Students in medical imaging programs learn how to take internal pictures of a person's body for treatment of disease. Specialized programs are available in areas such as obstetrics, CT, and magnetic resonance imaging. Online and partial online programs are available, though it's important to note that clinical training is often critical.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required in order to enter associate's and bachelor's degree programs, with a bachelor's degree and minimum GPA being needed for master's programs. For Ph.D. programs, a bachelor's degree, high GPA, and thesis is required.
Associate's Degree in Diagnostic Medical Imaging
In the associate's degree program in diagnostic medical imaging, students gain the necessary communication skills to work with both doctors and patients. Students also acquire the technical knowledge to operate diagnostic equipment and position patients properly. The program emphasizes knowledge of biology, mathematics and science.
The typical curriculum in a medical imaging associate's degree program includes courses in medical ethics and law, human anatomy and procedures and principles of patient care. Examples of possible course topics in this program include:
- Basic physics
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical ethics
- Patient care
Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging
A bachelor's degree in medical imaging prepares students for employment in technological settings as well as in clinics or medical workplaces. Some of the concepts covered by this program are radiation protection principles, surgical procedures and basic patient care. Students in the medical imaging bachelor's program develop radiation safety and advanced imaging equipment skills.
Students study radiographic techniques and may minor in MRI or CT. Some examples of courses in this degree plan are:
- Imaging science
- CT instrumentation and physics
- Radiographic imaging
- MRI procedures
Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering (Medical Imaging and Imaging Informatics)
Students enrolled in a master's level degree program learn how to analyze medical images and use medical computer systems and advanced information archiving structures.
Master's degree programs in medical imaging are much more technical than the undergraduate degrees. Students study advanced computer programs, application servers, and specialized medical-computer applications. Other course topics may include:
- Digital tele-consultation w. medical images
- Image-based neurosurgical Command Module
- Image security
- Assessing bone age from digital images
- Medical simulations & modeling
Ph.D. in Medical Informatics
A medical informatics doctoral program may offer a concentration in medical imaging. This type of program would appeal to students who already have an undergraduate degree in a related field or even an MD degree. They are interested in gaining insight into medical imaging instrumentation and systems.
The Ph.D. in Medical Informatics (medical imaging) is based heavily in advanced research skills. Students take courses that encourage leadership roles in the medical field. Courses include:
- Development of medical instrumentation
- Biomedical imaging and image processing
- Computer modeling and systems used for medical imaging
- Magnetic and electric fields medical uses
Popular Career Options
Career options in the field of medical imaging technology are quite varied depending upon education level. Graduates with an associate degree in medical imaging can become certified by taking the exam given by American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Once certified, medical imaging graduates may find employment in medical and diagnostic labs, offices of physicians and outpatient care centers.
As education level increases, career choices expand. A bachelor's degree holder might become a radiologic technologist or sonographer. A master's degree graduate can move into more technical, specialized positions using medical computers or advanced diagnostic equipment. Many graduates of doctoral programs become independent researchers, professors or entrepreneurs. A few of these many possibilities are:
- Ultrasound technician, sonographer
- Radiologic technologist, imaging technician
- Imaging equipment specialist
- Healthcare entrepreneur
- Military healthcare analyst
- Professor, researcher
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The employment outlook and salary information for medical imaging positions depends on the field of imaging. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, diagnostic medical sonographers earned median annual wages of $68,970 as of May 2015. In the same year, the BLS reported that radiologic technologists earned a median annual salary of $56,670.
Entry-level workers may pursue medical imaging certificates or degrees in specialized areas such as obstetric and gynecologic sonography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT imaging. Some of these require the completion of more advanced degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging.
Students interested in medical imaging can pursue undergraduate and graduate programs in medical imaging, medical informatics and biomedical engineering. Graduates can also look into medical imaging certificates in specific areas of the practice.