Radiology majors learn to perform diagnostic tests and procedures. Trained to take X-rays and CAT scans, administer radiation treatments, and operate specialized instruments, radiology professionals work closely with physicians, scientists, and patients.
Largely centered in the healthcare industry, radiology positions also extend to clinical research, equipment sales, and education and instruction settings. This guide provides insight into the available concentrations, types of careers, and typical salaries within the field radiology.
Why Pursue a Career in Radiology?
Radiology careers are a rewarding outlet to help others. Tasked with preparing, performing, and assessing radiologic tests and procedures, radiology professionals help their medical colleagues identify and treat health issues. Radiology jobs also give innovative and analytical thinkers opportunities to research and develop new medical tools and treatments.
Radiology technicians and technologists carry out detailed tasks while also explaining procedures and treatments to patients. As such, communication and problem-solving skills help radiology professionals to thrive. Attention to detail, teamwork, and patience are also essential skills in the field.
Radiology Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 14% job growth for the healthcare industry between 2018 and 2028 — the highest growth rate in any occupational category. Specifically, the BLS projects 9% job growth for radiologic technologists over that time period.
According to the BLS, radiologic technicians earned an average annual salary of over $63,000 in 2019. The table below includes salary information for radiology professionals at different stages of their careers.
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographer||$53,080||$57,780||$67,870||$77,170|
Skills Gained With a Radiology Degree
Radiology students hone communication, mathematical, and technical skills. These abilities help professionals 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, standing for long shifts, and using heavy equipment. Administrative and education-focused 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. 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 instruments, but professionals must keep up with trends throughout their careers.
Radiology Career Paths
Radiology programs often offer concentrations that allow learners to choose specific radiology career paths. For example, two-year colleges may prepare students for careers by covering procedures that rely on MRIs, CAT scans, and X-rays. Bachelor's programs may allow learners to pursue specializations like nuclear medicine and medical imaging.
Students pursuing master's degrees may choose from concentrations related to areas like education, management, and specific patient populations.
Below are several career paths and relevant concentrations for radiology students.
- Medical Imaging
Undergraduate programs may offer concentrations in specific types of medical imaging. Students may learn how to operate MRI, CT, ultrasound, X-ray, and/or radiation therapy equipment. These programs prepare graduates to work as technicians or continue on to graduate programs.
- Nuclear Medicine
Nuclear medicine represents the cutting edge of radiology. 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 the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (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. Learners study financial management, resource management, evidence-based administration, and information management. Graduates can work as managers, chief technologists, and administrators within radiology organizations.
How to Start Your Career in Radiology
Radiation oncologists and radiologists earn the highest average salaries in this field. However, students must attend medical school to qualify for these positions. Job candidates can also find lucrative radiology careers with high growth potential in roles that require less education.
Undergraduate programs prepare graduates to work as radiologic technicians and sonographers. Professionals with bachelor's degrees and several years of experience may qualify for higher positions, such as lead technician or chief technologist at an imaging center. Learners can also land these roles if they hold a master's degree.
Bachelor's Degree in Radiology
Bachelor's programs in radiology prepare graduates to compete for technician and technologist jobs. In these programs, professionals learn to operate radiology tools, including MRI, sonogram, X-ray, and CT instruments. 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.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Radiology?
- Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Graduates who concentrate in nuclear medicine and train on cutting-edge instruments 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 instruments 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.
- CT Scan Technologist
These professionals give patients CT or CAT scans. The instruments for these tests require patients to lie down on a test 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 Technologist
X-ray technologists 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 management, advanced radiology, and research skills. 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.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Radiology?
- 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, 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.
Alternatively, MD programs prepare learners to work as practicing doctors who specialize in radiology. Candidates must earn medical licenses, complete radiology residencies, and apply for board licensure.
Licensed doctors can 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.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Radiology?
- Postsecondary Teacher, Health
Radiology professionals who earn a Ph.D. can become professors at college and universities. They oversee lectures and labs, develop curricula, and advise students. They may also conduct their own medical research and publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals.
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.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
How to Advance Your Career in Radiology
Professional certifications and continuing education provide pathways to career advancement in radiology. Learners with undergraduate degrees can continue on to graduate-level study, while working radiology professionals can earn credentials through regulatory bodies and field-specific organizations. Training and certification programs in specialized aspects of radiology also lead to career growth.
