Salaries surge, but concerns remain
By Keri Forsythe-Stephens
**The January 2019 issue of 24×7 Magazine will feature more statistics and exclusive salary charts.**
If money talks, then a lot can be said about the state of the healthcare technology management field. Specifically, it’s hot—as evidenced by the rise in wages recorded in 24×7 Magazine’s 2018 compensation and job satisfaction survey.
Salaries rose in all major job categories—including BMET 1, BMET 2, BMET 3, clinical engineer, radiology equipment specialist, director/executive, and managers in 2018—with the latter segment witnessing the highest year-over-year growth. HTM managers in the Mountain West region seemed to fare better than their peers, however: Their salaries jumped $22,100 from 2017—a significant leap from the $10,400, median year-over-year, increase managers saw on a nationwide basis.
Following HTM managers, directors/executives saw the second-biggest hike in wages in 2018—with their salaries improving $10,100 from 2017. And in what is perhaps one of the biggest surprises in 24×7 Magazine’s 2018 compensation and job satisfaction survey: Directors/executives in the East South Central region reported an all-time high median salary of $136,700. Trailing them slightly were directors/executives in the Mountain West and Pacific regions, who saw their salaries surge to $133,800 and $130,800 in 2018, respectively.
Despite these financial gains, survey respondents’ likelihood of recommending the HTM profession to others remained largely unchanged. In 2017, 44% of those surveyed indicated that they were “very likely” to endorse the HTM profession to outsiders—with a subsequent 16% deeming themselves “likely.” (Only 2% marked themselves “very unlikely” to promote the profession.)
These numbers are largely in line with 2018’s statistics, in which 43% said they were “very likely” to recommend HTM and 20% stated that they were “likely” to do so. Like in the previous year’s survey, only a small number of respondents—this time, 3%—considered themselves “very unlikely” to tout the profession.
When asked about their favorite aspects of HTM, survey respondents had a mix of responses. Some individuals cited the constantly-changing workload—“There’s never a dull moment,” one respondent wrote, “and our job does not become mundane”—while several others praised HTM’s impact on patient care. After all, one person noted, it’s deeply satisfying to help healthcare workers in their quest to save lives.
It’s a noble pursuit, indeed, albeit one that is not without challenges, some respondents said. Regarding the top gripes with the field, certain themes emerged in 24×7 Magazine’s 2018 compensation and job satisfaction survey—namely, issues surrounding the right to repair, hospital politics, and what some respondents deemed an overwhelmingly heavy workload.
24×7 Magazine conducted this year’s survey with the help of the Survey Gizmo Web platform. Subscribers were invited to take the 44-question online survey from October 4 through November 30—with the questionnaire inquiring about respondents’ gender, education, salary, benefits, and workload. The survey also delved into respondents’ overall level of job satisfaction, as well as their thoughts about the state of the HTM sector.
Of the 1,450 subscribers who responded, 1,311 indicated that they were employed full-time as an HTM professional in the United States. The salaries noted in the report—which are grouped into nine geographic divisions—are based on median values, rather than averages. To sort through the data, 24×7 Magazine employed the services of Villa Rica, Ga.-based private firm JGF Performance Consulting.
Deconstructing the Data
The data generated in 24×7 Magazine’s 2018 compensation and job satisfaction survey pointed to one overarching theme: A profitable and healthy HTM market. In addition to the significant financial gains observed among HTM managers and directors/executives, radiology equipment specialists also witnessed a hike in wages in 2018.
Nationally speaking, the median salary for radiology equipment specialists rose from $83,500 to $85,300, year-over-year, in 2018—certainly only a modest increase—but radiology equipment specialists in the Middle Atlantic and East North Central regions saw their salaries jump from $86,500 to $93,300 and $82,500 to $87,600, year-over-year, respectively—much more marked gains.
