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Introducing Careers in Medical Imaging
Modern medicine involves far more than doctors and nurses – radiologic technologists provide critical information to decide on treatment and measure patient health. Radiologic technologists operate and provide medical imaging services for patients using a variety of techniques and devices. These medical professionals often specialize in a certain type of imaging or part of the part such as bone density, nuclear medicine or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs and other kinds of medical imaging are essential tools to detect cancer and other medical conditions. The majority of America’s radiologic technologists work in hospitals but some also work in specialized imaging centers and labs. In order to work in this growing field, aspiring professionals must complete a series of courses, exams and other educational requirements.
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Educational Requirements for Radiologic Technologists in the U.S.
Educational attainment for radiologic technologist varies from certificate to bachelor’s degree. The associate degree is the most popular form of training held by radiological technologists and technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are over five hundred educational programs for the profession accredited by the Joint Review Committee in Radiologic Technology. In addition, several universities such as the Medical College of Georgia and the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, began offering Master’s degrees in a specialized form of radiologic work called medical dosimetry. In addition to consulting with the medical authorities in their state, students should check Joint Review Committee’s list of accredited programs before enrolling.
During their studies, radiologic technologists learn the science of imaging, how to protect people from radiation, human anatomy, medical ethics and patient care techniques. Most programs combine classroom style courses with applied clinical work. Students also have the opportunity to learn how to operate medical imaging devices safely during their studies.
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Licensing for Radiologic Technologists and Professionals
License requirements vary state by state but most require radiologic technologists to pass exams and satisfy certain educational requirements. In many cases, the goal of the licensing process is to protect patients from improper or unsafe exposure to radiation. Successfully completing an associate’s degree, certificate or other formal educational program in the state you plan to work in is the best way to prepare as your instructors will be familiar with your state’s requirements.
Several states require applicants to pass exams or hold certifications from professional organizations. In New York State, the New York State Department of Health requires radiologic technologists to pay a pay, submit a copy of a school transcript and proof of having passed either the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). In contrast, Texas does not require certification for technicians who only work in sonography or MRIs. Otherwise, the Texas Department of State Health Services requires medical radiologic technologists to complete the AART or NMTCB certification process. The Florida Bureau of Radiation Control has similar license requirements but also requires radiologic technologists to complete continuing education credits to maintain their license. Check with your state's medical authorities to determine how to become licensed.
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Continuing education (CE) in the radiologic technology field is vital to staying current on the field’s changing methods and may be necessary to maintain certification. Continuing education can take a variety of forms including attend conferences, reading journals and taking traditional classes. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists offers a number of CE options for members including an online bookstore of specialized resources. Subjects of study offered by the Society include radiography, cardiology, mammography and computed tomography (CT). Colleges, universities and other radiologic technology associations provide additional CE credit courses and activities for students.
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Further Reading on the Radiologic Technologist Profession