7 Radiology Specialties That Go Beyond X-Rays

radiologic technologist assisting patient with MRI

X-ray vision might not be the most popular choice of preferred superpower—moving at the speed of light and incredible strength are hard to pass up, after all. While those abilities might be fun to daydream about, there’s an entire professional field dedicated to peering into a world unseen by most, using their “X-ray vision” of sorts to get a clearer picture of the inner workings of the human body. Radiology specialists explore everything from how the brain circulates blood to the presence of cancerous tumors. These professionals are low-key superheroes in the healthcare field, providing vision and diagnostic clarity to some of the most vexing medical issues.

Better yet, a career in radiology doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to go through the long process of attending medical school and becoming a radiologist. Radiologic technologists and other radiology-related technical specialists have a shorter path into the field—and a wide variety of specialties to pursue as their careers progress. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at common radiology and diagnostic imaging specialties you may encounter in this field.

7 Lesser-known radiology specialties

Though requirements will vary from state to state, you will likely need to become certified in each of these specialties after obtaining your core education and training. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) offers a variety of certifications and is a great resource for exploring these specialties further.

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 can identify cancer cells even before a patient has noticed symptoms, making it much easier to treat.

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 OBGYNs, sonographers 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.

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 low-level radiation doses work as a sort of “tracer” within a patient—the gamma rays emitted provide a detailed look at where blood is flowing and can identify problem areas like tumors that may not be detectable through other forms of diagnostic imaging. 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.

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 some 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.

Looking to get started in this diagnostic imaging specialty? Learn how Rasmussen University can help develop your magnetic resonance imaging skills by visiting the MRI Training page. 

5. Bone densitometry

Bone densitometry specialists 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, so bone densitometry will likely remain an in-demand radiology specialty.

6. Computed tomography (CT)

Also known as a CAT scan, this procedure creates three-dimensional images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels. CT technicians must administer patients with a chemical contrast that highlights the system in question. You’ll have to be comfortable with needles and patient interaction as IVs and enemas are common forms of administration.

CT scans can be found in clinics or emergency facilities, so you’ll have your choice of a critical environment or a more procedural one. This test is often administered to those with cancer or are suspected of cancer, so if this is something you’re passionate about, computed tomography could be the specialty for you.

Computer tomography takes specialized training and certification. If you'd like to add this to your radiologic technologist skill set, visit the Computed Tomography Training page to learn how Rasmussen University can help. 

7. Fluoroscopy

This procedure is the action film of X-rays. Okay maybe that’s overselling it, but fluoroscopic imaging captures real-time images of contrast moving throughout the body—as opposed to a still X-ray image. If a patient is having trouble swallowing, a fluoroscopy can record just how fluid moves through their throat from the inside. This can help identify issues otherwise unnoticeable in still images.

Fluoroscopy can also document blood flow which can be useful for a variety of treatments or procedures including the placement of heart stents. You won’t win an Oscar for this film, but if you’re interested in how the body works in action, this is an exciting twist to traditional X-rays.

Picture your future

Has the world of radiology and diagnostic imaging captured your attention? These medical professionals provide a perspective into the inner workings of a human body with technology that would be absolutely mind-blowing a century ago. While the paths to working in these radiology specialties can vary, one excellent option for a starting point is to become a radiologic technologist. Get a clearer path of the road ahead in our article, “How to Become a Radiologic Technologist: Examining Your Path.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2019.

About the author

Hannah Meinke

Hannah Meinke is a writer at Collegis Education. She enjoys helping people discover their purpose and passion by crafting education and career-related content on behalf of Rasmussen University.

hannah meinke headshot

Related Content

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors-masters 0 Credits 90 Credits 180 Credits 48 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE Start Here MASTER'S DEGREE PURSUERS End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE End Here MASTER'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors 0 Credits Start Here HIGH SCHOOL GRADS Start Here TRANSFER STUDENTS 90 Credits Start Here SECOND DEGREE PURSUERS End Here ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE 180 Credits End Here BACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-msn chart-credential-laddering-nursing-programs chart-credential-laddering-nursing DNP MSN RN to BSN LPN to RN Bridge Accelerated BSN Professional Nursing ADN Practical Nursing Diploma Pre-Licensure Post-Licensure icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-lifelong-learning icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-location-pin icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-outline-person-presenter-screen icon-colored-outline-scales ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-briefcase-star icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-development icon-colored-duo-chatbox icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-forward-ribbon icon-colored-gears-clock icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-hand-stars icon-colored-hands-gear icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-hospital-building icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-checkmark icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-map icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-mortarboard-dollar icon-colored-national icon-colored-people-chat-bubbles icon-colored-person-cheer-star icon-colored-person-laptop-checkboxes icon-colored-person-screen-instructor icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-phone-chatbox icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-shirt-hat icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-triangle-arrow-up-plant icon-triangle-calendar-pencil icon-triangle-clock-rotating-arrows icon-triangle-display-gears icon-triangle-hand-right-speech-bubble icon-triangle-laptop-coding-brackets icon-triangle-mortarboard icon-triangle-paper-ribbon icon-triangle-person-cheer-star icon-triangle-person-juggle icon-triangle-triple-people-chat-bubble icon-modality-campus icon-modality-field icon-modality-online icon-modality-residential icon-arrow icon-bank icon-camera icon-filter icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-mglass icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-scales icon-share-square-o icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-spinner icon-tag icon-testimonial-quotes icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-circle-arrow-down icon-util-circle-dot icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x rebrand-arrows icon-social-facebook-colored icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram-colored icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p-colored icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-colored icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play graduate-cap-star-coin hand-coin hand-heart nurse-stethoscope-rays card-send-smile person-yoga-pose suitcase-star