What are the differences between radiology technologists and sonographers?

Radiology technology and diagnostic sonography are sister fields, related, but quite different.

Radiology technologists specialize in radiation imaging and therapy, using X-ray, computer tomography and medical resonance imaging to capture images of the human body. On the other hand, sonographers are trained to use ultrasound technology, which emits sound waves to take internal images of the body.

Similar training and divergent career paths

Prospective students interested in pursuing a career in either field have several educational options. Training programs can be found at the certificate, associate or bachelor's degree level in various areas, such as:

  • Sonography
  • Cardiovascular technology
  • Radiography

Typically, training for work in either field includes a mix of both classroom learning and clinical experience.

Certifications and credentials in sonography or radiography

After completing their education, students of either degree focus may choose to pursue a variety of post-graduate credentials or certifications. These options include, but are not limited to, the following:

Sonography. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers credentials in several areas, including the following:

RDMS. