What is a Radiologic Technologist?


A radiologic technologist, also known as a radiographer, is a healthcare professional that performs x rays and other diagnostic imaging examinations on patients in the treatment and diagnosis of disease or injury.  Radiographers use various types of equipment depending on their specialty, such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, or sonography equipment. They may also use special equipment that produces ionizing radiation to administer doses of the radiation to treat diseases such as cancer. Radiographic examinations require the application of numerous scientific principles and an interest and desire to care for the sick and injured. Radiographers, like other health professionals, must also be actively involved in continuing education throughout their professional career in order to maintain professional competency and to keep abreast of the ever-advancing technological changes taking place in medical science. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) reports that radiologic technologists make up the third-largest group of health care professionals-surpassed in number only by physicians and nurses.

Professional Disciplines Explained

Review the radiology professional disciplines below as defined by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)

▼   Mammography

Because they can aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases, mammograms are an important part of medical care. In fact, since 1990, mammography has helped reduce the number of breast-cancer deaths by almost one-third.

Many mammography patients come in for routine screenings; others might have lumps or other signs of breast cancer. As a mammographer, you’ll operate specialized equipment, obtaining images that help physicians detect breast cancer and other breast diseases in their earliest stages.

Mammograms are personal—and sometimes frightening—procedures for patients. You can be a comforting presence as people undergo screenings and exams. By obtaining ARRT certification and registration in Mammography, you’ll also have the knowledge and skills to provide the highest level of patient care.

▼   Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI procedures play an important role in diagnosing diseases and injuries. During an MRI, the resonant frequency properties of atoms are used within a magnetic field to image anatomic and/or physiologic conditions of the body.

Although a radiologist reviews MRI results, as a technologist you’re responsible for obtaining the best images possible. Your patients might be in pain or distress, or they might feel claustrophobic. You’ll provide support while talking patients through the procedure and letting them know what to expect.

As an MRI technologist, you’ll work with radiologists to play an important role on the patient’s medical team. MRI is a rewarding field, and you’ll learn and grow as technology advances.

▼   Vascular Radiography

As a vascular interventional radiographer, you’ll assist physicians with minimally invasive, image-guided vascular procedures, including angioplasty, stenting, thrombolysis, and more. Using sophisticated fluoroscopic equipment, you’ll be responsible for capturing images of the blood vessels.

Working in a hospital, clinic, lab, or outpatient center, you’ll have a rewarding job and be an important part of a medical team caring for patients.

▼   Computed Tomography (CT)

CT can be an exciting and fulfilling career. As a CT technologist, you’ll likely work in a hospital or an imaging center. You’ll perform scans on all parts of the body for a variety of reasons. Some patients need imaging to diagnose a disease or an acute condition. Others need CT scans in emergencies, so physicians can understand the extent of injuries. While you perform the procedures, your skills and confidence will be critical as you balance image quality with radiation dose. You’ll also help inform and calm nervous patients.

▼   Ultrasound

Sonography is a rewarding career path with a range of areas in which to specialize. Sonographers (also known as ultrasound technologists) work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and diagnostic clinics.

As a sonographer, you’ll operate specialized equipment, using nonionizing, high-frequency sound waves to create images of a patient’s internal organs and tissues. You’ll perform the procedures for a variety of purposes-including creating images of an unborn child.

▼   Radiation Therapy

Radiologists and radiation oncologists often prescribe radiation therapy for patients who have cancer or other serious diseases. As a radiation therapist, you'll be part of the team that helps plans and administers these treatments, and monitors patients' conditions. You'll use special equipment that produces ionizing radiation to administer therapeutic doses of radiation.

Part of your job may also be to provide support to nervous patients. Dealing with a serious disease is usually a challenging and frightening experience. Having a skilled and caring radiation therapist can often make a great deal of difference.


Difference in Radiologist and Radiologic Technologist

A radiologist is a medical doctor who has specialized in radiology. The radiologist is concerned with diagnosis and treatment of diseases. To become a radiologist, one must spend four years in pre-medical education, four years in medical school, and usually four additional years as an intern/resident in radiology.

A radiographer/radiologic technologist/radiation therapist/sonographer performs the technical aspects of radiology and acts as a physician's (radiologist) assistant. These healthcare professionals are experts at operating complex radiologic machinery to conduct imaging tests. They do not diagnose illnesses as demonstrated on radiographic images, or prescribe treatments for disease or injury.

Radiologic Technologist Salary and Opportunities

Check the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for salary and employment opportunities. Obtaining a specialty area will increase one’s starting salary. One's salary should also increase as experience is acquired. However, whether or not one receives higher salaries depends on the individual, and his/her desire to develop new expertise.

Additional Information

For more information about careers in Radiologic Technology and the professional disciplines, visit these sites: