Medical Radiation Technologist - How to enter the job
Ringa Hangarau Pūhihi WhakaoraAlternative titles
Medical radiation technologists use x-ray and other imaging equipment to take images of people's injuries and possible diseases.
Medical radiation technologists with one to six years’ experience usually earn
$49K-$69K per year
Senior medical radiation technologists with more than six years’ experience usually earn
$69K-$95K per year
Source: APEX and District Health Boards Medical Radiation Technologists Collective Agreement to 2015
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for medical radiation technologists varies depending on experience and the size of the hospital they work for.
Pay for medical radiation technologists
Medical radiation technologists working for district health boards are paid according to a collective agreement:
- New graduates working a 40-hour week earn $49,000 a year.
- They progress each year for six years to $69,000.
- Senior medical radiation technologists who have management responsibilities can earn up to $95,000.
- They are also entitled to overtime, night rates and other allowances where relevant.
Pay for Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) specialists, nuclear medicine technologists, and sonographers
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) specialists, nuclear medicine technologists, and sonographers (who work with ultrasound) have a similar progression through a salary scale:
- They start on $74,000 a year for a 40-hour week.
- They can progress to $86,000 over five years.
- Those in senior positions can earn up to $97,200.
Source: 'Association of Professional and Executive Employees (APEX) and District Health Boards Medical Radiation Technologists Collective Agreement – 1 October 2013 to 7 October 2015'.
What you will do
Medical radiation technologists may do some or all of the following:
- provide information to patients about what will happen during their examinations
- prepare patients and equipment for examinations
- produce diagnostic images to help with diagnosis of injuries or possible diseases
- prepare and administer radioactive materials (tracers) or x-ray dye to patients
- check the quality of images taken, and ensure equipment is working correctly
- complete managerial or administrative tasks that contribute to patient care
- perform quality assurance testing on equipment.
Skills and knowledge
Medical radiation technologists need to have knowledge of:
- human anatomy, physiology and pathology
- positioning and imaging techniques, and how to use x-ray equipment
- physics and radiation physics
- safety issues related to the use of radiation equipment and radioactive materials.
Medical radiation technologists:
- usually do shift work, which may include weekends and evenings
- may have to be on call, particularly at public hospitals
- work in hospitals, medical laboratories, private practices, and clinics.
What's the job really like?
Chris Burkhill - Nuclear Medicine Technologist
What's the main part of your job?
"To collect information on an aspect of a patient's disease for their doctor by using radioactive substances called "tracers". These can be injected into the blood, swallowed or inhaled. These radioactive substances are then photographed and measured by gamma cameras.
"I'd always thought the whole thing of taking pictures of radioactive stuff that you've injected into someone was pretty cool."
In this role, what do you need to be good at?
"Remembering details about everything from chemistry and computing, to physics and physiology. You need steady hands for lab work and giving patients injections. Plus the job is constantly changing and you will be expected to keep up. "Good planning is essential because radioactive drugs decay with time and a waiting period is required between the injection and the scan for a lot of procedures. There are so many things to consider it can be easy to overlook something – for example, arranging an interpreter to explain a test to a patient."
What is your favourite part of the job?
"Meeting all kinds of interesting people under unusual circumstances, and creating a relaxed environment to hopefully ease the stress people often feel when in hospital."
To become a medical radiation technologist you need to:
- complete a Bachelor's degree in medical radiation technology, which includes work in a clinical setting
- be registered with the NZ Medical Radiation Technologists Board
- hold an Annual Practising Certificate, which is issued by the Board.
Relevant degrees are available through:
- Universal College of Learning (UCOL)
- Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).
You may need to pass health and police checks, and attend an interview and/or an observation day, to get into the course.
- Unitec website - information on medical radiation technology courses
- CPIT website - information on the Bachelor of Medical Imaging
- UCOL website - information on the Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Imaging Technology)
- New Zealand Medical Radiation Technologists Board website - information on Annual Practising Certificates
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, maths and calculus, science, particularly physics, computing and information management.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Further training needed to specialise
To specialise in mammography, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), you need to complete a postgraduate qualification in the relevant area.
You need to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences (Mammography) from The University of Auckland.
Ultrasound (sonography) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
You need to complete a postgraduate diploma in the relevant area, available from The University of Auckland, while working in the field.
Nuclear medicine technology
If you are interested in qualifying in nuclear medicine technology, contact the NZ Medical Radiation Technologists Board to find out your options, as they are in the process of working out which qualifications will be accredited. Study is likely to be by distance-learning through an Australian institution.
Medical radiation technologists need to be:
- mature, responsible and patient
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to work well under pressure
- able to work independently and as part of a team
- able to follow instructions
- excellent communicators so they can relate well to patients and other staff
- good decision-makers
- competent with technology
Medical radiation technologists must not be squeamish, as they may have to deal with people who have severe injuries.
Useful experience for medical radiation technologists includes:
- any work in the health sector
- technical work
- lab work
- any jobs involving contact with people.
Medical radiation technologists need to have a good level of fitness as they may need to lift and move patients into positions for scans. They also need good hand-eye co-ordination, as lab work and patient injections require steady hands.
Medical radiation technologists need to be registered with the NZ Medical Radiation Technologists Board.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Institute of Medical Radiation Technology (NZIMRT)
- (09) 379 3059 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzimrt.co.nz
- NZ Medical Radiation Technologists Board (MRTB)
- (04) 801 6250 - email@example.com - www.mrtboard.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
The number of people working as medical radiation technologists increased by 5% between 2010 and 2012. Demand is expected to continue growing because:
- more people have age and obesity-related problems, so they need scans and other tests to check for related diseases
- a relatively low number of people train to do this job, due to limited placements for students in hospitals
- many medical radiation technologists work overseas when they qualify, for higher pay and to further their work experience
- health screening programmes mean people are being referred routinely for checks such as mammograms.
Not all medical radiation technologists work in hospitals
Most medical radiation technologists are employed in:
- hospitals and nursing homes (47% of medical radiation technologists)
- medical and dental services (29%)
- other health services (16%).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2002-2012 Occupational Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012
- New Zealand Medical Radiation Technologists Board website, accessed February 2014, (www.mrtboard.org.nz).
- Whitehead, L, executive officer, New Zealand Institute of Medical Radiation Technology, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2014.
Progression and specialisations
Medical radiation technologists may move between areas of radiography if they are registered and hold a current Annual Practising Certificate covering the area they want to move into. They can also progress into management and teaching roles, or marketing and sales.
Medical Radiation Technologists usually specialise in:
- Diagnostic Imaging General Technologist
- Diagnostic imaging general technologists may specialise in areas such as computed tomography (using CT scanners to take images); fluoroscopy (using an x-ray beam to take images) or mammography (taking images of breasts to check for cancer).
- Magnetic Resonance Imager (MRI)
- Magnetic resonance imagers use MRI scanners, radio frequency waves, and magnetic fields to diagnose injuries and possible diseases.
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist
- Nuclear medicine technologists use radioactive materials (tracers) and gamma cameras to diagnose and occasionally treat diseases.
- Sonographers use ultrasound scanners and sound waves to take images of internal parts of the body.
Last updated 28 January 2016