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Graduating College and Finding a Job in X-Ray

If you’re reading this, then you are likely seeking knowledge on either (1) How in the world am I gonna finish x-ray school? Or, (2) Ok, I graduated. Now how the heck am I gonna find a job? Those questions are tough, to be sure. But, never fear! I have some answers for you.

X-ray school is hard! I’m never gonna pass my exams, clinicals, etc…

Relax. There are tons of sources out there for you. It’s not as hard as you think. Most of my classmates’ biggest fears was of the math-based classes. Physics got you down? Check out some online radiography physics sites. I’ll include a great one at the end of this article. They have a easy and concise overview on what you need to know. Procedures and Positioning giving you a hard time? Find another student to practice on, or get a pocket positioning book. Sweating the big bad Registry? It’s not going to be as hard as you might think. It’s not going to be a breeze, but passing it is totally doable, and you have months to prepare!

Here’s what I did: I looked around online for a good review book just for the registry in Radiography that the ARRT gives. There are several books, but the ones me and my classmates had were mostly the Radiography PREP or the Lange Q&A. They cost about the same, but personally, the Lange Q&A was an awesome resource as it has hundreds and hundreds of practice questions on every subject the registry might throw at you.

Ok, so now lets say you took that advice and passed your registry. If you’re a recent graduate like me, you know the job market for techs in just about every state is abysmal. People looking into entering school for this field right now be warned – now might not be the best time to go to radiography school. I know what some of the instructors at the schools will tell you. They’ll say there are jobs to be had or they might just skirt around the subject. A few of them will maybe even tell you the truth: The market for employment as a tech is cyclical. It goes up and down, or round and round, however you want to look at it. For instance,

Radiography has been virtually flat for two years, with 0.5% increases in candidate numbers.

Radiation Therapy volume, on the heels of a 5.3% drop in 2007 volume, dropped 1.9% in 2008.

ARRT examination volume closely follows the number of program
graduates, and the number of graduates goes through cycles driven
by supply and demand for technologists,” notes Jerry B. Reid, Ph.D.,
ARRT executive director. “When there are more positions available
than there are technologists to fill them, educational programs
increase enrollment. We typically overshoot the mark – to the point
where there are more technologists than there are positions, and the
programs reduce enrollments. These cycles have been observed for
decades, but the overall trend across the years is increased volume.”

In other words, the job market for techs is in a slump and has been for at least the last 2 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no jobs! There are just way more people on average currently applying for the same position than there might have been 5 or 6 years ago. I graduated from x-ray school in 2009, and even though it took almost a full year, out of the 22 or so students that graduated with me almost all of them now have at least some type of job in the field. I also have to say, despite the steps I took to put myself out there and gain employment, I was still very fortunate that I was one of the first few to get an actual full-time job. So what did I do different than other students?

To be completely honest, a good portion of them did the same things I did. The ones that didn’t had a slightly harder time finding a place to work. There are probably a few people from my class that just haven’t had any luck or maybe even gave up on the field entirely, or pursued some alternate-but-related modality such as MRI or CT to go into instead. Anyway, on to the advice – I hope it helps you!

Externships: This is the biggest reason I have a job. I jumped on the opportunity at a semi-nearby hospital as a student and worked every single hour they would give me. I got a paycheck, I got some connections, but most importantly, I got experience. Working as an extern made life at clinicals a no-stress affair. I quickly gained confidence about working with patients and doctors because I was doing it every day (and sometimes every night too!). When I graduated, the hospital that had hired me on as an extern had an opening. Guess who got it?

Be a Go-getter: Exactly what it sounds like. Be friendly and outgoing with your teachers, fellow students, and the techs, managers, and doctors at your clinical site. If an exam comes up to be done or a patient needs transport or a tech needs moving help jump up and do it. Trust me, they won’t forget your helpful attitude and general usefulness.

Ask for a Job: Seriously. You can fill out online applications and send your resume out until you start turning blue, but nothing makes an impression like actually calling or meeting with a manager to show them you have enough drive to do more than just fill out application forms on the hospitals’ website or copy+paste a sample resume from the internet and add your name to it. Often when straight-out asked about open positions you can get the skinny on possible future openings and vacancies in the department, something the ‘Job Openings’ section of their website won’t tell you. Besides, if anything, meeting with management will let them be able to put a face to your application. That can’t hurt, at least not as long as you don’t look like Gollum.