5 Radiology Specialties That Go Beyond X-rays

radiology specialties

When you hear the word radiology, what’s the first thing you think of? If you said x-rays, you’re not alone.

It’s true x-rays are an integral aspect of radiology, but there are several radiology specialties that allow you to focus on so much more. It’s because of this variety in the field that you have many options to discover a niche that suits you and your goals in working as a radiologic technologist.

Technology is constantly advancing and so is the need for these specialists across various fields in radiology. In fact, radiologic technologist jobs are expected to increase at the faster-than-average rate of nine percent through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As the population ages, the need for diagnostic imaging to treat disease will increase, the BLS notes.

Though there are a variety of career options and specialties within the field of radiology, all radiologists have a few things in common--namely that they use sophisticated technology to create images that help physicians both diagnose and treat a wide variety of health conditions. All radiologic technicians collaborate closely with their supervising radiologists and other health professionals in their work environment to ensure patients continually receive high-level care.

Ready to learn more about the exciting opportunities in this field? Here are just a few of the specialties in radiology you could choose to focus on in your career as a radiologic technologist.

5 radiology specialties you may not know about

Though the technology and medical conditions may vary, one thing rings true for all of these specialists: their work plays a significant role in helping patients improve. Read a little more about these radiology specialties that would allow you to help others every day.

1. Mammography

Radiologic technologists who specialize in mammography work in both hospitals and clinics to help diagnose diseases of the breast with radiation imagery. Mammography is a specific type of diagnostic imaging that uses low-dose x-rays to detect cancer. This imaging is able to identify cancer cells even before a patient has noticed symptoms, making it much easier to treat.

Like most radiology specialists, you’ll need to obtain a special mammography certification after attaining your radiologic technologist degree to practice in their field.

2. Sonography

Sonographers employ ultrasound machines that use high-frequency sound waves. These sound waves generate images that help physicians diagnose and treat various medical conditions. While sonography is often associated with OB-GYNs, sonographers actually work in a variety of fields with many different patients in both hospital and clinical settings.

For example, abdominal sonographers image organs in the abdominal area. Musculoskeletal sonographers deal with muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints and pediatric sonographers work specifically in diagnostic imaging for children. To become a sonographer, you will likely have to obtain a specialized certification after earning your associate degree.

3. Nuclear medicine

A continually growing specialty in the field of radiology is nuclear medicine, which involves administering radioactive drugs to patients for positron emission tomography (PET) scans. These scans are most often used to diagnose conditions in the brain or heart.

The ability to perform many mathematical formulations is an important part of this specialty. Additionally, in order to work in the area of nuclear medicine, you may need to be licensed, depending on the state in which you live. Like the other radiologic specialties, you will also need to become certified.

4. MRI technology

MRI techs operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to create diagnostic images for healthcare professionals. Most of these professionals work in hospital settings, while others work in medical labs or outpatient care centers. The images they produce help to diagnose issues in the brain, musculoskeletal problems, sports injuries, spinal conditions and more.

Most states require radiologic technologists to have licenses to work in their field. Even if your state doesn’t require a license, many employers prefer candidates who are licensed.

5. Bone densitometry

Bone densitometrists use dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans to help patients deal with issues of bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis, a problem most often ailing older generations of women. Routine bone density tests are recommended for all women 65 and older, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. This means bone densitometry will likely remain an in-demand radiology specialty.

Requirements for employment as a bone densitometrist vary state by state, but you can demonstrate a commitment to professionalism by becoming certified through the ISCD or the ARRT.

Take the next step

Now you know there’s a lot more to radiology than just x-rays. These are just some of the exciting radiology specialties you could choose to pursue. Special training is included in each of these areas, but before obtaining the various certifications, you’ll have to be educated on the basics of the field.

Check out our radiologic technology degree page to learn more about how we can help prepare you for any of these specialties in as few as 24 months.*

*Completion time is dependent on the number of courses completed each term.
Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions profiled in this article. Specific education requirements will vary based on employer.


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Ashley Abramson

Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She also works as a copywriter for a creative agency and edits an online magazine where she enjoys connecting with others through the written word.

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