Medical Imaging Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a medical imaging career? Get real job descriptions and education requirements to see if a medical imaging career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Medical Imaging Career

Medical imaging technology is a specialized healthcare field that involves taking images of portions of patients' bodies for diagnostic purposes. Common careers in this field include diagnostic medical sonography, radiologic technology and nuclear medicine technology. Determine if one of these jobs is right for you by comparing the following list of pros and cons:

Diagnostic Medical SonographerRadiologic TechnologistNuclear Medicine Technologist
Career OverviewDiagnostic medical sonographers conduct ultrasounds, sonograms and echocardiograms on patients.Radiologic technologists conduct x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive drugs that highlight abnormalities in the body.
Education RequirementsAssociate's degreeAssociate's degreeAssociate's degree
Program Length 2 years2 years 2 years
Certification and LicensureLicense is required in some states; voluntary certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)License or certification is required in most states; voluntary certification is available from the ARRTLicense is required in some states; voluntary certification is available from the ARRT and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB)
Job Outlook for 2012-2022Much-faster-than-average job growth (46%) compared to all occupations*Faster-than-average job growth (21%) compared to all occupations*Faster-than-average job growth (20%) compared to all occupations*
Median Annual Salary (2014)About $67,530*About $55,870*About $72,100*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers operate equipment that employs sound waves to create images that can be used to diagnose medical disorders. They set up the equipment and answer patients' questions about the procedure. Diagnostic medical sonographers study the images to ensure they are adequate to help with diagnosis. They also document the procedures, maintain records and report their findings to physicians. The majority of diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals, while others work in doctors' offices and medical laboratories.

Requirements

Most diagnostic medical sonographers enter the job market with an associate's degree. A typical associate's program in diagnostic medical sonography offers courses in anatomy and physiology, sonographic physics and instrumentation, medical terminology, obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) sonography and abdominal sonography. Completion of clinical practicums is also required to obtain this degree. In addition to education, select states require you to be licensed to serve as a diagnostic medical sonographer. Licensure typically requires professional certification, although state requirements may vary.

Here's a sample of what employers were looking for in sonographers in December 2012:

  • A women's medical group in California was seeking a diagnostic medical sonographer who had completed an accredited diagnostic medical sonography program to perform OB-GYN diagnostic sonography exams. At least 5 years of experience and ARDMS OB/GYN certification were required.
  • A Honolulu healthcare provider wanted to hire a senior diagnostic cardiac sonographer to perform echocardiograms. Basic requirements included at least 2 years of echocardiography experience, graduation from an accredited ultrasound program with an echocardiography specialization and echocardiography certification from ARDMS or cardiac sonographer credentials from Cardiovascular Credentialing International.
  • A healthcare provider in Minnesota had openings for 2 part-time registered diagnostic medical sonographers. At least 2 years of experience and graduation from an accredited sonography program were required.

Standing Out

Since many employers require professional certification, you can increase your chances in the job market by becoming certified by ARDMS as a registered diagnostic medical sonographer. ARRT offers sonography certification as well. You can also make your resume stand out by becoming certified in several sonography specializations. ARDMS offers certifications in a variety of specializations, including fetal echocardiography, breast, OB/GYN, abdomen and vascular technology. You must complete an accredited sonography program and pass an exam to become certified. Continuing education is required to maintain your certification.

Radiologic Technologist

Following physician instructions, radiologic technologists operate x-ray, MRI or CT equipment to form an image that can be used for medical diagnosis. They maintain records of these procedures and analyze the images to see if more are needed. Radiologic technologists ensure that the patient and equipment are properly positioned and place a shielding device on the patient so that only the area needed for the diagnostic procedure is exposed.

Requirements

You must complete an educational program in radiography before you can get a job in this field. Certificate, associate's and bachelor's programs are available, and most radiologic technologists begin their career with an associate's degree. If you enroll in an associate's program in radiographic technology, you'll take courses on anatomy and physiology, radiographic procedures and radiographic principles in addition to clinical training. Additionally, most states require you to have a license or be certified before you can work as a radiologic technologist. These requirements typically include completion of an accredited radiography program and a passing grade on a certification exam.

Get an idea of what employers were looking for with this selection of job listings available in December 2012:

  • A medical clinic in Texas sought a radiology technologist to perform procedures with computerized medical imaging equipment. Completion of an approved radiological science program or equivalent, ARRT certification and medical radiologic technologist certification from the Texas health department were required.
  • A California medical center was looking for a radiology technologist with at least 2 years of experience to perform radiologic exams, keep track of inventory and order supplies. California radiologic technologist certification, cardiopulmonary resuscitation credentials and ARRT certification were required.
  • A hospital in New Jersey was seeking a radiology technologist capable of performing radiographic procedures without close supervision. Graduation from an approved radiological technology program, ARRT certification and New Jersey licensure were required.

Standing Out

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that you have the best chances of landing a job as a radiologic technologist if you obtain a variety of certifications. The ARRT offers several certification programs, including credentials in radiography and MRI. You must complete an approved radiologic technology program and pass an exam to be certified by the ARRT.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive pharmaceuticals to patients and then use equipment like positron emission tomography (PET) and CT scanners to survey the area of the body that is subsequently highlighted by the radioactive chemicals. This creates an image that is used for medical diagnosis. Nuclear medicine technologists also keep an eye on patients to watch for any adverse reactions to the drugs and maintain patient records. Since this job can expose the technologist to radiation, these workers wear protective coverings to limit exposure. Most nuclear medicine technologists work in hospitals and physicians' offices.

Requirements

An associate's degree is usually required to obtain employment as a nuclear medicine technologist, and bachelor's degree programs are available at some colleges and universities. The curriculum in a nuclear medicine technology program includes classes on anatomy and physiology, radiation biology, radiopharmaceuticals and clinical nuclear medicine. Some states require a license for this occupation.

In December 2012, some employers were looking for the following qualifications in nuclear medicine technologists:

  • A digital imaging services provider in North Carolina was seeking a nuclear medicine technologist to perform imaging services in a mobile setting. Requirements included 3 years of experience, completion of an educational program in nuclear medicine and professional certification in nuclear medicine technology.
  • A radiology clinic in Sacramento was looking for a nuclear medicine technologist with at least 1 year of experience to perform nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures on an on-call basis. A certificate of completion in nuclear medicine technology was required.
  • A New York digital imaging services provider sought a nuclear medicine technologist with clinical experience in PET/CT. Professional certification in nuclear medicine technology and CT along with state licensure in nuclear medicine technology and radiology were required.

Standing Out

After you obtain your degree, you may increase your value to employers by receiving professional certification. You can obtain certifications in MRI and CT through the ARRT by passing certification exams. Additionally, the NMTCB offers certifications in nuclear cardiology and PET.

Popular Schools

  • Campus Locations:
    1. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate - Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Ultrasound
      • Associate - Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Ultrasound
  • Online Programs Available
    2. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Biotechnology Enterprise
      • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Biotechnology Enterprise
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Widener University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
      • MS in Nursing
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

Virginia College

  • Associate - Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Ultrasound

What is your highest level of education completed?

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Biotechnology Enterprise

What is your highest level of education?

Widener University

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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