Medical Imaging Overview: Education & Job Outlook

The complete guide to medical imaging programs, certification, careers and advancement opportunities.
Compare medical imaging schools  

Radiologic Tech Career Facts

Overview of Medical Imaging

If you have ever gone to an emergency room or clinic and had an x-ray, you more than likely interacted with an Imaging Technician (Image Tech).

There are different types of Imaging Technologists such as Radiologic technologist (also known as Rad Tech or radiographers and specialize in x-ray technology) and MRI technologists (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

X-ray technology is also used to pre-diagnose an issue before it is life-threating such as cancer. The Image Tech is responsible for making sure the equipment and patient are set up in a room and take a precise image of the area referred to by the physician.

There are several types of equipment that take detailed images and the technology is constantly improving such as Radiography (x-rays), Fluoroscopy (patient ingests dyes), and CT (Computed Tomography i.e., CAT scans). CAT scans are the machines that typically are a long tube you lay down inside and the equipment moves around your whole body.

These devices also a produce low levels of harmful ionizing radiation, but most believe the benefits far out way the risks. Other safer equipment used are Ultra -Sound and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) which uses magnetic and radio pulses to produce detailed pictures and do not use radiation.

Global wellness is a $4 trillion industry and the global imaging market is $48 billion and growing with about 11,900 Imaging Centers in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor (BLS) predicts 23,300 new Medical Imaging technician jobs by 2028 growing at 9% making it a much faster than average growth market.

A certified Medical Imaging technician typically requires a 2-year degree with some specialized areas requiring 4-year degrees. Currently, 42 states require you to be licensed.

According to the BLS, the average wage for a Medical Imaging technician is $61,240 annually with a Radiologic Technician starting out lower and MRI Technicians paid higher.

Radiologic vs. MRI Technologist

Both of these professions are considered to be Imaging Technicians experts both typically require an associate degree from an accredited college or trade school. Oddly, most MRI techs start out as Radiologic Techs and most states require licensed Radiologic techs to be licensed but don’t require MRI tech to be licensed even though an MRI Tech is typically paid more and are not exposed to radiation.

A Radiologic Technician uses technology that produces high contrast film of bones and skeletal structures typically used to detect fractured or broken bones. The Radio Tech is supervised by a certified radiologist or physician and is also responsible for preparing the imaging room for the referred patient to meet the needs of the patient’s specific issue.

MRI Technicians are trained to use MRI technology and equipment. These machines are a large tube the patient lies down inside tube. Once the patient is in place, the Tech turns on the wave and magnetic functions that begin creating an image of the patient. This process takes several minutes. An MRI specialist performs under the supervision of a certified radiologist and are trained in MRI exams, pulse sequences, and image production among other functions.

Qualified candidates get their certification from taking the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam. Because of the potential exposure to radiation, most states require that Radiologic Technologist be trained and licensed and many states use the scores from the ARRT examination to help make licensing decisions. In order to take the credential exam, some states require the disclosure of any history of felonies or misdemeanors.

Regulations can change from year to year so be sure to check with your state for requirements. In 2019, there were still 8 states that DO NOT require licensing

State Licensing Requirements for Radiologic Technician

State License Required? State License Required?
Alabama
No
Nebraska
Yes
Alaska
Yes
Nevada
No
Arizona
Yes
New Hampshire
Yes
Arkansas
Yes
New Jersey
Yes
California
Yes
New Mexico
Yes
Colorado
Yes
New York
Yes
Connecticut
Yes
North Carolina
No
Delaware
Yes
North Dakota
Yes
Florida
Yes
Ohio
Yes
Georgia
No
Oklahoma
Yes
Hawaii
Yes
Oregon
Yes
Idaho
No
Pennsylvania
Yes
Illinois
Yes
Rhode Island
Yes
Indiana
Yes
South Carolina
Yes
Iowa
Yes
South Dakota
No
Kansas
Yes
Tennessee
Yes
Kentucky
Yes
Texas
No
Louisiana
Yes
Utah
Yes
Maine
Yes
Vermont
Yes
Maryland
No
Virginia
Yes
Massachusetts
Yes
Washington
Yes
Michigan
Yes
West Virginia
Yes
Minnesota
Yes
Wisconsin
Yes
Mississippi
Yes
Wyoming
Yes
Missouri
No
District of Columbia (D.C.)
No
Montana
Yes
State License Required?
Alabama
No
Alaska
Yes
Arizona
Yes
Arkansas
Yes
California
Yes
Colorado
Yes
Connecticut
Yes
Delaware
Yes
Florida
Yes
Georgia
No
Hawaii
Yes
Idaho
No
Illinois
Yes
Indiana
Yes
Iowa
Yes
Kansas
Yes
Kentucky
Yes
Louisiana
Yes
Maine
Yes
Maryland
No
Massachusetts
Yes
Michigan
Yes
Minnesota
Yes
Mississippi
Yes
Missouri
No
Montana
Yes
Nebraska
Yes
Nevada
No
New Hampshire
Yes
New Jersey
NoaYes
New Mexico
NoaYes
New York
NoaYes
North Carolina
No
North Dakota
Yes
Ohio
Yes
Oklahoma
Yes
Oregon
Yes
Pennsylvania
Yes
Rhode Island
Yes
South Carolina
Yes
South Dakota
No
Tennessee
Yes
Texas
No
Utah
Yes
Vermont
Yes
Virginia
Yes
Washington
Yes
West Virginia
Yes
Wisconsin
Yes
Wyoming
Yes
District of Columbia (D.C.)
No

Imaging Technician Education: Degrees and Programs

A typical Diagnostic Medical Imaging school curriculum is 63 credit hours of school and have no less than C in each class. In 2019, there were 449 2-year colleges and 262 4-year colleges that offered a Medical Radiologic Technology program. the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) as the accreditation standard used by higher education. If choosing to go into the Medical Imaging field, make sure it is an accredited school. For MRI and other Imaging specialties, more classroom time will be required.

