X-ray technicians, sometimes called radiographers or radiologic technologists, take diagnostic images of patients to help doctors diagnose what is wrong with them. They work in many types of health care facilities. Surgical technologists work almost exclusively in surgical units, assisting surgeons by preparing patients, making sure the surgical unit is well-stocked and helping surgeons during the operation. Although the two occupations command somewhat similar salaries, X-ray technicians tend to earn more.
Surgical Technologist Salary
As of 2012, surgical techs reported an average salary of $43,480 per year to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Half of surgical technologists working in the United States made between $34,560 and $50,500 per year, with pay for the highest 10 percent reaching or exceeding $60,240 per year. Surgical technologists working in general hospitals reported pay below the national average, $42,700 per year, and those in physician's offices were paid a bit more, averaging $45,500 a year.
Radiologic Technologist Salary
Radiologic technologists reported an average salary of $56,450 per year to the BLS in 2012. This means that a radiologic tech makes, on average, $12,970 more than a surgical tech per year. Half of radiologic techs working in the United States earned salaries ranging between $44,490 and $66,550, and the highest-paid 10 percent of radiologic techs made $77,160 or more annually. Pay differences between hospitals and physician's offices were negligible; X-ray techs at general hospitals averaged $56,590 per year, and those employed by physician's offices averaged $55,070 per year.
Regional Pay Differences
Both surgical and radiologic techs tend to earn above-average pay in the West and Northeastern regions of the country and below-average pay in the Southeast and Midwest. California was one of the highest-paying states for both occupations: $54,750 for surgical techs and $70,590 for radiologic techs. However, radiologic techs earned even more in Massachusetts, averaging $82,080 per year. The lowest-paying state in the country for surgical techs was Mississippi, where they averaged $32,850 per year. Neighboring Arkansas reported the lowest average pay for radiologic techs at $43,940 per year.
Not only do radiologic technologists make more money -- they also have a better job outlook. The BLS expects the American economy to add jobs at a rate of 14 percent over the decade 2010-2020. But both surgical and radiologic techs are in higher demand because of expected growth in the health care industry. The BLS expects jobs for surgical techs to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 19 percent, and jobs for radiologic techs to grow at an even faster rate of 28 percent.