though federal legislation requires that everyone in radiology departments are properly trained to handle equipment that emits radiation, the regulations are set by individual states. Since licensing varies by state, it's best to check with your state health board to ensure you meet all the requirements.
Finally, voluntary certification programs are available for those in radiologic science. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) administers exams for licensing purposes in many states. In order to become certified, you must pass the exam and graduate from an ARRT-approved radiologic science program. You must complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years to keep your certification current.
The Typical Career Path of Someone Working in Radiologic Science
Once you have jumped into the world of radiologic science, there are many options for furthering your career. Radiologic technologists and technicians often pursue advanced career training to specialize in a certain area of the field, including earning a degree as a radiologist assistant.
Those who enjoy the administrative opportunities might pursue a further degree in health administration or business, with their eye on a supervisory position, as well as department director or chief of radiology. Some choose to become instructors in radiologic science programs, while others go in another direction and work in sales and marketing of radiologic equipment.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic science jobs are expected to grow by 19 percent through 2018, faster than the average of all occupations. While most jobs will be found in hospital settings, the need for radiologic science experts in physician's offices and dedicated diagnostic centers is also expected to grow. The median salary for radiologic technologists and technicians was $53,240 in 2009, with the highest ten percent of the occupation making over $75,440 per year.
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