Healthcare has become one of the fastest-growing fields in the nation. As people continue to prioritize health and access to healthcare expand across the nation, demand is increasing at a rapid pace. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, job growth in these areas will be near twice the national average.
Some of the most exciting opportunities are in Allied healthcare where job demand is expanding. For example, demand for radiology technicians is projected to grow at a rate of 6% (faster than average) over the next ten years. Radiology jobs and imaging jobs aren’t limited to hospitals and medical centers either. The emergence of affordable, mobile medical devices makes the possibilities endless.
In this post, we are going to provide a breakdown of careers in imaging and radiology. While there are some similarities, both offer their own unique opportunities.
Imaging vs Radiology
Medical imaging and radiology share some crossover, but they are not the same. While radiology refers to a specific field within medicine, medical imaging is the use of technology to capture images of the body.
While there is a marked difference between imaging and radiology, jobs such as radiology tech and imaging tech may refer to the same role depending on the type of imaging equipment they use. A radiology tech uses x-ray and high-energy radiation technologies. An imaging tech can use an array of imaging technologies that may or may not include x-rays.
Both positions cooperate with medical professionals such as radiologists and doctors to provide important visual data to aid in patient diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring.
What Does A Radiology Tech Do?
Sometimes referred to as a radiographer, a radiology tech is a professional that uses various types of equipment to gather images that can help physicians diagnose and treat patients. The images they capture are vital for ensuring the best possible path for treatment.
Starting out, a radiology tech may work exclusively with x-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging, however, with further training, there are a wide variety of specialties they can expand into.
Radiology tech duties may include:
- Helping guide patients during imaging procedures
- Properly operating X-ray machines to gain images of various body parts
- Ensuring accurate and clear images, adjusting X-ray equipment as needed
- Reviewing X-ray images and retaking images as necessary
Aside from helping patients and capturing x-rays, radiologic tech responsibilities will also include:
- Verifying information regarding contact, medical history, or health issues.
- Update patient records with imaging results
- Cleaning and general upkeep of imaging equipment
- Adjusting settings on imaging machinery
- Positioning patients correctly to get clear images
- Employ lead blankets and various techniques to shield a patient’s body from excessive radiation
- Listen to patient questions and address their concerns
The job of a radiologic tech does not end once the image is taken. Besides the maintenance of imaging equipment, a radiology tech may need to work closely with a patient’s care team on an ongoing basis.
What Does A Imaging Tech Do?
An imaging tech refers to a professional that has undergone rigorous training to operate certain kinds of imaging equipment. Doctors use these images to help them provide the best diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring.
Image techs are specifically referred to as the type of equipment they are trained and equipped to operate. These can include MRI techs, X-ray technicians, medical sonographers, and even radiology techs as mentioned previously. The imaging tech title refers to a professional that operates inside the realm of imaging that uses various kinds of imaging equipment. Depending on their specialty, the responsibilities of an imaging tech may include:
- Populating patient records with imaging results and medical history
- Provide upkeep on imaging equipment
- Adjust settings on imaging machinery to get optimal results
- Aiding and positioning patients for the best image
- Covering patients with lead blankets to protect body parts from unnecessary radiation exposure
- Answering patient questions and addressing concerns
- Providing instructions and information about imaging procedures
- Communicate with various members of a patient’s treatment team
The field of radiology is expanding rapidly. Demand for imaging professionals is estimated to outpace the national average over the next ten years.
Types Of Radiology Jobs
In radiology, there is a range of positions available that include:
- Radiology technologist
- Nuclear medicine technologist
- Radiology specialists
- Radiation therapist
- Radiology manager
Each of these jobs will have specific education and training requirements. For example, after general education courses, training for radiology tech jobs can range between two and four years.
Radiologic Technologist Jobs
A radiologic technologist performs X-rays and performs other diagnostic imaging tests to help doctors make an accurate diagnosis and care for ailments. Radiologic technologist duties include capturing, reading, reviewing, and recording images to be presented to doctors and physicians.
Interventional Radiology Jobs
IR tech jobs are an exciting category within radiology. An interventional radiology technologist works with a physician and a team of nurses that specialize in interventional radiology. IR tech duties are to set up and operate the equipment involved in interventional radiological procedures.
Radiation Therapist Jobs
Radiation therapists’ jobs are for those trained to use advanced machines called linear accelerators (LINAC) These machines are used to treat various parts of a patient’s body and deliver high-energy X-rays or electrons to treat things like tumors and cancer cells.
Radiation therapists’ duties include reviewing and performing their portion of the treatment plan created by a radiation oncologist, supporting patients during the process, keeping records, and ensuring the LINAC machine is operating correctly.
Types of Medical Imaging Jobs
Medical imaging jobs encompass the entire range of imaging technologies including radiologic technologists. Medical imaging jobs are referred to by the type of imaging equipment a technologist is trained to operate.
These jobs include:
- Echo technologist
- CT technologist
- MRI technologist
- Cardiovascular technologist
- Ultrasound technologist
Many of these jobs have sub-specializations that may require additional training or education.
CT Tech Jobs
Also known as computed tomography technologists, CT tech uses computerized tomography (CT) scanners to generate images of internal organs and tissues. CT tech job duties include being able to interpret testing requests, operate CT scan equipment, and position the patient to capture the best images.
MRI Tech Jobs
MRI technologists are trained to operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. After injecting a patient with a contrast media such as a dye, they will use the magnetic fields in the scanner to generate images that a physician can use to diagnose medical problems. MRI tech job duties include being able to understand a physician’s requests and working with patients to capture the best quality images.
Ultrasound Tech Jobs
An ultrasound technician uses specialized ultrasound equipment to examine parts of the body including the abdomen, reproductive system, heart, prostate, and blood vessels. Ultrasound tech job duties include working with physicians to capture images required for accurate diagnosis and treatment, guiding patients through the imaging process, updating, and recording patient records, and maintaining ultrasound equipment.
Echo Tech Jobs
Echo technologist jobs are for sonographers that use advanced equipment to perform an echocardiogram. This testing uses sound waves to create live images of the heart. These technologists measure cardiovascular health by monitoring blood flow and valve movement. Echo tech job duties include taking images of a patient’s heart, maintaining imaging equipment, keeping patient records, and relaying them to a patient’s doctor. There are some cases when they will assist physicians with procedures that require ultrasound.
Closing Thoughts On The Breakdown Of Imaging And Radiology Jobs In Allied Healthcare
There is a wide range of exciting opportunities within the radiology and medical imaging field. Among other allied health careers, they are at the forefront in terms of current demand and future growth. There are different jobs in these areas that require varying lengths of training.
A benefit of a job in one of these fields is in terms of flexibility. Both radiology and medical imaging offer pathways of advancement through specialization and additional training. There are a growing number of people that begin their career as radiologic technologists or medical imaging tech and pursue additional training as they continue to work.
These jobs within allied health present a promising opportunity for those that are currently in the medical field or are considering a career change into allied health services.