5 Great reasons to choose a career in radiology:
- Job demand in healthcare will always be steady
- Opportunity for career advancement is high
- The program length is only two years
- Variable hours and shifts available
- The pay is considerably high for a two-year program
There will never cease to be a need for rad techs. People will always become ill and need treatment. This requires a visit to a doctor and the doctor will most likely order a diagnostic imaging exam. The most common imaging exam by far is the common Xray. There are more Xrays done in the United States than all other modalities combined.
Is there Job Security in being a Rad Tech?
Sure, technology is beginning to use artificial intelligence more and more in the healthcare field. But you will never be able to completely take the rad tech out of the picture. No more than you could take a nurse or doctor out of the process. Someone with the technical skills will always be needed to watch over a process no matter how automated it gets.
Think about it. Xrays have been around 100+ years and are still being used. Yes, they are being used more effectively but have not been replaced by some other invention. They remain the quickest and most reliable means to diagnose bone fractures. This reliability has led to a growth in this field to other uses. The Xray machine continues digitally but there are also Dexa scanners.
These scanners check for bone density and help diagnose osteoporosis. Xrays can be “turned on continuously” like a movie to help see things in motion. The term for this type of Xray is fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy is used in surgery cases and interventional radiology procedures every day. This has given rise to the IR tech job.
There’s also mammography exams that use radiography. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. This necessitates the need for rad techs to work in the field of mammography. New 3D tomosynthesis equipment makes the diagnosis process much better but it still uses Xrays.
Do Rad Techs Have Career Advancement?
- Rad techs can advance to CT, MRI, Ultrasound, Mammography, DEXA scanning, Nuclear Medicine, PET scanning, Interventional Radiology, Registered Radiology Assistant, and Management.
- Outside of the radiology department, you can advance into Radiation Therapy, Radiation Safety Officer, industrial radiography, veterinary radiography, and forensic radiography.
I mentioned how rad techs can go from general Xray work to mammography. You can also be trained in computed tomography. CT is another use of radiation and requires a separate set of skills. It is very common for rad techs to be trained in CT. Especially on the night shift in a hospital because many techs are expected to do both Xray and CT.
MRI offers another option for rad techs to take on as a career. A good six months of on-the-job training and you could be doing MRI scans. No formal two-year program exists for MRI but there are some short courses. MRI techs make more money than Xray and CT techs.
Because it uses magnetic resonance imaging instead of radiation, it produces a completely unique set of images. This modality is only getting better and will always require techs with special skills to run the machine.
You can also take your rad tech degree and use it to get accepted into an ultrasound or nuclear medicine program. These are an additional two years of school but compensate very nicely in higher pay. Each one has specific advancement pathways of their own too.
Ultrasound techs can learn how to specialize in echosonography. That is doing ultrasounds of the heart only. Nuclear Medicine techs can specialize in positron emission tomography (PET scanning). All come with the reward of more pay than a general rad tech.
Does Radiography have Return on Investment? (ROI is HIGH)
- Very few other vocational training programs last only two years and pay mid to upper $20/hr range. Nursing is another one.
Radiologic Technology schools are typically two-year programs. Starting pay upon graduation lands somewhere around $24 per hour. There are not many other programs that start out at such a high pay immediately upon graduating. My four-year bachelor’s degree in psychology was pretty much worthless.
But my two-year associates in radiography (plus passing the national license exam) landed me $26 per hour when I graduated in 2005.
Add in the fact that you can make almost twice as much by picking up extra shifts, being on-call when needed and doing callbacks. I explain all of that in my post titled How Much Does a Radiology Tech Make Per Hour? But you literally can make a six-figure income as a rad tech if you know how to work the system.
Nursing is very similar. The school to become a registered nurse in two years and they make about the same hourly rate as we do upon graduation. But who wants to wipe butts for a living? No thanks. That’s another perk of radiology: you only see the patient for a short period of time. Nurses get stuck with the same patient for their entire shift.
Do your homework and find all the different scholarships, grants and work programs to help pay for school. Don’t sign up for the student loans or you’ll be working to pay those off for years after you graduate. Hospitals offer programs that pay for you to go to rad tech school. In return, you have to sign a contract stating you won’t quit for a few years after you graduate. I took advantage of this opportunity for half of the funding I needed for rad tech school.
Do Rad Techs have Variable Hours and Shifts?
- There are dozens of variances in the shift lengths and start/stop times.
- Day, Mid, and Night shift are common. “Morning Run” or early AM shifts too.
- Shifts can vary from 4 hours all the way up to 16 hours and everything in between.
Most people are stuck in the rut of working Monday through Friday and from 9 am to 5 pm. Not us rad techs! We can sleep in until 10 am and report to work for a swing shift. Swing shifts work from early afternoon until evening. They are sometimes called “2nd shift” or the late shift.
The most common hours for this schedule is 1 pm to 9 pm and depends on lunch breaks. This person covers the department between the day shift tech and the night shift tech. They also get a little bonus for working off normal 9-5 hours.
The night shift offers a whole different work environment. You report to work around 10 pm and cover the department while everyone else is home sleeping. Your patient volumes are much lower at night than day shifts. These shifts make for a great opportunity to study for your next degree or license.
I studied for my ultrasound school classes while working the night shift in Xray. These also pay higher than any other shift because it is hard for hospitals to find people who want to work all night long.
The highest-paid shifts are the weekend shifts. Techs who are willing to give up their weekend to work get the highest pay in the modality. if you want to maximize your pay to the fullest, sign up for the night shift on the weekends. This is how I made $26 an hour as soon as I graduated Xray school.
Did I Mention the Pay is High?
As a radiologic technologist, I have been able to provide for my large family and have a career that is not only very interesting but also offers lots of room for growth and advancement. I made it up to $33 an hour before moving into management. Oddly enough you can actually make more money as a tech than you can in managing the department.
The hourly rate for management is higher but you lose all the perks like overtime, being on call, taking extra shifts and doing callback exams. In management, you get the same pay whether you work 40 hours in a week or 100 hours.
These are the reasons I chose a career in radiology. I have had no regrets or wished that I had gone into a different field. In fact, my wife is a radiologic technologist too. So is my stepdad. He works in the operating room all day running the c-arms for surgeons. There are a lot of reasons to join this profession. I wish I had time to talk about the fun conferences we have every year.
If you are curious about the career of radiography, I have written some articles on various topics:
- How much does x-ray pay,
- Different ways to pay for radiography school,
- How to get accepted into a rad tech program,
- Can you work full-time while going to rad tech school
I hope you find this helpful. You are welcome to email me with any questions. Thanks for stopping by TheRadiologicTechnologist.com.