CT Tech Job Description
A CT technologist, also referred to as a cat scan technologist or a CT tech, is a radiologic technologist that specializes in the particular modality of computed tomography (CT). Computed tomography, otherwise known as computerized tomography or computed axial tomography, is a diagnostic imaging procedure that utilizes computer processed X-rays provided by a CT scanner to produce three-dimensional images of different areas of the body such as the head, or abdomen. The CT scanner accomplishes this by generating multiple 2D “slice” images of a section of a three dimensional object (human body) during the procedure and stacking them (visualize a loaf of bread). These images are then interpreted by a qualified physician for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
Computed tomography has several advantages over the two-dimensional technology that is utilized by a conventional X-ray technician, such as the ability to provide clearer images of the area in question by entirely eliminating superimposed imagery of structures that would otherwise obstruct views. Additionally, due to the inherent nature of computerized tomography, a single procedure will result in a large series of images and data that can be examined for diagnostic purposes.
Most computed tomography jobs will require CT techs to administer radiocontrast agents to patients by way of intravenous injection. In fact, about half of all CT tech procedures in the USA include the use of intravenously injected radiocontrast agents. Radiocontrast agents or “dyes” are usually iodine or barium based, and are utilized in order to enhance the visibility of internal body structures during X-ray or CT tech procedures.
There are inherent risks that come along with CT technologist jobs, such as excessive exposure to ionizing radiation. However, adhering to strict safety procedures such as using special shielding devices and other protective gear greatly minimizes the risks to the CT technician and patients alike.
CT Tech Duties and Responsibilities
As a practicing CT technologist, your duties and personal responsibilities may include, but are not limited to:
- Operating and adjusting computerized tomography imaging equipment, including computers and CT scanners
- Providing intermittent maintenance to CT tech equipment and making sure it’s operating properly
- Discussing CT or cat scan procedures with patients and providing accurate answers
- Moving and positioning patients for computed tomography procedures, some of whom may be disabled
- Safely preparing and administering radiocontrast dyes intravenously to patients
- Observing patients during CT scans and documenting findings
- Overseeing and maintaining detailed patient records
- Following stringent safety protocols in order to maximize safety
As is the case with most X-ray tech jobs, requirements such as maneuvering and adjusting CT tech equipment, positioning patients (some disabled), and spending long stretches on their feet, CT technologist jobs generally require a relatively decent amount of stamina. The typical work week for a CT tech is generally 40 hours per week, and those employed by hospitals might be required to work evenings, nights, or weekends. CT tech jobs take place in a number of different work environments, but are most often found in hospitals and outpatient diagnostic imaging centers.
A career as a computed tomography technologist starts with a proper education. Prior to pursuing any CT tech schools or certificate programs, the aspiring CT scan technician must first possess a high school diploma or GED. Following that, they’ll be required to complete an acceptable postsecondary radiology program from one of the many X-ray technician schools that has been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). Most often this is accomplished by attending a two-year associate’s degree based program in radiologic technology from one of the many accredited X-ray tech schools, although one-year certificate and four-year bachelor’s radiology degree based programs are generally also available.
Following completion of an acceptable radiologic technology program, you should then sit for the America Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam in order to become an ARRT certified and registered radiology technician. Although ARRT certification isn’t mandatory, it’s almost universally required to accomplish anything in the field of radiology nowadays. Additionally, most CT tech schools and programs do currently require ARRT certification credentials and/or state licensure as a prerequisite.
After you have successfully passed the ARRT exam and met all other obligations, you will be eligible to enroll in a CT tech program. Typically, CT training programs will last 4-12 months and usually require a certain number of hours of clinical experience. Often times, the didactic coursework can be taken entirely online, while the clinical rotations may take place in a nearby hospital or other diagnostic imaging facility. Additionally, if you’re also interested in becoming an MRI technician or learning both CT and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), you may be able to find combined programs that teach both modalities together. Following completion of your CT technician program, you will then want to take yet another voluntary ARRT exam specific to CT technology to obtain the proper credentials.
The most widely recognized certification body in radiologic technology is the America Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), and as mentioned above, obtaining certification from the ARRT is technically voluntary. However, in order to get anywhere in the field of radiology today, you really should be ARRT certified. Case in point: Spend a few minutes online looking over the prerequisites for any CT scan jobs you find, or the eligibility requirements for any CT tech schools. You will quickly discover that ARRT certification is required almost everywhere you look. The bottom line is, possessing ARRT credentials makes you significantly more valuable in the field… voluntary or not. You can read more about CT tech certification here.
After having attended one of the accredited radiology programs in computed tomography and successfully becoming ARRT certified, you will need to look into your state licensure laws before seeking out any ct tech jobs. Currently, the majority of states do require licensure and/or certification to practice as a radiologic technologist. However, if you’re ARRT certified and registered, there’s a good chance that you will not be required to sit for a state licensure examination, as many states consider ARRT certification to be sufficient. Since state requirements are vastly different from one another, you will need to check with the appropriate department in your state.
As far as job availability is concerned, the future is bright for those interested in CT technologist jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a terrific growth rate of 28% between 2010-2020—twice as much as the 14% average of all occupations. This is due in part to our rapidly amassing senior citizen population, aging baby boomers, and the demand for a workforce that can accommodate all of them.
What is the Average CT/ Cat Scan Technologist Salary?
Based on a 2010 survey done by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), a typical CT tech earns a mean annual salary of $60,586—or about 7% more than the average conventional X-ray tech salary of $56,450. You can read more about this on our CT Tech Salary page.