Gaining experience in the field can also facilitate professional advancement. Radiology workers who master the instruments and tools used for radiology exams and procedures are an essential part of the healthcare field.
Certifications and/or Licensure
State licensure requirements for radiology professionals vary, but earning a degree from a program accredited by an organization like ARRT is key to a successful career in the field. Additional accrediting organizations include the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) and the American Registry of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists (ARMRIT).
As the main certifying body in radiology, ARRT offers credentials in 15 different radiology subfields, including cardiac interventional radiography, mammography, and radiation therapy.
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography also offers radiology certifications. The registry's offerings include general credentials in diagnostic medical sonography, cardiac sonography, and musculoskeletal sonography. The American Board of Radiology also certifies radiologists and medical physicists in diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology.
Earning professional certifications is one form of continuing education, as is returning to school to earn an advanced degree in radiology. To become a radiation oncologist, for example, a candidate must have clinical training from an accredited medical program.
The American Society for Radiologic Technologists offers continuing education resources designed to meet the continuing qualifications requirements established by ARRT.
The Advanced Health Education Center (AHEC) is a leading provider in healthcare-related continuing education programs, providing online and in-person resources. AHEC webinars cover topics like digital imaging, radiation safety, ultrasound, and bone densitometry.
Another continuing education option is free online courses provided through websites like Coursera and edX. Coursera classes, provided in conjunction with colleges and universities around the world, cover topics like fundamental neuroscience for neuroimaging; anatomy of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis; and thoracic oncology.
Taking continuing education classes helps radiology professionals renew their licenses and stay abreast of advances in the field.
Additionally, by joining professional organizations, radiology professionals can collaborate with colleagues in the field. Networking through online forums and face-to-face conferences and events introduces radiology professionals to new ideas, research, and career opportunities.
How to Switch Your Career to Radiology
To transition into a career in radiology, professionals must earn a degree accredited by ARRT, JRCERT, or ARMRIT. Depending on their educational and professional backgrounds, practicing healthcare workers may be able to switch careers by earning a certification in a specific aspect of radiology.
Information technologists, engineers, and computer professionals can also transition to a career in radiology by completing specialized coursework and gaining practical experience.
Where Can You Work as a Radiology Professional?
Radiology professionals work in most facilities that provide medical care. While many practice in hospitals, some professionals find work in physicians' offices, diagnostic centers, outpatient care facilities, and research centers.
Job availability largely depends on a worker's location. For example, large cities may house several hospitals that need many radiology professionals. Alternatively, suburban and rural areas may provide more opportunities at outpatient imaging centers.
Radiology graduates find the most job opportunities in healthcare settings. Hospitals, physicians' offices, laboratories, and patient care facilities are the top employers for radiologists. Graduates with a degree in radiology can also pursue careers in business and consulting, research and development, and administrative services, depending on their interests and goals. The following section describes industries that commonly employ radiologic technologists and technicians.
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Radiologic technologists and technicians work in every type of hospital, including pediatric, general, and surgical facilities. These settings allow professionals to experience variety in their careers and work with many types of patients.
Average Salary: $63,870
- Physician Offices
Large physician groups and offices that specialize in areas that require medical imaging often hire radiologic technologists and technicians.
Average Salary: $58,160
- Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
This industry includes facilities that are part of hospitals and treatment centers, as well as stand-alone laboratories. Radiologic technologists and technicians may carry out tests and analyze medical imaging results.
Average Salary: $63,380
- 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, and provide mental health services.
Average Salary: $69,140
- 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.
Average Salary: $74,850
California, Texas, and Florida employ the most radiologic technologists and technicians. However, these professionals can find well-paying job opportunities across the country.
In California, radiologic technologists and technicians earned the highest average annual salary (over $86,000) in 2019. The 10 metropolitan areas that pay radiology professionals the most are all located in California, with average salaries exceeding $100,000 in cities such as Salinas, Vallejo, and San Francisco.
Resources for Radiology Majors
Read on to learn more about important professional organizations and publications in radiology. Professional organizations often provide members with access to resources like online communities, career boards, webinars, and publications.
