Should I be a Radiologic Technologist?

 

What are your goals for a chosen career field?

This is the first question you should ask yourself when deciding whether or not to pursue this career path.  Do you mind the sight of blood and/or other bodily fluids?  Do you get nauseous around foul smells?  You would be surprised at the myriad of smells the human body can produce, none of them appealing. Do you wince at the sight of an arm or leg bending in the wrong direction? Is your goal to be on the front line saving lives, or are you ok with being in the background supporting that front line?  If the answer to the last question was "No", and you want to be the one doing CPR on a patient when they code (just like on t.v.), then nursing school may be more your cup of tea.

Is the field for Rad Techs saturated?

This is probably one of the biggest issues looming over our career field at this time.  Are there too many radiology techs in our chosen field currently?  If so, why are the schools graduating class after class when there is a possibility that there will not be a job for these new grads? These are both good questions and I can only answer from my perspective and what I have experienced. 

So, are there too many radiology techs in our career field?  Yes and No. This question is a little more complicated than what many are lead to believe.  What one may consider "saturated" in their home state of, say, Wyoming or Montana may not seem so bad when compared to states like Florida or California. Especially considering the fact that many people in the medical field across the U.S. are ultimately trying to move to one of these two states.  I worked at a hospital here in Florida where 90% of people on my shift were from out of state, half of those from Michigan.  Now, it can be said that they moved down here because the job market for rad techs was bleak in their home state, but I can say for this particular group of people, this was not the case.  They were already well established rad techs and chose to move here and trade the snow for the hurricanes.

Back to the point at hand.  Yes, there are a lot of rad techs looking for work in our current job market.  Yes, there are a lot of schools graduating techs, some at an astonishing rate.  For example, here in Florida there is a well known private school that has rolling admissions, and can start a new class of 20 students every semester.  So, they can potentially graduate up to 80 students per year.  Add to this the local community colleges and hospital based programs graduating their own students as well. Now consider this happening in almost every county in your state.  Whether or not you think this is appropriate, remember that a school is a business and they have found a market, but that is another topic for another time.  Do your research so that you know what you are getting into and help minimize any surprises along the way. 

I will leave you with this.  It is the same thing I tell students when asked this question of saturation in our chosen field.  Look around you in class.  If you have twenty classmates, how many of them struggle with positioning lab/class.  How many of your classmates struggle with the physics?  How many of your classmates struggle out at the clinical site?  How many of your classmates struggle with the mock registry? How many are book smart but have zero bedside manner because they have the personality of bag of rocks?  And lastly, if your class does mock interviews, how many struggle in the interview process?  You will find very quickly that although a lot of these things may not prevent them from passing the registry, it very well may prevent them from passing the interview.  Suddenly, that job that 100 people applied for really only has 5-10 qualified applicants.

Do what you can to make yourself stand out on your resume, especially as a new grad.  Sign up for student government. Try to make Dean's list. Volunteer on your spare time. If you're really savvy, get a job as a transporter or radiology assistant at the hospital you would like to work.  This way you have your foot in the door and you can get to know the staff in the department.  Letting them know you are in x-ray school and would like to work there will do wonders for your chances getting the position. 

How much do Radiologic Technologists make?

The question that is burning in everyone's mind who is remotely thinking about this career field.  How much do rad techs make? You can always visit the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out about compensation in your neck of the woods.  I can only speak for the market here in my home state of Florida.  I have seen the starting pay for new grads as low as $17/hr FT at out patient/walk in clinics and $19/hr for FT and $23.50 PRN at your local hospital, respectively.  There will be some variances depending on population density, size of hospital, and type of hospital (Level 1 Trauma vs Acute Care Community Hospital).

One can increase their pay through gaining additional credentials such as CT and MRI to name a few.  You will find that your pay also increases with the amount of time and experience you have gained as a rad tech.  For example, someone who is interviewing for a position at a hospital with their only experience being from a walk-in clinic may not have as good an opportunity as someone with experience in a trauma ER with OR experience. 

How long is Radiologic Technologist school?

There are two types of schooling for a rad tech.  You have your RT (R), which is your two year AAS (Associates in Applied Science), and you have your BXMO's, or your Basic X-ray Machine Operator.  The former is the degree that most will seek out but some will be tricked into getting the latter.  Do your research.  Most community colleges as well as some private schools will offer the two year Radiologic Technologist degree.  I have not seen a community college offer the BXMO certification, only private schools.  This is not to say that there is not one out there that offers this course. On a side note, BXMO's make significantly less than rad techs, around $12/hr, and will not likely be hired in a hospital radiology department due to the fact that they must perform their duties under direct supervision of a licensed practitioner in their office or in a hospital.  BXMO certification is used primarily by MA's to pull double duty as an MA/Basic X-ray tech hybrid in a walk-in clinic setting.

Research the school you wish to apply to

This cannot be stressed enough.  There are many horror stories of student who did not properly research their school and found out the hard way that their credits do no transfer to another college or university or that their school is not Regionally or JRCERT accredited.  If you live in the South Eastern part of the United States, SACS accreditation is your regional accreditation governing body.

You will also need to research the ARRT registry pass rate of the school that you wish to apply.  This can be found on the schools website. It may be hard to find, but it will be there.  You may find a very affordable school, but if the registry pass rate is low, is this really the right choice for you?  Remember, you are spending your valuable time and money for this education.  You want to pass the first time around and start applying for jobs as soon as possible. 

What kind of jobs can I do in Radiology?

There are plenty of different types of careers that are linked to being a rad tech.  CT (Cat Scan), MRI, Vascular tech/Interventional tech, are a few that one will need to be a certified radiologic technologist as a prerequisite to take these certifications.  Cardiac cath (catheterization) lab tech you can attain without have a radiologic technologist license, however, you will not be able to administer fluoro in the cath lab and this may hinder your job prospects.  If one chooses to stay a regular x-ray tech, they will find that most hospitals split the duties of the radiologic technologist into three different areas; Main department x-ray (fluoro cases/studies), ER/ED (Emergency Room/Emergency Department), and OR (Operating Room).  Not all hospitals divide the work load this way but most large hospitals do due to the amount of patients seen per day.  In my experience rad techs seem to prefer this method of division seeing as there are techs who have a healthy disdain for going to the OR and would rather stay down in the main department or the ED.  This is the same for techs who prefer the OR, and so on.

Do I need to be a Radiologic Technologist to be an Ultrasound Technologist/Sonographer?

This question gets asked a lot, unfortunately not at the right time.  I have personally seen people in Radiologic Technologist schools who assumed that, with a little more training, they would be certified to be an ultrasound tech/sonographer after graduating Radiologic Technologist school. This is false. No, you do not need to be a radiologic technologist as a prerequisite to becoming an Ultrasound tech/Sonographer.  Rad techs learn about administering radiation in order to produce a diagnostic image for the Radiologist to dictate.  Ultrasound techs/Sonographers learn how to produce images for dictation by a Radiologist using ultrasound.  These positions are not interchangeable as they require their own respective degrees and licenses to perform their respective duties. 
Ultimately, only you can make this decision for yourself.  If you do the proper research then you can be best prepared for any obstacles that may come your way.  Radiologic Technologist school is not for everyone, but it can be a very rewarding career field to get into.  Hopefully some of your questions have been answered and your fears quelled about both the rewards and uncertainties that may lie ahead when attempting to choose a career field that you will not enter until two years after you begun the program. Good luck! 

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