Nursing is a highly varied occupation, with opportunities in many fields of medicine and at nearly all levels of education. While there are several types of radiologic technician, the field is not quite as varied. However, both nurses and radiologic technicians are critical workers in facilities such as hospitals, physicians' offices and outpatient care clinics. And both make excellent career choices because nurses and radiologic technicians are in high demand.
Types of Nurses
Nurses work in a variety of fields and have many different types of responsibilities. In general, most nurses provide direct care to patients, although they have responsibilities that vary widely. For example, licensed practical nurses can often only perform very basic medical care, such as changing bandages, while registered nurses can administer medication and some advanced practice nurses, such as nurse practitioners, can even prescribe medications and diagnose patient conditions. Some RNs and APNs also act as managers or consultants. Nurses can be certified in a wide array of specialties; neonatal nurses, pediatric nurses, geriatric nurses and critical care nurses are just a few examples.
Radiologic technicians are a group of medical professionals who work in diagnostic imaging. They are trained to use specialized medical equipment to take internal pictures of certain areas of a patient's body. These images help physicians determine what is causing a patient's illness and how best to treat it. Radiologic technicians usually specialize in using one or more machines. For example, radiographers take X-rays, while computed tomographers and MRI technicians take more complex images. Mammographers are radiologic technicians who use specialized machines to check for the presence of breast cancer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, radiologic technicians usually have an associate or bachelor's degree to prepare for their careers. Some nursing positions, such as licensed vocational nurse and LPN positions, require less education -- typically between 6 and 12 months of training. Registered nurses have training comparable to that of radiologic technologists, typically between 2 and 4 years. However, some nurses have far more training; advanced practice nurses, for example, usually have a master's or doctoral degree.
Differences in Pay
As of 2012, the BLS reports that radiologic technicians earned an average salary of $56,450 per year. This is substantially more than LPNs and licensed vocational nurses, who earned an average of $42,400 per year. However, most nurses earn more than radiologic technicians. RNs brought home an average of $67,930 per year in 2012. And advanced practice nurses tend to make far more than radiologic technicians. For example, nurse practitioners made an average of $91,450 per year, while nurse anesthetists reported a very high average annual salary of $154,390.