Diagnostic Radiology Education Requirements and Career Options

Sep 10, 2019

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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Diagnostic radiology includes a number of different jobs, including radiologic technologists, MRI technologists, nuclear medicine technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers. Read this article for more information about what these jobs entail, their prospects in the next decade, and other relevant career and education information.

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 Technologists MRI Technologists Nuclear Medicine Technologists Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Education Requirements Associate's degree in radiography Associate's degree in MRI Associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine technology Associate's or bachelor's degree in sonography
Other Requirements Licensure required in some states; this might require professional certification Licensure required in some states; this might require professional certification Licensure required in some states; some employers require professional certification Licensure required in some states; employers typically prefer one or more professional certifications
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $59,520 $71,670 $76,820 $72,510
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 9% 9% 7% 19%

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 9% from 2018 through 2028. Their median annual salary was $59,520 as of May 2018, 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 9% increase in jobs for MRI technologists in the 2018-2028 decade. These diagnostic radiology professionals made a median salary of $71,670 in May 2018, 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 7% from 2018-2028. The median annual salary for this profession was $76,820 in May 2018.

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 19% during the 2018-2028 decade. In May 2018, their median annual earnings were $72,510.

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.

The field of diagnostic radiology includes a variety of jobs. All involve using equipment and technology to diagnose medical issues. While a training program may only require a GED for entry, most fields require an associate's or bachelor's degree.

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