While the career path in radiologic technology hasn't been as clearly marked as in other healthcare professions, radiologic technologists (RTs) can still pursue a variety of career options within and outside healthcare.
In the clinical environment, RTs can branch out into one of the imaging specialties. In industry, RTs can develop rewarding -- and lucrative -- vocations in sales, training, consulting and education.
Among various RT careers, wages fluctuate fairly dramatically. For example, pay for a hospital staff technologist averages about $47,500 a year, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists' (ASRT) 2004 Wage and Salary Survey. Corporate technologists, such as those in sales or training, earn about $72,000, educators around $53,000, and hospital or outpatient radiologic technology department administrators make about $81,000.
While information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that RTs work primarily in healthcare settings, technologists still have many other career options.
"Computer technology has really opened up the avenues in this field," says Jim Sutton, director of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "Rad techs are making a good living selling and repairing X-ray equipment, and going out into the field to train employees at healthcare facilities how to use it." RTs can look for such opportunities at X-ray equipment vendors like Del Medical Systems Group, Summit Industries and Tingle X-Ray Systems.
As healthcare consultants, RTs can work with radiology department managers, administrators and educators on strategies and methods for achieving desired outcomes. They can also be marketers who develop long-range strategic plans for institutions. Much like company nurses, RTs can also work at industrial medical clinics, mobile-imaging companies, research centers and government agencies.
As educators, practicing RTs can teach at X-ray schools or hospital in-house training programs. Hospital or X-ray school program directors earn about $62,000 a year, according to the ASRT. Landing a faculty post at a university requires a master's degree or doctorate.
Get Ahead in Healthcare
Within healthcare, advancement means taking advantage of on-the-job learning opportunities. Once RTs pass their licensing exam, the majority of their remaining training occurs in-house, says Patricia Clark, manager of performance improvement and quality assurance for Temple University Hospital's radiology department.
"Technologists can take evening classes in-house to learn the skills necessary to move up from a starting position to a place in CT (computed tomography) or interventional or even MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)," she says, referring to some of the higher-paying specialties within the field. "When a position opens up, the ones who took the time to go to those classes will usually get the job, because they've already done some of the work in their clinical experience."
RT Stepping Stones
Two career levels designed to serve as stepping stones into the profession are emerging to address the lack of a well-defined RT career path: radiologist assistant and RT aide. "Radiologist assistants are the advanced practice level, and RT aides are the pre-professional level," explains Cathy Parsons, chairman of the ASRT board of directors. "This will remove some of the heavy load from radiologic technologists and give us a pool of future workers to draw from."
Visible career paths overcome a stigma that there's no room for advancement in radiologic technology, Parsons says. They also foster professional development, promote recruitment and encourage loyalty to the field by providing attainable rewards for pursuing additional education and credentialing, she adds.
RTs looking for that upward step in any setting should apply themselves and absorb all they can in an extern program, Clark says.
"Learn and become a good technologist and a good patient-care provider," she advises. "Providing the patient with excellent care is your first goal. Sometimes we miss that."