Tuition costs will vary at different universities depending on factors such as living in state or out of state, public or private school and how long it takes you to finish. One sample state college estimated taking 15 hours in one semester including tuition, books and supplies only (no room and board, transportation, and other miscellaneous fees) would be about $4,000 and a non-resident about $20,000 for the same semester.

A typical associates degree program would be similar to the following:

Prerequisites

(many high schools offer college equivalent)

  • Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology
  • College Algebra
  • English Composition I
  • Interpersonal Communication

Semester I

  • Introduction to Radiography and Patient Care
  • Principles of Radiographic Imaging
  • Basic Radiographic Procedures
  • Introduction to Psychology

Semester II

  • Advanced Radiographic Procedures
  • Radiographic Imaging Equipment
  • Principles of Radiographic Imaging
  • Clinical Radiologic Technology Science Radiographer I

Semester III

  • Sectional Anatomy for Medical Imaging
  • Advanced Medical Imaging
  • Clinical Radiologic Technology Science Radiographer II

Semester III

  • Radiation Biology and Protection
  • Clinical Radiologic Technology Science Radiographer III
  • Ethics

Semester IV

  • Clinical Radiologic Technology Science Radiographer IV
  • Radiographic Pathology

Semester V

  • Radiologic Technology
  • Clinical Radiologic Technology Science Radiographer V

Medical Imaging Technician Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has detailed statistics on role which vary state by state but the median average salary for Medical Radiologic and MRI Imaging technician is $61,240 per year.

Several factors determine the final salary or wage of a Medical Imaging technician including specialization within a field, experience, and geography to name a few. The areas with a higher cost of living tend to pay above average.

The top five highest paying states according to the BLS are:

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Oregon
Quick Facts: Radiologic and MRI Technologists
2018 Median Pay

$61,240 per year

$29.44 per hour

Typical Entry-Level EducationAssociate’s degree
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 2018250,000
Job Outlook, 2018-289% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-2823,300

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Imaging Technician Job Growth

The future is very bright for Medical Imaging technician job growth. According to BLS, they predict employment to grow 9% from now through 2028. This is a much faster than average growth occupation in the Allied Health industry in terms of jobs. The BLS predicts 23,300 Medical Imaging technician jobs will be added between 2018 and 2028.

Job growth for Imaging technician is growing as the aging Baby Boomers are have an increase in medical conditions that require imaging for physicians to make a diagnosis.

The need for Medical Imaging technician is in every state but some areas have more need and are willing to pay more to start.

The top five states with the most jobs according to BLS are:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. New York
  5. Pennsylvania

Medical Imaging technician Career and Job Duties

In addition to the hospitals and doctor offices across the world who have imaging technology, many specialty clinics in imaging are setting up shops in areas of need.

A typical job description for a Medical Imaging technician is:

Clinical Duties

  • Identify patient requirements, ensure correct exam is performed on the correct patient, and establish rapport with patients
  • Instructs patient regarding the test to be performed and assesses patients’ tolerance for procedure
  • Prepares patient area for radiology procedure by positioning patient, adjusting devices, moving equipment into position and adjusting equipment controls to set exposure factors based on diagnosis
  • Adheres to safety requirements, infection-control, drug and radiation policies to protect patients and others
  • Uses proper sterile techniques when setting up and performing radiology procedures
  • Analyzes equipment and works with engineers and physicists to ensure optimal operational capabilities
  • Maintains all relevant documentation such as patient history, pregnancy status and shielding precautions taken, consent forms, etc.
  • Maintains medical imaging records in appropriate system in a timely manner
  • Assists leadership in maintaining all required policies, procedures, standards and records

What Are Some Personal Traits That Are helpful?

Medical Imaging technicians play a critical role in aiding the physician to diagnose injury or other health issues. The aging population is more dependent than ever on a Medical Imaging diagnosis to efficiently understand and maintain their health and reduce health related diseases. Here are some traits that can help you succeed:

  • Excellent communication and customer service skills
  • Ability to read and interpret physician requirements
  • Detail oriented
  • Dependable
  • Tech Savvy
  • Strong ethics
  • Friendly and patient with customers
  • Empathy for the customer
  • Able to operate complex machinery

If you love the challenges and are passionate about health, an Imaging Technicians maybe the career that will be fulfilling for you. Click the blue “Find Schools” button to view colleges and universities that may fit your needs.

Medical Imaging Programs Certificates Schools and Careers

Find a School Today

Search, compare, and even get matched to the best medical imaging program for you.