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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.

Diagnostic imaging technologists work with complex imaging equipment to help doctors diagnose physical ailments. They must be well-versed in the technology they use and with human anatomy so as to properly take images of their patients.

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.

Career Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Cardiovascular Technologist and Technician Radiologic 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 (2014-24)* 26% for diagnostic medical sonographers 22% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians 9% for radiologic technologists
Median Salary (2015)* $68,970 for diagnostic medical sonographers $54,880 for cardiovascular technologists and technicians $56,670 for radiologic technologists

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 26% in the field of diagnostic medical sonography between 2014-2024, which is much faster than average. The median salary for diagnostic medical sonographers in May 2015 was $68,970, the BLS noted, with the highest mean wage, almost $83,600, 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 median salary for cardiovascular techs was $54,880 in 2015, the BLS noted, with the highest mean salary, nearly $67,420, going to techs employed at offices of other health practitioners.The BLS predicts job growth of 22% for cardiovascular technologists and technicians from 2014-24.

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 notes that jobs for radiologic technologists should increase by 9% from 2014-24, due to an aging population and also because of federal healthcare regulations that give more people access to services. The median salary for this profession was $56,670 in 2015, the BLS reported. The highest paid 10% earned more than $81,660.

All diagnostic imaging technologists must be experts in the anatomy they are imaging as well as the technology they are using to create those images. An understanding of physics and math is also important as are communications skills, as all technologists work with both patients and doctors in the course of their careers.

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