Medical Imaging Training
|Degree Level||Associate degree most common; certificates and on-the-job training available|
|Degree Field(s)||Radiography or diagnostic medical imaging|
|Experience||Volunteer experience can be valuable|
|License/Certification||Licensure varies by state and position; voluntary certification available|
|Requirements||Drug screening and background check; up-to-date immunizations; CPR certification may be required|
|Career Options||Diagnostic medical sonographer, radiographer, or radiologic technologist|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||26% growth|
|Mean Annual Salary (2015)||$70,880 (for diagnostic medical sonographers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Careers in medical imaging often require applicants to complete a 2-year degree program in radiography or diagnostic medical imaging. While certificate programs and on-the job training programs are also available for applicants entering the medical imaging field, associate degree programs are more common, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some employers also request applicants to have recent laboratory and immunization tests, pass a drug test and have no felony convictions. Volunteer experience and CPR certification may be required for some medical imaging positions.
The associate degree program in radiography provides students with hands-on clinical and laboratory experience to practice skills in patient care and basic medical procedures. Graduates of an associate degree program in radiography have experience and knowledge of the various types of medical images, including magnetic resonance, ultrasound, computed tomography and mammography. Students study basic medical terminology, image processing, equipment maintenance, x-ray exposure, technical writing and pathology.
Diagnostic Medical Imaging
Diagnostic medical imaging programs include training on positioning a patient for a magnetic image, operating diagnostic imaging equipment and perform radiographic procedures. Through lectures and clinical work, students in the associate degree program in diagnostic medical imaging build critical thinking skills and understand the complexities of an accurate medical imaging scan while interacting with patients under supervision. Graduates of these programs generally hold a position as a diagnostic medical sonographer and may specialize in areas such as abdomen, ophthalmology or echocardiography. Coursework typically includes intro to radiologic physics, patient care and procedures, clinical education, anatomy and physiology and image production and evaluation.
Individuals who go on to get medical imaging training can work in many different sectors. Common job titles might include diagnostic medical sonographer, radiographer and radiologic technologist. The BLS states that diagnostic medical sonographers make a mean annual wage of $70,880 as of May 2015. The employment for this career is expected to grow 26% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than average.
Voluntary certification for radiographers is available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Graduates of an AART-accredited radiography degree program are eligible to sit for the certification examination. Recertification must take place every two years. Licensing requirements for radiologic technologists vary by state, but most states require a license to practice, which may obtained through a state public health office.
State licensure is also not required for diagnostic medical sonographers, but most employers prefer national registration with a certifying body. Registration is activated following a certification test of basic diagnostic imaging principles and instrumentation use, along with material in a chosen specialty area. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers offers a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) certification for individuals in the diagnostic medical imaging field.
National conferences, meetings and online stores offer radiologic technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers not only continuing education credit, but the chance to learn about new techniques, strategies and equipment. Professional organizations, like the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offer students education programs, newsletters and career opportunities so that medical imaging professionals may succeed in their profession.
Both medical imaging fields offer advancement opportunities in the form of specialized certificates, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasounds, in addition to completion of an advanced degree program, like a bachelor's degree. Experienced radiologic technologists and sonographers may be promoted to an executive position within an organization, like an administrator or director, with a graduate degree. Others may seek job opportunities in sales, marketing or with medical equipment manufacturers.
Medical imaging training programs are available at different levels, though associate degree programs are the most common. After graduation, students can earn certification or join a professional organization.