“Focus on gaining a deep understanding of your course material instead of simply memorizing it for a certain class and forgetting it again. As a radiologic technologist, you will use all of that information on a daily basis, from medical terminology to anatomy. Not only do you have to take an exam to be certified, you also have to retest every 10 years to keep your certification current.”

Crystal Bromeling is a radiologic technology instructor at Argosy University, Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota. Crystal always wanted to pursue a career that would let her help people, so she entered the health science field. She has been teaching radiology for about 4 years.

She earned an Associate of Applied Science from Rochester Community and Technical College in 2004 along with a Certification in Radiology from the Mayo Clinic. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences through South University Online and expects to graduate in 2012.

In your own words, what is radiologic technology?

Radiologic technology is the use of radiation to create images of internal bodily structures like bones, tissue and organs. Radiologic technologists scan patients and determine the status of their health so we can report back to doctors. They work under the supervision of medical doctors called radiologists.

What classes do you teach in radiologic technology?

I teach many different classes related to radiologic technology, including patient care procedures, image analysis, pathology, mammography and sectional anatomy. For the most part, all of these classes can be described as practical because they teach concrete skills to students. But there are theoretical aspects to each class too. You can’t understand the value of a practical skill until you understand the medical theory behind a given practice.

How long have you been a professor of radiologic technology?

I have been teaching radiologic technology for 4 years. Before I started instructing students at Argosy University, I was a radiologic technologist at a community medical center for 4 years. In that position I was responsible for many types of radiology, including CT scans, mammography and cardiology, to name a few.

If a student said to you, “I am interested in studying radiologic technology,” what would your response be?

I would tell any student who is interested in radiologic technology that the exciting thing about this career is the many opportunities that it offers for specialization. For example, you can specialize in ultrasound, MRI or mammography. And if you have a broad education in radiation technology, no day is the same for you in a hospital or clinical setting.

In your opinion, what are the biggest hurdles or difficulties that students entering a radiologic technology program have?

A hurdle that students entering a radiologic technology program must overcome is the difficulty of medical terminology. For students with no medical background, medical terminology is like a second language. So it can be a struggle for those students to catch up and memorize all of the vocabulary we use in the healthcare field.

What personality traits do you think would help someone succeed as a radiologic technologist and what traits would hinder success?

An essential personality trait for a radiologic technologist is to be a good communicator. On a daily basis, radiologic technologists interact with patients, doctors and other healthcare staff who make decisions based on the information you provide. Clear communication is a key factor in this job.

A trait that would hinder your success in this field is to be dominant. It is good to be a leader, but as a radiologic technologist you will be working under many supervisors. You will not be the boss, so you must learn to take direction from others.

What courses in radiologic technology are most important for a student to take?

The core science classes are very important for radiology students. Core science classes in this field include anatomy, physiology and biology. These classes teach students about the way the body works, which is foundational knowledge for anyone in the healthcare field.

Outside of radiologic technology, what courses would you recommend to a student?

Outside of radiologic technology, I recommend that students take classes like interpersonal communication. Radiologic technologists must be able to communicate effectively with many different people in the healthcare setting.

What skills can students expect to gain while studying radiologic technology?

While studying radiologic technology, students will learn skills like positioning a patient for scanning and managing radiologic equipment. They will learn how to use different forms of radiation technology and they will learn to judge whether a condition can be assessed by a doctor without a radiologic image.

Can you give a few study tips that would help a radiologic technology student succeed?

The tip I would give to students in a radiologic technology program is to focus on gaining a deep understanding of your course material instead of simply memorizing it for a certain class and forgetting it again. As a radiologic technologist, you will use all of that information on a daily basis, from medical terminology to anatomy. Not only do you have to take an exam to be certified, you also have to retest every 10 years to keep your certification current.

For a student who is not interested in an academic career, what is the optimal level of education needed for a job in the field of radiologic technology?

The optimal level of education for a radiologic technologist is an associates degree, although there are other educational options. For instance, some programs offer bachelors degrees with their radiology programs. And in some states, you can operate an x ray machine without an associates degree if you earn a limited license, which is a common practice for medical assistants. However, laws are changing, and by 2015, all radiologic technologists will be required to hold at least an associates degree.

After students graduate from a radiology program, they have to pass the National Registry Exam though the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, which is quite extensive. Some states require radiologic technologists to be licensed through their state as well.

What is the job outlook for students with degrees in radiologic technology?

I don’t know any hard statistics on the job outlook for radiologic technologists. But I will say that volunteer work at nursing homes or medical centers will boost your resume. It will show employers that you are a well-rounded person who is passionate about the healthcare field.

How can undergraduate students prepare themselves if they are interested in studying radiologic technology at the graduate level?

Graduate degrees in radiologic technology are not at all common, but a student could earn a masters degree in a related field like healthcare management. Alternately, they could go through medical school to become a doctor who specializes in radiology. To prepare for those advanced degrees, students should get a few years of experience in the medical field so that they can pinpoint the interests they want to pursue.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying radiology?

My advice is to shadow someone in the field before you commit to a radiologic technology program because you will get a better sense of the nature of the job than you could in a classroom. For example, I shadowed a radiologic technologist at the Mayo Clinic when I was in school. I was scheduled to observe a surgical rotation, and I was scared to watch an x ray performed on a patient who was bleeding. But it ended up being the most interesting part of my program. So job shadowing can be very illuminating for students.

Want to learn more? read our next interview.