Medical imaging remains one of the most profitable medical professions that can be achieved through vocational and technical training. Although the required educational courses can be intensive and costly, job opportunities in the field are expected to increase over the next ten years, and at higher rates of pay.
Unlike most other medical vocational options, medical imaging typically requires at least an Associate degree (if not more education) as well as further specialized training and certifications.
What Exactly is Medical Imaging?
Medical imaging is actually an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different job titles. All of them work with medicine and technology, using machines and specialized tools to take internal images of a patient’s body. Because there are so many different types of imaging tools, most medical imaging professionals learn and become specialized in just one. A medical imaging professional can look for careers in: Radiology (X-Rays), Medical Resonance Imaging (MRIs), Computed Tomography (CT), Ultrasounds, and Cardiovascular Technology.
Medical Imaging Education Requirements
Most of theses programs are offered in two-year courses from a variety of schools. Vocational training institutions, community colleges, and even four-year university degree programs offer the education necessary to begin entry-level medical imaging work. However, because the course load can be very technical and complicated, this field is not as flooded with candidates as one might expect. Students with the drive to succeed and the right training can expect to have a great professional future in medical imaging.
Although online courses are available in a variety of forms, most medical imaging careers require some level of hands-on training at a qualified medical imaging school, so prospective students should be wary of programs that allow 100 percent at-home learning. Online programs should reinforce post-graduation certification, meet all national criteria for the specific major, and offer externships or internships.
Medical Imaging Career Outlook
Beginning professionals in the medical imaging field with at least an Associate degree can expect a starting salary of $35,000 to $40,000. This number increases with education, experience, and certification.
Jobs are available in hospitals, imaging facilities, private clinics, and government facilities. Management jobs, teaching jobs, and work in sales are additional potential career options to pursue.
Radiology Technicians use x-rays to take images of the body. Professionals in this field prepare patients for their x-rays, position the equipment to take images, run the x-ray machines, and process the film. They are also required to look at the images to determine if the pictures are accurate enough for the radiologist to make a proper diagnosis.
Radiologic Technologists can expect to make anywhere between $40,000 to $55,000 depending on where they work and their level of responsibility. Specialization (in CT, Mammography, Cardiovascular Technology, etc.) typically increases earning potential.
Professionals have to enter the field with at least an Associate degree in Radiologic Technology and be registered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. State licenses may also be required.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses radio waves and magnets to take images of the patient. The machines they use are highly specialized, costly, and dangerous, so they require extra vigilance on the part of the professional.
Because of the incredible complexity of the machine, MRI Technologists can expect to make between $50,000 and $60,000 per year.
Basic education requirements include an Associate degree in Radiologic Technology and specialized training in Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Other options include a Nuclear Medicine Technologist degree with further specialization. Most employers expect at least an American Registry of Radiologic Technologists certification.
Computed Tomography (more commonly known as CT Scan) is a type of radiography that uses x-rays on the entire body. Technicians typically assist and prepare the patients, take images, and get the images ready for a radiologist to interpret.
CT Technologists typically make around $45,000 to start. This income can increase with experience and specialization, reaching beyond $60,000 in some parts of the country.
Educational requirements include at least an Associate degree in Radiologic Technology, typically with a specialized focus in Computed Tomography. Although certification is not required, most employers will not hire a CT Technologist without certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Ultrasound Technologists (also known as Diagnostic Medical Sonographists) use sound waves to produce images of the body. They mostly work with expectant mothers (although ultrasounds are also used for diagnostic and biopsy purposes, as well). The Ultrasound Technician typically prepares patients for the procedure, uses a transducer to get the images, and even analyzes the images to make judgments or further recommendations.
Most Ultrasound Technicians make roughly $50,000 per year, a number that increases with further specialization.
The minimum educational requirements are an Associate degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography or an Associate degree in Radiologic Technology with a one-year Ultrasound certification. Professional certification through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is required.
Cardiovascular Technology (or Angiography) uses x-rays just to look at the blood vessels of the body. Technicians in this field typically assist radiologists in preparing patients for the procedure and using the necessary equipment. The entire process is fairly invasive, so professionals have to be able to handle a semi-surgical environment.
Because this is simply a more specialized version of other medical imaging work, most professionals in this field can carry over many of their skills into other similar jobs. The required specialization also means that the pay is greater, with a national average of $55,000 per year.
Educational requirements require an Associate degree in Radiologic Technology, and certification as a Radiologic Technologists is also necessary. (Professionals can also opt for an advanced specialization certification through this same entity.)