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What Are Some Medical Imaging Professions?

Medical imaging is a diagnostic tool used by physicians to detect injuries or diseases by creating images of bones, organs and soft tissue. Advances in medical imaging equipment have opened the door to a variety of medical imaging professions. Read on for more detailed information regarding medical imaging professions.

Medical Imaging Professions

Those working in medical imaging professions, referred to as radiographers, can work for diagnostic imaging facilities, private practices, hospitals or clinics. Here are a few examples of some medical imaging professions:

  • X-ray technician
  • Ultrasound technician
  • Computerized tomography (CT) technologist
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist

Important Facts About This Occupation

Radiologic TechnologistsDiagnostic Medical Sonographers
Average Salary (2018) $61,540 $73,860
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 12% job growth (faster than average) 23% job growth (much faster than average)
Key Skills Interpersonal, math, technical skills Coordination, interpersonal, technical skills
Work Environment Majority work in hospitals; May be exposed to radiation; May work weekends, evenings Majority work in hospitals; Work in dimly-lit rooms; May work evenings, weekends, overnight

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

X-Ray Technician

One common type of medical imaging profession is the X-ray technician. While some imaging technology provides advantages over X-rays, this diagnostic imaging tool is still widely used in many situations. X-ray technicians work mostly in hospitals and private practices and use ionizing radiation to supply images of bones and teeth. Organs and other soft tissue are typically viewed using contrast solutions.

Ultrasound Technician

Ultrasound technicians, or sonographers, work with equipment that uses sound waves to produce diagnostic medical images of organs, soft tissue and blood vessels. Many ultrasound technicians work in obstetrics to provide images of fetuses in the womb. Ultrasound technology is also used to detect tumors, masses or kidney stones.

CT Technologist

CT scanners are another type of diagnostic medical equipment used to view organs and soft tissue. These scanners use radiation, much like X-rays, to produce 3-dimensional cross-section images of the body. In some cases, CT technologists inject contrast materials into a patient's bloodstream to supply images of veins, arteries and soft tissue.

MRI Technologist

An MRI technologist is responsible for operating an MRI machine. Also referred to as MRI technicians, those working in this medical imaging profession provide 2- and 3-dimensional images of the body to help detect certain diseases or injuries. MRI machines use non-ionizing radio frequency rather than radiation to produce these images.

Training Requirements and Certification

An associate's degree is the usual level of education for radiologic and MRI technologists, while sonographers may have associate's or bachelor's degrees. There are also certificate programs available for individuals already working in a related field. During the training program, students study medical terminology, anatomy and communication skills. They learn to position patients, operate equipment and observe safety procedures. Clinical requirements give them hands-on experience.

Some states require that radiologic and MRI technologists and/or medical sonographers be licensed. This generally requires completing an accredited education program and passing an exam. Professional organizations also offer certifications that, while optional, may help with employment.