Boom or Bust: Has Radiologic Technology Employment Seen It’s Day?

radiation

Do you have a job? Or are you one of the many, either experienced or newly graduated, who cannot find employment? Visit any of the social media websites such as LinkedIn or the chat rooms and blogs at various sites and you will find many examples of wailing and gnashing of teeth of radiologic technologists. Radiologic Technologists have stories of being replaced by new graduates who receive less salary, and lowering of earnings to replace the job you had, if you can find one.

The employment market is cyclical. The last peak in the up cycle was in 2001 and 2002.  At that time, there was a shortage of personnel to fill the jobs that were available.  Everyone was predicting that we would need massive amounts of new recruits into the field to occupy the jobs and resupply those who were retiring.

Two scenarios have interfered with the dire predictions of insufficient personnel.  The first slowly emerging change was the arrival of digital equipment. Digital equipment was expensive and supposedly we couldn’t afford it. But efficiency won as a radiology department immediately became more productive with less technical staff. It was possible to pay for the equipment by eliminating the expensive and unpopular chemical processing.  This change caused a contraction in the number of jobs at most facilities even though more facilities were opening.

The second factor was the slowing of the economy and the falling of interest rates. Dreams of retirement at an early age or at the regular age evaporated. Beginning in 2008, the radiologic technology workforce did not retire. Radiologic technologists are more than fifty percent Baby Boomers. There are multiple reasons for that, one of which is the field is a second career to many.

In 2006, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics quoted 196,000 jobs in radiologic technology with a 15% increase to 226,000 predicted over the next 10 years (2016).  In 2008, the number of jobs was 208,570. In 2009, the number of jobs was reported at 213,560 and 2011 was 220,540. It appeared we were on target. However, amidst the reporting of how many graduates could not find work and some that have never found work after 3-4 years post-graduation, it calls for evaluation of how the counts were made.

We arrive at 2012. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is touting they have 300,000 registrants. That means 300,000 individuals have a credential that could mean employment. Yes, some are in management, some are retired or choosing not to work and keeping their credential active and others are doing another job and keeping a credential active.  But, that is a significant increase of registrants since 2006.  The significance increases as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of jobs fell in 2012 to 194,970, less than in 2006. In the six year span, the jobs have cycled but the people did not follow the cycle.

The ARRT reports a list of 746 schools that are teaching diagnostic radiology with certification as the end goal. This list does not include the schools that are teaching for limited certificates or for basic operators.  If each program admitted 20 students each per year there would be approximately 14,000 newbies in the field every year. There are not enough individuals retiring to make room for the influx of new graduates.  The number of new radiology certificates has been falling ever so slightly each year.  The combination of new equipment, new economy, and no retirement has produced a conundrum.

So, how does one find a job in this environment of” fill out the application online and never hear from the facility”?   It may require relocation, taking a PRN job to start, working any shift including weekends, networking, and pursuing an advanced registry.

I know what will not get you a job and what many administrators and directors complain loudly about. Your interview is critical if you are lucky enough to land one. Ask questions about the facility, the equipment, the culture, and the values.  If you display an attitude of entitlement and think that just because you have obtained a piece of paper that shows you can do the task, it does not mean that you will get the job.  Senior management is looking for the right fit for their team. It’s a big investment for them to hire you. They want to be sure they are getting the right person.

The cycle may work itself out if demand increases with the coming of the Accountable Care Act. There should be an increased demand for services. The increased demand for services will mean we will all work harder with more patients. That may be too much for the Baby Boomers who are ready to retire. That could create some movement and some jobs. Until such a transition transpires, we will continue to see more technologists than there are jobs.

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