Radiologic Technologist vs. Radiologist: Shedding Light on the Differences
If you’re looking to trade in your dead-end job for a more substantial career, it’s easy to understand the appeal of the growing healthcare field. There’s an entire generation of Baby Boomers hitting the peak of their healthcare needs and healthcare providers will need help keeping up with the demand for their services. On top of that, healthcare careers can also be rewarding in both compensation and job satisfaction.
So where should you start? Radiology is an appealing field for many—but when it comes down to choosing a radiology career path, there are questions that still need answering: What’s the difference between radiologic technologists and radiologists? How can you know which career path is best for you?
Daily job duties, average earnings and the level of education required are all important factors to consider. We sorted through all the information you’ll need in this overview of a career as a radiologic technologist versus a radiologist.
Though both radiologic technologists (rad techs) and radiologists spend their days working with radiation technology to help patients, their specific job duties are quite different.
Rad techs are the healthcare specialists working directly with patients to capture imagery using radiation imaging equipment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They prepare patients for imaging procedures such as X-rays and MRIs, properly position the imaging equipment and take precautions to protect any body parts that do not need to be imaged. They also maintain imaging equipment and keep patient records.
Radiologists are doctors who have chosen to specialize in imaging technology. Their main job duty is to make a medical diagnosis based on images taken by rad techs, according to Krysty Radabaugh, Director of Operations/Chief MRI Technology at All-American Teleradiology, LLC. Because radiologists’ primary focus is diagnosis, they don’t have as much direct patient interaction as rad techs. They’ll communicate any findings to the patient’s ordering doctor, who will then take over the case.
Radiologists are licensed doctors with a specialty in radiology, so they require all the education that goes along with the M.D. title. That means four years of undergrad, followed by four years of medical school and a residency program, reports the BLS. All said and done, it can take 8 to 12 years to become a radiologist.
“It’s a long process,” says Radabaugh. “Not many have or will take the time.”
The road to a career as a rad tech is a bit more accessible. You can get your start with as little as a two-year Associate’s degree and certification through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.1
It doesn’t have to take long to become a rad tech, and there are lots of opportunities for career advancement and continuing education if you decide to push on in your career. Many rad techs pursue radiology specialties, such as mammography. Others decide to further their career by returning to school to become a radiologist.
Though the educational requirements differ, Radabaugh says both careers require time and effort for better patient outcomes.
All the years radiologists spend in school pay off when they start earning their average salary of $206,920, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.2 Their job outlook is also positive, with a faster-than-average growth rate of 14 percent through 2024.
But a radiologic technologist salary is nothing to scoff at. These healthcare professionals earn an average of $58,120 per year, with the highest 10 percent of earners bringing in more than $94,550, according to the BLS.2 The job outlook for radiologic technologists is also quite sunny—the BLS projects an above-average 10 percent growth in employment by 2024, which is also faster than average.
Both jobs are well suited for anyone with an interest in technology since imaging equipment is at the heart of the radiology field. However, some personalities may find they’re a better fit for one job over the other.
Radabaugh suggests that rad techs should be empathetic since they’ll be working directly with patients in what may be a scary or stressful medical situation. Many healthcare professionals want to see the difference they’re making up close and personal, which would make radiologic technologist a great option for you. You’ll be well suited for a rad tech job if you have a calming personality and enjoy working with both technology and people alike.
Radiologists need plenty of commitment to their job since they’ll need lots of schooling to enter the field and may need to work long hours once they land their dream job, says Radabaugh. This may be the job for you if you have a deep love of learning, enjoy the challenge of solving a problem through diagnostic imagery and don’t necessarily want to work one-on-one with patients.
Now that you know all the details of a career as a radiologic technologist vs. a radiologist, you can make an informed decision about which career path is best for you. Your personality, salary expectations and the length of time you’re willing to spend in school are all factors to consider as you weigh your options in the radiology field.
If you think becoming a radiologic technologist is right for you, get an in-depth answer to the question What Does a Radiologic Technologist Do?
1Completion time is dependent on the number of courses completed each term.
2Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
Advertisement: This article was created by Rasmussen College to promote its radiologic technologist program. We do not offer programs that prepare students to become radiologists. Please see www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of the programs we offer. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.