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What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do? A Bare-Bones Look at this Healthcare Career

 male looking at x-ray machine with female patient in background

You’re finally ready to leave your dead-end job in the dust in pursuit of a stable career that helps you provide for your family. You also wouldn’t mind finding a job you actually enjoy, which has narrowed your search to the healthcare field. But with so many complicated job titles and confusing career descriptions, you’re not even sure where to start looking.

One job posting you recently stumbled across was for a radiologic technologist. It sounds intriguing, but what does a radiologic technologist do? You have no idea.

Before taking the next step on your path towards a new career, you need to have a solid understanding of what it entails. That’s why we compiled this basic guide to help you decide if this is a position worth pursuing.

What is a radiologic technologist, anyway?

If you’ve ever broken a bone or had an ultrasound, chances are you were helped by a radiologic technologist. These medical specialists use x-rays, sound waves and other diagnostic imagery to create images of internal organs, bones and tissues.

Sometimes referred to as radiographers, these professionals use several types of equipment to gather images that help diagnose patients. Most radiologic technologists are experts in x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging. Some choose to specialize in niche areas as well.

In order to gain a better understanding of what radiologic technologists do, it’s important to understand what they don’t do as well. Keep reading to debunk some common myths.

Common misconceptions about radiologic technologists

There are a lot of myths about this rewarding radiology career. You can safely ignore these common assumptions about radiologic technologists. They simply aren’t true!

All they do is take x-rays

Radiologic technologists have a wide range of specialties to choose from, including sonography, mammography and bone density, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT).

There’s no difference between radiologic technologists & technicians

These commonly confused radiology careers actually come with different duties and responsibilities. Radiologic technicians are primarily concerned with prepping patients and performing imaging procedures. Radiologic technologists, on the other hand, are extremely skilled at analyzing and interpreting these images.

A radiologic technologist’s job ends after capturing the image they need

Though radiologic technologists may be involved in taking x-rays or performing MRIs, their involvement doesn’t stop there. They also analyze these images and use them to assist the physician in diagnosing and preparing a treatment course for patients.

Radiologic technologist job duties

Now that you know what radiologic technologists don’t do, it’s time to learn about their daily job duties and their role in the medical community.

Radiologic technologists are skilled equipment operators who know exactly how to capture the images they need and how to shield patients from harmful radiation in the process.

As mentioned above, their job doesn’t end after the x-ray, CT scan or MRI is complete. Radiologic technologists then put those images to work by interpreting them and using that knowledge to work with physicians to determine a treatment plan.

Here are some of the daily job duties a radiologic technologist might encounter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Maintain and operate imaging equipment
  • Prepare patients for imaging procedures
  • Follow precise instructions about the areas needing imaging to obtain a quality image
  • Analyze and interpret images alongside physicians

Radiologic technologists play an important role in patient care and in the healthcare community as a whole. “Whether producing an x-ray image to detect a broken bone or delivering radiation therapy to destroy a cancerous tumor, radiologic technologists provide the care that leads to diagnosis, treatment and cure,” according to the ASRT.

Physicians rely on the imagery obtained through CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, mammograms, sonograms and other imaging technologies to accurately diagnose and treat their patients. None of this would be possible without the work of radiologic technologists.

In-demand skills for radiologic technologists:

It may sound intimidating to work with radiation and specialized imaging equipment, but radiologic technologists need plenty of soft skills, too. With the right education and training, you can gain all the expertise you need to excel in this rewarding healthcare career.

We used real-time job analysis software to examine nearly 30,000 radiologic technologist job postings.* This data helped us identify the top skills employers are seeking in candidates. Here’s what we found:

Top skills employers are seek

Top technical skills Top transferrable skills
Radiography Communication skills
X-rays Quality & assurance control
Patient care Physical demand
Anatomy Computer skills
Radiation protection Organizational skills

Qualities of a successful radiologic technologist

Certain personalities are a perfect match for a career in radiology. Successful radiologic technologists share many characteristics with nurses and other healthcare personnel involved in direct patient care.

Empathy, compassion, approachability and good communication skills are all essential for radiologic technologists to help patients feel comfortable and relaxed during their procedure.

They have plenty of work to do behind the scenes as well. Creative problem solvers will find themselves right at home analyzing and interpreting the images they’ve acquired. A good sense of teamwork and collaboration skills will help radiologic technologists work with physicians to devise an effective treatment plan for each patient.

Where radiologic technologists work?

Nearly 60 percent of radiologic technologists are employed in hospitals, according to the BLS. But that’s not the only place their skills are needed. If you can’t picture yourself working in a bustling hospital, there are still plenty of options for starting your radiologic technologist career.

Physicians’ offices and clinics are also frequent employers of radiologic technologists. Other facilities that hire these specialists include nursing homes, outpatient care centers and stand-alone facilities that specialize in diagnostic imagery.

Ready for a rewarding career in radiology?

Now you know what a radiologic technologist does and what it takes to become one. Does this description have you thinking this could be the career change you’ve been seeking?

If you can picture yourself in this position, visit our radiologic technology degree page to learn more about how you can get started on this rewarding radiology career path.


* (analysis of 29,812 radiologic technologist job postings, Apr. 01, 2015 – Mar. 31, 2016)

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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