Medical Diagnostics Career Information and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

In order to accurately diagnose patients, hospitals and clinics often rely upon a variety of complex diagnostic technology. Doctors cannot be expected to master the use of all of the technology used, so healthcare facilities hire various medical diagnostic technologists. Let's take a closer look at two such positions: diagnostic medical sonographers and radiologic technologists.

Essential Information

Medical diagnostics programs involve training students to use high-tech medical imaging equipment in a hospital, lab or office setting. These programs range from the certificate to the bachelor's degree level, and they may qualify students to work with multiple types of medical diagnostic machines. Professionals in the field of medical diagnostics play a vital role in the healthcare system and are expected to experience a promising job outlook.

Career Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Radiologic Technologist
Education Requirements Associate's degree Associate's degree
Additional Requirements Voluntary certification may be required by employers License is required in some states
Job Growth (2019-2029)* 17% 7%
Median Annual Salary (2020)* $75,920 $61,900

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Careers in medical diagnostics involve the use of high-tech machines to create images of the inside of the human body to help diagnose medical conditions, illnesses and injuries. While the majority of these professionals work in the hospital setting, they may also work in physician's offices or medical laboratories. Those choosing to work in this field may choose to specialize in one or multiple medical diagnostic professions. Two of the most popular job titles in this field are diagnostic medical sonographer and radiologic technologists. Keep reading for an overview of these two careers.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic medical sonography uses sound waves to scan the body to create images for diagnostic or medical treatment purposes. Individuals typically work with ultrasound and sonograph medical diagnostic machines. Sonographers may specialize in a specific area or patient type, such as obstetric and gynecologic sonography, cardiac sonography, neurosonography or vascular sonography.

Though there is not one training path required for diagnostic medical sonographers, employers may prefer to hire candidates who have completed a degree program, according to the BLS. Associate and bachelor's degree programs in diagnostic medical sonography, medical imaging or diagnostic medical technology are common options.

Currently states do not require licensure for diagnostic medical sonography; however, employers may prefer to hire registered or certified applicants. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography certifies individuals who pass their exam as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) also certifies those in medical imaging and medical diagnostic careers. In most cases education, training or work experience qualifications must first be met to be eligible to sit for the certification exam.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that diagnostic medical sonography jobs will grow 17% from 2019-2029, which is much faster than average due to an aging population and the increased safety of sonography procedures as opposed to radiological procedures. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary of diagnostic medical sonographers was $75,920 as of 2020. Diagnostic medical sonographers may also work in laboratories, physician offices and outpatient care centers.

Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic technologists also use medical imaging machines to diagnose diseases and ailments. Individuals may work with X-ray, bone density and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines to produce images using ionizing, radiation, sound waves or radio waves. Specialty jobs within this medical diagnostic field include MRI technologists, mammographers and CT (computed tomography) technologists.

Training programs a radiologic technologist career are available as certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs in radiography or radiologic sciences. Radiologic technologists are often required to be licensed, though requirements vary by state. Certification by the AART is optional; however, the ARRT certification exams are included in the licensing process in several states. Prospective radiologic technologists must have graduated from an AART- approved education program in order to be eligible to the certification exam.

The BLS also projected this field to grow faster than average and increase 7% from 2019-2029; employment opportunities are predicted to be best for those who have experience in multiple diagnostics area. The BLS reported that radiologic technologists earned a median salary of $61,900 as of 2020.

Both diagnostic medical sonographers and radiologic technologists create images to unobtrusively examine the inside of a patient. After all, doctors can't just perform exploratory surgery every time a patient has an internal discomfort. While the job market for both positions - especially sonographers - is favorable, having multiple specialty certifications can make job seekers even more appealing to employers.

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