- Professional Organizations
American College of Radiation: ACR serves physicians who hold 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.
Radiological Society of North America: This society 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 and read peer-reviewed journals.
American Society of Radiologic Technologists: Radiologic technologists can join ASRT to take advantage of continuing education and career advancement opportunities. They also gain access to industry publications. The organization makes it simple to renew licenses with personalized continuing education plans based on professional goals.
American Board of Radiology: This national medical board licenses radiologists. Candidates 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 employers require applicants to hold ABR credentials.
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography: 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, and grants.
Association of Vascular and Interventional Radiographers: 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 podcasts, conferences, webinars, and journals.
The Society for Pediatric Radiology: SPR provides membership to radiology professionals who work with children, including students, residents, radiologists, and technicians. Members can access the Pediatric Radiology journal, online continuing education opportunities, and an annual meeting.
- Open Courseware
Fundamental Neuroscience for Neuroimaging - Johns Hopkins University: Offered through Coursera.org, this course provides a comprehensive look at neuroscience methods used in clinical practice and basic research. Learners study principles and applications of neuroimaging, neuroimaging methods, structural and functional human neuroanatomy, and experimental design.
Anatomy: Human Neuroanatomy - University of Michigan: By looking at the central and peripheral nervous systems, students build an understanding of sensory and motor pathways, as well as bodily influences and responses to the nervous system. This course, offered through Coursera.org, also focuses on anatomical terminology.
Fundamentals of Biomedical Imaging - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne: Offered through edX, this course trains students to understand the applications of several biomedical imaging modalities and different techniques used to produce images.
Principles of Medical Imaging - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: During this course, learners study tomographic imaging and its applications. Lectures and demonstrations explore ionizing and nonionizing radiation, with an additional emphasis on physics and engineering as they relate to image formation.
Radiologic Technology: Published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, this journal features peer-reviewed research, articles about continuing education opportunities, and information about practical aspects of radiologic sciences.
Radiation Therapist: Geared toward radiation therapy practice, this publication is a semiannual journal that provides information about research and continuing education opportunities.
Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences: JMIRS is published by five radiological associations from around the world. The bilingual journal provides a platform for research and practice-based content intended to influence the evolving fields of radiological and nuclear medicine.
Radiology: First published by the Radiological Society of North America in 1923, Radiology puts out 12 issues each year. Content includes peer-reviewed original research, commentary on articles, and information about new techniques and technologies.
Journal of the American College of Radiology: JACR is the official journal of the American College of Radiology. The publication features content that aligns with five pillars: health services research and policy, clinical practice management, data science, leadership, and training and education.
Investigative Radiology: This journal publishes research related to diagnostic imaging. It focuses on magnetic resonance, computed tomography, digital subtraction angiography, and ultrasound. Content also covers new technologies, intravenous contrast media, and the development and function of clinical trials.
Journal of Radiology and Imaging: JRI reports on new information and research related to all aspects of radiology and imaging. Covered topics include projection radiography, radiation effects, imaging instrumentation, and diagnostic and laser therapeutic methods. This international publication also features short reports, news and commentary, and rapid communications about original and significant material.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is radiology a good career?
According to the BLS, radiologic technologists earn a median annual salary of $60,510, and this position is projected to experience significant job growth between 2018 and 2028. If you go to medical school, you can pursue work as a radiologist; many of these professionals earn more than $300,000 per year.
- How do I start a career in radiology?
A bachelor's degree in radiology and a license open doors to entry-level positions. Workers who take advantage of continuing education and professional development opportunities can pursue advanced careers with a radiology degree.
- What kind of jobs can you get with a radiology degree?
Entry-level radiology professionals work as technicians and technologists, often mastering multiple tools and technologies. Specialized careers in radiology include diagnostic medical sonographer, radiation therapist, and radiation oncologist.
- Is there a demand for radiologists?
The field of radiology is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. The BLS projects that radiologic and MRI technologists will experience 9% job growth between 2018 and 2028.
- How much do radiologists make?
Salaries for radiology professionals vary by position. However, radiologic and MRI technologists — common positions in the field — earned a median annual salary of $62,280 in 2019.