Why Pursue a Career in Radiology?
With the number of radiologic technologists in the US projected to increase by 9% by 2024, the field of radiologic technology is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations.1
More than 17,200 new jobs are expected in the field between 2014 and 2024.2 In addition to working as a radiology technologist, ultrasound technician, X-ray technician, MRI tech, or CT tech, medical professionals such as nurses, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists also work in the field of radiology.
As of May 2016, radiologic technologists earned an average salary of $58,960 per year, with average hourly earnings of $28.35.3 With an immediate and sustainable demand for educated radiologic technologists in hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices, the field of radiography should continue to show higher than average job growth into the future.
Whether a student is seeking a radiology certificate or a master’s, bachelor’s, or associate’s degree in radiology or applied health sciences, radiologic technology is a fascinating subject to study. In addition to providing the foundation to the required certification to work in your state of residence, earning a degree from a radiology school also prepares you for a healthcare career that is challenging, important, and gratifying.
Ranked as the #22 best job in health care support by US News, a career in radiology working as radiological technologist is a smart choice.4 The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more than 20,700 new jobs in this field over the next seven years.1
Job seekers can stand out in a growing field of qualified professionals by completing a two-year degree in radiologic technology and by gaining as much hands-on experience as possible prior to their career in radiology. Certification and/or licensing requirements can be met in most states by completing exams that test the candidate’s knowledge of safety procedures and imaging technology.
What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?
As a critical member of the healthcare team, a rad tech must be adept at using computed technology (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, and x-ray generators. Radiographers may specialize in a variety of diagnostic imaging techniques, including mammography and ultrasound.
Radiologic technologists assist physicians and radiologists, who read the images and diagnose illness and injury. Job prospects for those starting their careers in radiology are expected to remain high, particularly for those interested in working for general medical and surgical hospitals.2 Rad tech professionals also work in urgent care facilities, clinics, equipment sales, and private offices.
Types of Radiologic Careers
Physicians and surgeons who learn advanced diagnostic and treatment methods using medical imaging are called radiologists. Assisted by technicians, radiologists are medical doctors who use mammography, x-ray, MRI, fluoroscopy, and CT scans to identify and treat illness and disease. In addition to diagnosis, radiation oncologists and nuclear medicine specialists also treat cancer and other diseases using radiation. Radiology can be divided into several different fields including breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology, emergency radiology, musculoskeletal radiology, and neuroradiology.
Radiology Technologists / Radiographer
Commonly referred to as radiologic technologists or rad techs, radiographers create medical images using X-ray, MRI, and mammography for radiologists and other physicians to read and analyze. Becoming a radiologic technologist typically requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. In addition to a degree, in most states, radiologic technologists must be licensed and/or certified to have careers in radiology.
Learn more about how to become a radiologic technologist here.
A radiologic technician or X-ray technician, sometimes referred to as a limited scope technician, has a limited scope of practice. X-ray technicians generally work in urgent care centers and doctor’s offices but not hospitals. Training programs for X-ray technicians can range from six months to two years in duration and result in a certificate or associate’s degree upon successful completion of the program.
Learn more about how to become a radiologic technician here.
Ultrasound Technician / Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
An ultrasound tech utilizes diagnostic imagery equipment that uses sound waves to do more than just identify the sex of a baby. Diagnostic medical sonographers are skilled technicians who use ultrasound technology on a wide range of soft-tissue procedures, including obstetric and gynecologic sonography, abdominal and cardiac sonography, and neurosonography.
Employment of ultrasound technicians is projected to grow at a rate of 24% through 2024, which is at a much faster rate than average.5 Nationwide, professionals in this field earned a median salary of $64,280 in 2016.5 Larger metropolitan areas such as San Jose, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco in California offer higher-than-average compensation for medical imaging specialists in this field.6 Although hospitals remain the main employer of medical sonographers, the number of jobs expected to increase even faster in diagnostic and medical laboratories, as well as in physicians’ offices.5
As one of the most popular types of radiology careers, the growth of ultrasound technology is largely due to the fact that patients will continue to choose to avoid exposure to radiation and other invasive procedures when given the option. Additionally, ultrasound imaging technology is popular with medical facilities because it is an excellent substitute for other more costly and invasive procedures.
There is no formal licensure process for ultrasound techs most states. However, most employers will require a candidate to have passed a specialty certification exam such as that offered by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) and will require clinical experience. There are bachelor’s programs in ultrasound technology available as well as specialist certificate programs for students who already possess a two-year associate’s degree in radiologic technology.
MRI techs operate a magnetic resonance scanner to obtain two- or three-dimensional maps of various tissue types within the patient’s body that are used by physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of pathologies. After entering and monitoring the patient’s data, the MRI technician transfers images from disk to magnetic media in order to create a transparency and then develops the film for the doctor or radiologist to analyze.
The median average MRI tech salary in the United States is $68,420, making it one of the more desirable radiology careers.1 While many radiographers hold an MRI tech bachelor’s degree, at least two years of experience is typically required in the field or in a related area, as well as registration with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
CT Tech / CAT Scan Technologist / CT Scan Technologist
A CT tech is responsible for producing computerized tomographic scans of certain sections of the patient’s body. CAT scan technologists perform abdominal scans, gynecological and obstetric scans, and ultrasound examinations, as well as retroperitoneal scans to create three-dimensional cross-sections or slices of the body.
In addition to a high school diploma, CT techs typically complete rad tech training and ARRT registration and begin their careers in radiology with at two years of experience.
Radiology Schools by State
Radiologic Technologist Career Interviews
- Deborah Murley, President, Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
- Julie Gill, President, American Society of Radiologic Technologists
- More career interviews with leaders in the field of radiologic technology.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Handbook, Radiologic and MRI Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
2. US News & World Report Careers, Radiologic Technologist: https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/radiologic-technologist
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Radiologic Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm#tab-6
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers: