Radiology programs prepare students for fulfilling careers with room for professional growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects above-average growth for many radiology positions, including radiologic technologists.
Radiology professionals receive personal fulfillment knowing that they help people get the diagnoses and treatments that they need to heal and live fuller lives. Radiology careers span many roles, depending on a worker's education and experience. For example, bachelor's graduates may work as technologists or sonographers, while those with a doctorate can work as radiation oncologists or radiologists.
This guide covers important information related to radiology careers, including jobs, potential salary, and degree options.
Skills Gained in a Radiology Program
Students hone many essential skills during radiology programs, including communication, mathematical, and technical skills. These abilities help workers connect with patients and conduct procedures accurately. Radiology schools also prepare learners to pay attention to important details, which helps ensure excellent patient care. The following list outlines critical skills that students gain in a radiology program.
- Interpersonal Communication
Radiology professionals at all levels interact closely with patients -- often during stressful periods. As such, successful radiologists and technicians possess excellent interpersonal communication skills. They must listen closely to patients, help create comfortable environments, and communicate their findings clearly.
Some radiology careers require professionals to perform math regularly. For example, some technicians mix substances for patients before procedures. Radiology students should keep their basic math skills fresh to ensure they make accurate calculations.
- Physical Abilities
Although companies can make arrangements for professionals with certain disabilities, radiology careers often require physical tasks, such as moving patients, staying on one's feet for long shifts, and using heavy equipment. Administrative and education radiology careers may require less physical stamina.
- Attention to Detail
Radiologic techniques require precise execution and interpretation. Professionals must use imaging instruments as instructed in precise areas of patients’ bodies. Otherwise, they risk missing something important or they may need to call a patient in for another test. Radiologists must also read test results carefully to make accurate diagnoses.
- Technical Savvy
Radiology professionals in clinical, educational, and administrative settings use cutting-edge technology in their daily professional lives. As healthcare technology evolves, radiology professionals must adapt to the newest equipment and software. Radiology programs prepare students to work on common machines, but professionals must keep up with trends throughout their careers.
Why Pursue a Career in Radiology?
Whether they carry out tests, make diagnoses, manage medical teams, or educate students, radiology professionals can complete fulfilling work. Many of these workers can also look forward to relatively lucrative salaries and plenty of opportunities for growth.
Most radiology careers pay above-average salaries compared to other professionals with the same level of education. For example, PayScale reports that the average professional with an associate degree earns $52,000 per year. However, associate degrees in radiology qualify graduates to work as diagnostic medical sonographers; according to the BLS, these workers earn a median salary of more than $67,000.
Radiology careers also provide job growth rates that outpace the national average. For example, the BLS projects the need for radiologic and MRI technologists to grow by 13% between 2016 and 2026. Furthermore, the BLS projects 10-23% growth for cardiovascular technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers over that same time period.
How Much Do Radiology Majors Make?
Radiology career salaries depend on several important factors, including job title, education level, employer, location, and experience. Students should consider each of these factors when setting their salary expectations. For example, cardiovascular technologists increase their salaries significantly over the course of their careers.
Furthermore, healthcare organizations in states with higher costs of living may increase their pay rates to attract radiology talent in competitive markets. Radiology salaries also increase substantially as workers earn advanced degrees. The table below highlights a few radiology careers and median salaries based on experienced.
|Job Title||Entry Level (0-12 Months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographer||$50,000||$51,000||$64,000||$71,000|
How to Succeed in Radiology
Because radiologists are medical doctors, candidates must hold doctoral degrees and medical licenses. However, the industry also offers radiology careers for graduates with associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees.
At the associate and bachelor’s levels, students study radiology techniques and equipment. They learn how to properly run tests and abide by the profession’s ethical codes. Master’s programs allow students to specialize in an area of radiology, offering concentrations in areas such as administration and education. During medical school, radiology students complete many of the same courses and rotations as their peers in other specialties, in addition to radiology residencies.
Because radiology careers require hands-on time with patients and technology, learners must complete some in-person requirements before graduating. Even mostly online programs include some in-person components, such as skills residencies, clinical rotations, and/or practica.
The type of hands-on experiences that students need to complete depends on their degree and curriculum structure. For example, undergraduate programs may require learners to complete on-campus intensives to gain practical experience with radiology equipment; these intensives may last just a few days. However, doctoral candidates spend months completing radiology rotations to qualify for the board exam.
Licensure and Certification
Throughout the country, radiologists must hold licenses from the American Board of Radiology (ABR) or their state boards. These doctors must also hold medical licenses. The licensing and certification requirements for other levels of radiology careers vary by responsibility and location. For example, some states require anyone who operates radiology equipment to hold a state license.
At all levels, graduates benefit from earning certifications from appropriate professional organizations, such as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Although voluntary, these certifications can make candidates more competitive in the job market.
Concentrations Available to Radiology Majors
Radiology programs often offer concentrations that allow learners to choose specific radiology career paths. For example, two-year colleges may prepare students for associate-level careers by covering tests like MRIs, CAT scans, and X-rays. Bachelor’s programs may allow learners to pursue specializations such as nuclear medicine and medical imaging.
Students pursuing master’s degrees may pick from concentrations in areas like education, management, and specific patient populations. Those seeking medical licenses use radiology as their main concentration but can further specialize to treat specific populations.
- Medical Imaging: Undergraduate programs may offer concentrations in specific types of medical imaging. Students may learn how to operate MRI, CT, ultrasound, X-ray, or radiation therapy equipment. These programs prepare graduates to work as technicians or continue on to graduate programs.
- Nuclear Medicine: Nuclear medicine currently represents the cutting edge of radiology. As such, some schools offer this concentration in undergraduate and master’s programs. Graduates can find positions as nuclear radiation technologists or assistants, depending on their degree level. Many of these programs prepare graduates to sit for certification exams offered by ARRT or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board.
- Radiology Education: Graduate programs sometimes provide radiology education concentrations to fill the need for radiation educators across the country. Students take courses in curriculum development, assessment methods, evidence-based education, healthcare leadership, and research methods. Graduates can work as professors at higher learning institutions or as clinical educators in medical facilities.
- Radiology Leadership: Radiology professionals seeking leadership positions can choose this concentration in some graduate programs. Degree candidates study financial management, resource management, evidence-based administration, and information management. Graduates can work as managers, chief technologists, and administrators within radiology organizations. This concentration does not typically include clinical requirements.
What Can You Do With a Radiology Degree?
Radiation oncologists and radiologists earn the highest average salaries in this field. However, they must attend medical school to qualify for these positions. Candidates can also find lucrative radiology careers with high growth potential in roles that require less education.
Associate and bachelor’s programs prepare graduates to work as radiologic technicians and sonographers. Professionals with bachelor’s degrees and several years of experience can fill higher positions, such as lead technicians and chief technologists at an imaging center. Learners can also land these roles with master’s degrees.
Bachelor's Degree in Radiology
Bachelor’s programs in radiology prepare graduates to compete for technician and technologist jobs. These professionals operate radiology tools, including MRI, sonogram, X-ray, and CT machines. While some technicians work on several types of devices, most specialize in a specific device. Technicians administer tests and provide the results to a radiologist to interpret.
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Graduates who concentrate in nuclear medicine and train on these cutting-edge machines may find work as nuclear medicine technologists. These radiology professionals perform several types of tests, including bone, PET, gallium, and MIBG scans. They must provide excellent patient service and securely transfer images to doctors.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Diagnostic medical sonographers use sonography machines to run tests that determine if patients have specific ailments. They work in OB/GYN practices, hospitals, outpatient centers, and imaging facilities. Sonographers in hospitals may work any shift, while those in other settings typically work during regular business hours. These professionals can specialize in specific types of sonograms, including cardiovascular tests.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan Technologist
These professionals give patients CT or CAT scans. The machines for these tests require patients to lie down on the machine’s bed and stay still while technologists record images. CT technologists may need to help patients on and off the bed. These professionals typically work in hospitals and imaging centers.
- MRI Technologist
These technologists operate MRI equipment, which takes images of organs and soft tissues within the body. They must ensure patients follow all guidelines, remain calm, and stay still for the scans. These professionals often take responsibility for the cleanliness and safety of their MRI rooms.
- X-Ray Technician
Sometimes called radiologic technicians, X-ray technicians check for bone and hard tissue problems. Hospitals, nursing homes, physicians' practices, and imaging centers hire these professionals. In hospitals, they can work for dedicated units, like the emergency department or pediatric ward.
Master's Degree in Radiology
Master’s programs hone skills in management, advanced radiology, and research analysis. These abilities allow radiology professionals to move into higher-paying positions with more responsibilities. Some graduates remain in clinical roles, such as radiology assistants. Other professionals move into education roles at clinical sites and universities. Graduates with master’s degrees may also enter administrative roles as managers and supervisors.
- Radiologist Assistant
These professionals work under radiologists to provide patient care. Depending on local regulations and employer policies, radiologist assistants may interpret imaging test results and explain what they find to patients. Imaging clinics hire these professionals to increase efficiency and productivity.
- Radiology Manager
These administrative professionals oversee operations in imaging clinics and radiology units in hospitals. They may manage hiring, purchasing, equipment maintenance, training, and policy implementation. In some environments, they set schedules for technicians and manage patient feedback. While some employers hire experienced technologists with bachelor’s degrees, many require candidates to hold a relevant graduate degree.
- Clinical Educator
Clinical educators work at higher learning institutions and clinical environments to train technologists. In colleges and universities, they oversee clinical experiences and ensure students learn relevant skills. In hospitals and imaging centers, these professionals train employees about an organization’s equipment and procedures.
- Ultrasound Supervisor
Ultrasound supervisors manage employee relations, equipment, and patient satisfaction at ultrasound facilities. They can work for hospitals, OB/GYN offices, ultrasound clinics for pregnant patients, and imaging companies. They may oversee one site or several within an organization. Candidates need several years of experience in diagnostic sonography.
Doctoral Degree in Radiology
Ph.D. programs focus on research and prepare graduates to work in academia and nonclinical positions. Graduates can work as professors or as radiation physicists, helping hospital departments understand the effects of radiology techniques.
