An X-ray technician -- more correctly called a radiologic technologist or RT -- is the person who takes your X-ray when you break a bone or develop pneumonia. She will place the films, help you move as necessary and develop the films for a physician to interpret. The occupation has both advantages and disadvantages.
Multiple Training Choices
RTs have multiple training options. Radiography programs could lead to a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree. An associate degree is most common, which means the educational period is relatively short compared to many health care occupations. Radiologists, for example, spend a minimum of 11 years in school. RTs also have the option to become certified, which can increase your employment opportunities and chances for advancement. Job opportunities should be good, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 21 percent growth through 2022, nearly twice the average for all occupations.
Become a Specialist
Imaging technology includes more than plain X-rays. CT scans are a subspecialty of radiology, and an RT can specialize in that area. Mammography is yet another specialty. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is another field for RTs who have experience in radiography. In addition to the challenge of learning something new, an RT who moves into the MRI area can expect a significant salary increase. Some RTs choose to become certified in multiple specialties, which offers a constantly changing job environment and may increase employment opportunities.
Salaries and Benefits
RTs are most likely to be employed in hospitals, a work setting which typically offers good employee benefits such as sick pay, paid vacation, holidays and retirement plans. Hospitals also pay well. The BLS reports the average annual salary for RTs who worked in hospitals in 2013 was $57,530. RTs who specialize in MRI procedures earned $65,300 in hospitals in 2013. One disadvantage of working in a hospital, however, is the need to work nights, weekends and holidays, or to take emergency calls.
Stress and Hazards
Working in health care can be difficult. Dealing with people who are badly injured or very ill can be stressful. In radiology, the RTs spend much of the day on their feet, and might need to lift or turn patients, which can increase the risk of a back injury. Although radiation hazards are minimized through shielding and other measures, there is still a slight risk of cumulative exposure for those who work in radiology. Infectious diseases are another possible risk for an RT.