If you want to become a mammography technician, you’ll need to complete an accredited program and earn a certification. Learn more about how to become a mammography tech.
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Mammography is a special type of x-ray examination used to detect breast cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages. FDA licensed mammography facilities must meet rigorous standards for both the quality of their x-ray equipment and the qualifications of their staff.
The majority of mammographers are radiologic technologists who have completed a two-year associate degree in radiologic technology, although some have four-year degrees in other disciplines. All must pass a radiologic technologist certification exam and complete a clinical practicum before becoming licensed by the state in which they practice. Many states also require continuing education credits to maintain licensure.
In addition to general diagnostic mammography, many technologists specialize in breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or biopsies. Some also receive training in tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, which is an emerging technology used to screen for breast cancer.
What Does a Mammography Tech Do?
A mammography technologist, also known as a mammographer, is a health care professional who specializes in performing and interpreting mammograms. Mammography technologists work in hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They may also be employed by mobile mammography units that travel to different locations.
Mammography technologists are responsible for operating x-ray machines and positioning patients so that their breasts can be properly imaged. They must be able to position the breast tissue in such a way that it produces the clearest possible image while minimizing the amount of radiation exposure. Mammography technologists also must be able to explain the procedure to patients and answer any questions they may have.
After the images are taken, mammography technologists review them to ensure that they meet quality standards. They then forward the images to a radiologist for interpretation. In some cases, the radiologist may ask the technologist to take additional images.
Education and Training
There are no formal education requirements to become a mammography technologist. Many hospitals, clinics and diagnostic imaging centers require that new employees have at least an Associate’s degree in radiologic technology, although some may only require a high school diploma or equivalent. However, most technologists complete a two-year radiologic technology program at a hospital, community college, vocational school or four-year college. These programs combine classroom instruction with clinical experience.
In all states, radiologic technologists and technicians must be licensed by the state in which they work. Although licensure requirements vary by state, most states require radiologic technologists and technicians to graduate from an accredited program and pass a state-administered examination.
year or more of full-time, paid work experience in the field.
To become licensed, radiologic technologists and technicians must complete an accredited educational program in radiography, nuclear medicine technology, radiation therapy, or magnetic resonance imaging. Radiologic technologists and technicians typically need an associate’s degree to qualify for entry-level positions; however, some jobs may require a bachelor’s degree. employers may prefer candidates who have completed a formal radiography program offered by a hospital, the military, a vocational-technical institution, or a community or junior college. Many of these programs last 2 years and lead to an associate’s degree in applied science or a certificate.
Skills required to become a mammography technologist include excellent manual dexterity, the ability to take quality x-rays, and good communication skills. Mammography techs must be able to position patients for x-rays, explain the procedure to patients who may be anxious, and provide support and comfort. They must also be able to work well under pressure, as they may have to complete a large number of procedures in a day.
Salary and Job Outlook
Mammography technicians, also called mammography technologists, use x-ray machines to screen patients for breast cancer and other abnormalities. They take images of the breast tissue, which are then interpreted by radiologists. mammography techs must complete an accredited training program and obtain licensure or certification in order to practice.
Most mammography techs work in hospitals, although some may find employment in outpatient care centers or physician offices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 12% growth in jobs for radiologic technologists and technicians from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for mammography techs was $51,670 in May 2019, according to the BLS.