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What Are the Education Requirements to Work in Medical Imaging?

Medical imaging is a diverse field with career options including cardiovascular technology, sonography, nuclear medicine and radiologic technology. Read on to learn about the education and training required; this information can help you decide in which area you want to work.

Overview of the Education Requirements in Medical Imaging

Medical imaging involves using specialized equipment to gather visual data to determine what's happening within a patient's body. You may be required to look at bones, muscles or organs as you help doctors determine such things as whether a woman is pregnant with a boy or girl, whether a patient is ill due to a cancerous growth or whether a teenager has broken his leg. The images and data you collect can be used in a variety of medical fields.

The education required for a career in medical imaging is dependent on the specific field of medical imaging that you enter. Some careers require intensive formal training and education, while others involve training on the job. All programs require training in medical terminology, anatomy, safety and equipment operation. You will get hands-on clinical experience as well.

Important Facts About Medical Imaging

Common Courses Pathophysiology, radiographic imaging, clinical decisions in radiology
Prerequisites Requisite coursework in subjects like biology, quantitative reasoning, chemistry, and rhetoric, and a minimum GPA
Online Availability Programs are available.
Programs Internships are offered by universities and private organizations.

Radiologic Technologists and Technicians

If you choose to become a radiologic technologist or technician, you'll use imaging equipment such as X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most common educational option for this career is an associate's degree program in radiography, although certificate and bachelor's degree programs also are available (www.bls.gov). A program can provide you with training in patient care, anatomy, radiation physics and imaging principles through classes and clinical study. In most states, you'll be required to hold a professional license, according to the BLS. In May 2018, the BLS revealed that radiologic technologists earned a median annual salary of $59,520.

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

As a cardiovascular technologist or technician, you'll focus on medical imaging of the heart. You could work with equipment including cardiac catheters, electrocardiograph (EKG) machines and Doppler ultrasounds. You also might run tests using a Holter monitor and administer stress tests.

According to the BLS, you'll need at least an associate's degree to become a cardiovascular tech, but you might choose to complete a bachelor's program instead. Such programs can provide you with the chance to specialize in invasive or non-invasive cardiovascular technology. If you choose to work as an EKG tech, you'll usually receive on-the-job training and won't need to complete a formal training program. A license isn't required, but the BLS notes that employers are commonly requiring certification for cardiovascular techs. The BLS reported the median salary for cardiovascular technologists and technicians was $56,850 as of May 2018.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

In the field of nuclear medicine, you'll use radiopharmaceuticals in conjunction with medical imaging equipment to discover abnormalities in a patient's body. The BLS states that to prepare for this career, you can complete a program at a hospital or earn an associate's or bachelor's degree. In 25 states, you must hold a license as a nuclear medicine technologist, according to the BLS. The BLS also notes that certification is commonly required by employers. As of May 2018, nuclear medicine technologists earned a median salary of $76,820, per the BLS.

Sonographers

As a sonographer, you'll use ultrasound equipment, which employs sound waves to produce images from within the body. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available, as is training in the armed forces. Individuals already working in the field of radiologic technology might pursue a certificate program offered by a hospital, according to the BLS. There are no licensing requirements for this career, but employers may prefer that you be certified, the BLS states. According to the BLS, the median salary of all diagnostic medical sonographers was $72,510 as of May 2018.