The salary range for BMET 3s was similarly broad, spanning from $60,800 in the East South Central region to a record-high of $91,300 in the Pacific. Nationwide, the median salary for BMET 3s stood at $71,900 in 2018—up slightly from $68,000 in 2017. Such an increase was largely on par with the salary improvements recorded among BMET 1s and clinical engineers in 2018’s survey—with the former group seeing median salaries surge from $47,500 to $48,700, year-over-year, and the latter group reporting a $1,400 hike in salaries. (On a national basis, the median salary for clinical engineers was $86,400 in 2018.)
Despite median salaries rising in all major job categories, some respondents still felt that they weren’t adequately compensated for their efforts. “Compensation is my major concern,” one survey respondent lamented. “I feel that I’m [paid] below average for my level of education, certification, and years of experience.”
To make themselves more marketable—and ensure that their skills are up to snuff—a handful of respondents confirmed that they’re currently pursuing further education. In 2018, 21% of those surveyed indicated that they were taking steps to broaden their education—up from 17% in 2017.
What didn’t change in 2018, however, was the “typical” survey respondent: Like in previous years, most of the people answering the survey were male—females comprised 9% of survey respondents, up slightly from 8% in 2017—and approaching retirement age. In 2017, the mean age of respondents was 51.1; it dipped slightly to 49 in 2018.
Similarly, exactly one-quarter of survey respondents are actively job searching—a figure that is on par with 2017’s statistics. Reasons cited for this decision ranged from a lack of career mobility—“There’s no room for growth,” one respondent griped, “and we have to use outdated computer systems.”—to an increasingly heavy workload. A biomed’s workload is so demanding, in fact, that nearly half of respondents—49%—characterized it as “heavy,” with a further 11% calling it “excessive.” Only a very small subset of survey respondents—2%—considered their workload “light.”
Put simply, “understaffed conditions create stress,” one survey respondent wrote. Another quipped: “HTM can be a bit stressful at times…and the [field] can grind a person down in the wrong environment.”
Stressful, yes, but deeply rewarding, according to many survey respondents. Along with the satisfaction of positively impacting patient care, those surveyed lauded HTM’s challenging, fast-paced environment—as well as the ability to work on the most cutting-edge, technologically advanced devices. One radiology equipment specialist was particularly effusive about the latter perk, praising his/her dealings with “advanced and ever-advancing MRI technologies.” Plus, the specialist said, “limited service contracts allow [my team and me] to maintain every facet of the MRI system.”
Maintaining such high-tech equipment is no doubt exciting, but some respondents cited the challenges that come with this task—namely, handling the rise in networked systems. “Everything is connected to a network in some way, shape, or form,” one respondent wrote. “This means we must learn and understand basic and advanced networking skills.”
If HTM professionals don’t, another respondent maintained, they could face irrelevancy. Bluntly speaking, “you don’t stand a chance if you can’t adapt,” the individual stated.
On the flip side, HTM professionals who embrace the increasingly connected environment and lean into change may find themselves handsomely compensated for their efforts. One survey respondent called the rise in medical device connectivity “great,” adding, “I got out in front of the wave and rode it. Biomed’s expanded role in IT has [actually] given me opportunities.”
Such opportunities will likely increase even further as aging HTM professionals retire and new blood enters the field, several respondents pointed out. And from a financial standpoint, one person added, that’s good news, indeed. “As the available workforce decreases due to attrition, the need for technicians should help to drive compensation,” the respondent wrote. Compensation, according to the data gleaned in 24×7 Magazine’s 2018 compensation and job satisfaction survey, that is already on an upswing.
All things considered—the rise in salaries, the ability to positively impact patient care, and the relevancy of the field—the state of HTM is arguably stronger than ever. Challenges certainly remain, many respondents acknowledged, but the good largely outweighs the bad. “My job is the dream job,” one respondent noted, with another calling HTM healthcare’s “hidden gem.” A hidden gem, perhaps, that many employers consider valuable—and are willing to invest in.
Keri Forsythe-Stephens is chief editor of 24×7 Magazine. Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected].