Radiographers work in the field of diagnostic imaging, administering nonradioactive material into the bloodstreams of patients and take x rays of different parts of the human body. They explain the procedures to patients, remove patients' clothing and jewelry, and place patients in the appropriate positions. They then make sure the area surrounding the area to be x rayed is covered with protective lead shields. They position the x ray equipment, set controls on the equipment, and take the x ray. After this process is complete, they remove the film and develop it.
Radiographers who have gained considerable work experience may move on to perform more complex procedures. Some perform fluoroscopies by creating a solution for the patient to drink while a radiologist interprets the resulting images of soft body tissues. Some operate CT scanners that have the ability to produce cross-sectional images of patients. MRI technologists operate diagnostic imaging machines that harness the power of magnets and radio waves.
Radiographers should have the ability to pay close attention to small details. They must be able to follow instructions and work well within a team setting. They need to be sensitive to the physical and psychological needs of the patients they work with. They should also have good mechanical ability and manual dexterity.
In 2002, radiographers earned a median annual salary of $38,970. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $27,190, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $55,430. The following shows the median annual salaries in the industries employing the highest numbers of radiographers:
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories -- $42,470
- General medical and surgical hospitals -- $39,580
- Offices of physicians -- $36,490
Training and Education
There are many different routes by which potential radiographers are trained to enter their occupation, including colleges, universities, hospitals, vocational-technical institutes, and the U.S. Armed Forces. Most radiographers are employed by hospitals, which prefer to hire applicants who have completed some type of formal training program. Training programs can last from 1 to 4 years and result in either a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degree. The most common are 2-year associate degree programs. 1-year certificates are usually designed for those already working in the healthcare field. Bachelor's degrees are usually required for supervisory, administrative, or teaching positions.
The public is protected from overexposure to medical radiation by legislation that sets voluntary standards used by States to accredit training programs. About 38 States require radiographers to have licenses, and voluntary registration is offered by the Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Many employers seek out registered radiographers when making hiring decisions.
In 2002, radiographers held about 174,000 jobs. About 50% worked in hospitals, while most of the rest worked in offices of physicians, diagnostic laboratories, and outpatient care centers. About 1 in 5 worked part time.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of radiographers is expected to increase faster than the average. This will be due to the medical needs of an aging population. Job prospects will be very good because the number of job openings exceeds the number of qualified workers. While hospitals will continue to be the main type of employer, most new jobs will arise in offices of physicians and diagnostic imaging centers.
For more information on becoming a radiographer, please see our directory of Radiography Schools