By Naomi Sheehan

Prenatal care, cancer treatment, brain research… these vastly different areas of the healthcare industry have a few things in common.

One is the technological transformation healthcare has undergone in the past few decades. Another is the fact that all will need an influx of new professionals as the Baby Boom generation retires.

Something else: They all employ the medical specialty of radiology.

Radiology uses imaging technology to look inside the body. X-rays, MRI scans, and ultrasounds are some of the most familiar types of radiologic technologies.

Although radiology is a unique field, and requires specialized education, it is integral to a wide variety of procedures across the medical industry. Everything from preventive screenings to sports medicine, from assessing a broken bone to conducting regular checkups during pregnancy – all rely on the skill of radiologic technologists.


X-rays are the most iconic of the medical imaging technologies. Dating back to 1895, it is also the oldest. In fact, German physics professor Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen coined the ionizing radiation an “X ray” because it was unknown at the time. Just a year after this discovery, medical testing had incorporated the technology.

It is the radiation of the X-ray that gives radiologists and radiographers of today their job titles – though the profession and the procedures themselves are infinitely safer than in the early days before radiation was well understood.

Radiology now incorporates other imaging techniques using sound and magnets, but X-rays are still the predominant imaging test (and the second most common medical test after blood tests) in healthcare. Mammograms, dental care, and arthritis treatment are just a few of the procedures that rely on X-ray technology.

MRI scans

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner works by forming a strong magnetic field around the body of a patient. The magnet’s energy is picked up by hydrogen atoms in the body’s water molecules. The “excitement” of these atoms creates a radio signal which is recorded and measured by the equipment and interpreted as an image or a series of images. Differences in tissues are shown in color or contrast differences, giving the medical team a precise picture of what is going on internally.

When the MRI scanner was invented in 1971, it kickstarted a revolution in cancer detection and new ways of understanding brain functions. By the end of the decade, the technique had been refined from taking a few hours to a few seconds, and testing had moved from mice to humans. In 1980, doctors used an MRI to detect a tumor, cancer, and liver problems in a patient for the very first time.

Today, MRIs are sophisticated enough to identify thin spots in artery walls, metabolism imbalances, and even the delicate activity of neurons in the brain.


Is it a girl or a boy? Sonography is usually associated with the ultrasounds produced during pregnancy, those black and white photos of a developing baby. But sonography, a non-invasive imaging procedure using high-frequency sound waves, is used to examine virtually the entire body to look for abnormalities. This includes the brain, circulatory system and other soft tissues.

Advances in the technology has made the images less grainy and more precise, and cut down on the need for more invasive procedures like drawing blood. Unlike MRIs or X-rays, sonograms are unique in that they allow the patient to move around, and can produce images in real-time to see the body in motion.

Bright outlook

Radiology is one of the fastest growing careers in healthcare, driven by an aging population and the development of advanced treatments for cancers and other conditions. Some specialized positions require graduate or medical school degrees.

There are many radiology jobs that begin with a certificate or two-year degree, however.

Most Radiation Therapists, MRI and Radiologic Technologists and Technicians, and Diagnostic Medical Sonographers enter the field with an associate’s degree or certificate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All of these jobs require state certification in addition to educational training in most areas.

To learn more about Your Community College’s Radiology Program, visit, or call Department Chair at 123-456-7890. Enrollment each semester is limited, so contact us today.


Radiology Careers

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Median wages (2015) $33.16hourly $68,970 annual
Employment (2014) 61,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Much faster than average (14% or higher)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 27,500

MRI Technologists
Median wages (2015) $32.56 hourly $67,720 annual
Employment (2014) 34,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Faster than average (9% to 13%)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 9,800

Radiation Therapists
Median wages (2015) $38.57 hourly $80,220 annual
Employment (2014) 17,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Much faster than average (14% or higher)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 6,200

Radiologic Technicians
Median wages (2015) $19.84 hourly $41,260 annual
Employment (2014) 102,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Much faster than average (14% or higher)
Projected job openings (22014-2024) 33,800

Radiologic Technologists
Median wages (2015) $27.25 hourly $56,670 annual
Employment (2014) 197,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Faster than average (9% to 13%)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 54,400

Median wages (2015) $90.00+ hourly $187,200+ annual
Employment (2042) 347,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Much faster than average (14% or higher)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 145,100


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