MD programs prepare learners to work as doctors who specialize in radiology. Candidates must earn medical licenses, complete radiology residencies, and apply for board licensure. Professionals can then practice as radiologists in hospitals, imaging facilities, outpatient clinics, and nursing homes. These doctors may specialize in a particular type of radiology, such as oncology. Specialties may also relate to patient demographics, such as pediatric radiology. Some radiologists open their own imaging practices.
These doctors interpret the scans that technologists take and make diagnoses accordingly. Unlike other levels of radiology careers, radiologists do not specialize based on the equipment used. Although most radiologists work for hospitals, some find positions in imaging clinics or start their own private practices.
- Radiation Oncologist
These doctors study radiology, oncology, and the way the two interact during their residencies. They then use radiation therapy to treat patients with cancer. They work in hospitals and independent cancer treatment centers. These professionals often consult oncologists and radiation physicists as they design treatment plans.
What Industries Can You Work in With a Radiology Degree?
Radiology professionals work in most facilities that provide medical care. While many practice in hospitals, plenty find work in physicians' offices, diagnostic centers, outpatient care facilities, and research centers. Job availability largely depends on location. For example, large cities may host several hospitals that need many radiology professionals. However, suburban and rural areas may provide more opportunities at outpatient imaging centers.
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Radiologists work in every type of hospital, including pediatric, general, and surgical facilities. These settings allow radiologists to enjoy variety in their careers and work with many types of patients.
- Offices of Physicians
Large physician groups and those that specialize in areas that require medical imaging often hire radiologists. They may manage long-term or emergency care for patients.
- Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
This category includes facilities that are part of hospitals and treatment centers, as well as standalone laboratories. Radiologists may conduct research or analyze medical imaging results.
- Outpatient Care Centers
These healthcare facilities treat patients who do not need to stay overnight. They may perform surgeries, give medical treatments for chronically ill patients, or provide mental health services.
- Scientific Research and Development Services
Professionals who want to develop new radiology techniques or improve existing methods work in research and development laboratories. These facilities receive funding from government organizations, healthcare companies, and universities.
How Do You Find a Job as a Radiology Graduate?
Radiology students should start preparing their resumes, interview skills, and professional networks before graduation. Candidates can bolster their resumes with internships, practica, and professional certifications. Some schools offer career-building resources for students, including job boards, interview seminars, and resume builders. When seeking potential radiology careers, candidates can check general hiring sites as well as industry-specific job boards like iHire Radiology, RadWorking.com, and PracticeLink. Individuals can also apply directly through the websites of local hospitals, physician groups, and imaging centers.
Professional organizations help radiology job seekers build their networks, earn credentials, and keep up with industry news. Members may attend local chapter meetings to introduce themselves to decision-makers at nearby healthcare organizations. Some large health services companies and hospitals hold career fairs near graduation times. Candidates who attend these events may engage in on-the-spot interviews and take advantage of networking opportunities.
Professional Resources for Radiology Majors
The ACR welcomes physicians with radiology licenses, allied health professionals, and students in doctoral radiology programs. Members enjoy access to industry journals, discounts on continuing education opportunities, a job board, and local networking opportunities. The ACR also sends advocates to legislative bodies on behalf of its members.
This organization represents tens of thousands of radiology professionals. Members can access an online learning center to stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and complete continuing education requirements. Members can also apply for exclusive grants, read peer-reviewed journals, and access practice-building toolkits.
Radiologic technologists can join ASRT for continuing education opportunities, career advancement opportunities, and access to industry publications. The organization makes it simple to renew licenses with personalized continuing education plans based on professional goals.
This national medical board licenses radiologists. Graduates can earn credentials in diagnostic radiology, medical physics, radiation oncology, and interventional radiology. Although candidates can seek licensure in their home states, a national license allows them to practice anywhere in the country. Some certifications and employers also require applicants to hold ABR credentials.
The SDMS welcomes diagnostic medical sonographers and their employers. Members can earn continuing education credits through online learning and use a personalized tracker to ensure they qualify for license renewal. Members can also access online communities, compensation data, liability insurance, grants, and awards.
Radiography students, allied health professionals, and doctors who specialize in vascular radiology can join AVIR. The organization’s mentorship program and career center offer job opportunities. Members also enjoy access to self-study podcasts, conferences, webinars, and journals.
The SPR provides membership to radiology professionals who work with children, including students, residents, radiologists, and technicians. Members get free access to the Pediatric Radiology journal, online continuing education opportunities, and an annual meeting.
This online and print magazine includes articles on industry news and healthcare trends. Professionals can also access the site’s job boards. Radiology Today hosts several events around the U.S. each year that provide education and networking opportunities.
This online news outlet covers topics such as women’s health in radiology, radiation oncology, medical imaging, and information technology. Readers can learn about unconventional hospitals and what happens at industry conferences. In addition to articles, professionals can access relevant webinars and podcasts.
While other publications focus on the clinical side of radiology, this publication focuses on administration. Readers can learn about business dealings in the industry, best practices, quality improvement, and data security. Subscribers can also attend an annual conference, watch webinars, and read breaking case studies.