Diagnostic Radiology Education Requirements and Career Options

Diagnostic radiology involves the use of radiologic machinery to assess internal structures and thus identify medical conditions. Continue reading for an overview of potential degree programs as well as employment outlook and salary info related to some career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

Diagnostic radiology specialists use various equipment, including x-ray, computed tomography (CT) and MRI machines, to help determine whether patients are ill or injured. These professionals typically need at least two years of college and might require licensure, depending on the state in which they plan to practice.

Career Titles Radiologic TechnologistsMRI Technologists Nuclear Medicine Technologists Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Education Requirements Associate's degree in radiographyAssociate's degree in MRI Associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine technology Associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography
Other RequirementsLicensure required in some states; this might require professional certificationLicensure required in some states; this might require professional certificationLicensure required in some states; some employers require professional certificationLicensure required in some states; employers typically prefer one or more professional certifications
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 21% 24% 20% 46%
Median Annual Salary (May 2013)* $55,200 $66,050$71,120 $66,410

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

From diagnosing respiratory diseases to finding breaks in patients' bones, diagnostic radiology technology has a wide range of applications in the health care industry. Graduates of diagnostic radiology education programs might go on to become radiologic technologists, MRI technologists, nuclear medicine technologists or diagnostic medical sonographers.

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists create images of the inside of a patient's body using x-ray and CT imaging. They prepare and position patients for procedures, execute safety precautions, operate x-ray or CT machinery and help physicians evaluate the resulting images.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that employment of radiologic technologists could expand by 21% from 2012 through 2022 (www.bls.gov). Their median annual salary was $55,200 as of May 2013, per the BLS.

MRI Technologist

MRI technologists have duties similar to radiologic technologists; however, they use MRI scanners in lieu of x-ray and CT equipment. Additionally, MRI technologists work with contrast dyes, which are injected into a patient, ensuring images will be captured by the scanner.

The BLS projected a 24% increase in jobs for MRI technologists in the 2012-2022 decade. These diagnostic radiology professionals made a median salary of $66,050 in May 2013, according to the BLS.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists administer radioactive drugs in order to scan the various organs and tissues of a patient's body. They are responsible for monitoring scanners and machinery and ensuring that they're in good working order.

According to the BLS, jobs for nuclear medicine technologists could expand by 20% from 2012-2022. The median annual salary for this profession was $71,120 in May 2013.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

A diagnostic medical sonographer conducts ultrasound tests that aid physicians in detecting and evaluating certain conditions. They might specialize in one or more areas, including abdominal, breast, OB/GYN and musculoskeletal sonography.

Jobs for diagnostic medical sonographers were expected to grow at a rate of 46% during the 2012-2022 decade. In May 2013, their median annual earnings were $66,410.

Education Requirements

Those who wish to become diagnostic radiology specialists must have a high school education or GED equivalent to qualify for a training program. Depending on the desired specialty, students typically need to pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree; however, shorter certificate programs are sometimes available for those already working in the healthcare industry.

When selecting a postsecondary program, students should look for those certified by the Joint Review Committee on Education of Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Graduation from a JRCERT-certified program is often a requirement for licensure and/or professional certification.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics