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Diagnostic Imaging Salary Information and Job Duties

Diagnostic imaging is generally a program that combines classroom study with hands-on training. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

Diagnostic imaging professionals use specialized equipment and machines to take pictures of the human body to look for abnormalities that can be diagnosed and treated. In order to land a job in the field of diagnostic imagery, students need to earn a certificate, 2-year degree or 4-year degree from an accredited institution. These programs combine classroom training in anatomy, medical terminology and the physics involved in this field along with real world experience working with patients and other medical professionals.

CareerDiagnostic Medical SonographerCardiovascular Technologist and TechnicianRadiologic Technologist
Education Requirements Associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography; certificate if student already holds a relevant degree Associate's or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology; certificate if student already holds a relevant degree Associate's or bachelor's degree in radiologic technology; certificate if student already holds a relevant degree
Licensing Required by a few states N/A Some states require certification or licensing
Projected Job Growth (2012-22)*46% 30%21%
Mean Salary (2013)*$67,170$53,990 $54,180

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Options

Diagnostic imaging technology employs many types of procedures to diagnose ailments, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray, CT, ultrasound and nuclear medicine scans. There are opportunities to work as a diagnostic medical sonographer, cardiovascular technologist or X-ray technician. Professionals generally work in hospitals, doctor's offices, diagnostic centers and outpatient care facilities. In addition to mandatory formal education, certification is also available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and many employers prefer someone who holds a certification. Licensing or certification is mandatory in some states for radiologic technicians.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonographers create images of the body's interior structures. These images are called sonograms or ultrasounds. Sonographers often specialize in various areas such as abdominal sonography or obstetric and gynecological sonography. They need an associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography, although individuals who already have degrees in a related healthcare field can train through a certificate program.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting job growth of 46 percent in the field of diagnostic medical sonography over the next few years, which is much faster than the average for other occupations. The mean salary for diagnostic medical sonographers in May 2013 was $67,170, the BLS noted, with the highest mean wage, almost $74,000, paid by outpatient care centers.

Cardiovascular Technician and Technologist

Cardiovascular techs use sonography to examine the heart. They also help with procedures such as cardiac catheterization and open-heart surgery. They may administer electrocardiogram (EKG) testing and stress tests. An associate's or bachelor's degree in cardiovascular technology is generally required, but a certificate may be sufficient for someone trained in a relevant field.

The mean salary for cardiovascular techs was $53,990 in 2013, the BLS noted, with the highest reported salary, nearly $71,000, going to techs employed at dentists' offices. The BLS predicted job growth of 30% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians from 2012-22.

Radiologic Technologists

Often called X-ray technologists, radiologic technologists use X-rays to create images of the body's bones and organs. They need to know how to adjust and maintain the equipment, follow safety procedures and communicate with patients and other medical staff. The job can be physically demanding, calling for a great deal of standing and walking as well as lifting and moving patients. An associate's degree is the most common means of training for this job, but bachelor's degrees are available, as are post-baccalaureate certificates. Licensing or certification is required by some states, and this usually includes passing an examination.

The BLS noted that jobs for radiologic technologists should increase by 21% from 2012-22, due to an aging population and also because of federal healthcare regulations that give more people access to services. The mean salary for this profession was $54,180 in 2013, the BLS reported, with the highest pay, $65,000, coming in the field of scientific research and development services.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics