How Can I Get Started on a Career in Radiology?

Radiologic technicians and diagnostic radiologists are popular positions in radiology. To begin a career as a radiological technician, you must enroll in a radiology course offered by a vocational school, community college or university. To begin a career as a radiologist, you must complete a 4-year pre-medical undergraduate program and medical school. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Careers in Radiology

The two common careers in radiology have immensely different qualifications. An associate's degree in radiology technology can often qualify a student for entry-level positions as radiologic technicians. A bachelor's degree can provide greater career opportunities, but it is not required. To be a diagnostic radiologist, however, requires years of training and is extremely competitive.

Important Facts About Careers in Radiology

Radiologic Technician Diagnostic Radiologist
Median Salary (2019)* $45,491 $299,235
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 12% growth 13% growth (for all physicians and surgeons)
Key Skills Physical stamina; attention to detail; social nuance; strong mathematical foundation Leadership; problem solving; organization; empathy
Similar Occupations Nuclear medicine technologists; radiation therapists; diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists Chiropractors; optometrists; registered nurses; physicians assistants

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Radiologic Technician

Radiologic technicians work alongside radiologists and other medical professionals in hospitals, clinics and physician offices. Using ultrasound, radiation and imaging technology, radiologic technicians take x-rays and perform other imaging procedures. They record and organize medical records, communicate with patients and adhere to directions given by radiologists. Radiologic technicians with more experience or qualifications can perform advanced imaging procedures like computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 2-year associate's degree is the most common degree among radiologic technicians (www.bls.gov). Certificates and bachelor's degrees are also available from community colleges and universities. To begin a career as a radiologic technician, students must find accredited radiology programs. The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is responsible for accrediting programs and provides a database of acceptable institutions. After receiving an undergraduate degree, students can pursue certification. The BLS reports that many hospitals prefer to hire certified radiologic technicians.

Diagnostic Radiologist

A diagnostic radiologist is a physician who performs medical procedures using medical imaging equipment and technology. Diagnostic radiologists can perform procedures like MRIs, CTs, ultrasounds and x-rays. Using these technologies, radiologists can recognize, diagnose and treat various disorders and ailments. The diagnostic radiologist can also perform minor invasive procedures using radiation and imaging tools. Diagnostic radiologists display leadership qualities by directing radiologic technicians and other staff members.

A diagnostic radiologist must undergo many years of academic training. After completing a pre-med undergraduate program, students must attend medical school and several years of on-the-job training. Radiologists are often required to then complete a residency program in a hospital or medical clinic.

A residency concludes with radiologists taking an exam administered by the American Board of Radiology. With licensure, radiologists can pursue positions with hospitals, health clinics and physician offices. Radiologists often choose an area of specialty, which can include:

  • Pediatric radiology
  • Interventional radiology
  • Mammography
  • Computed tomography (CT)

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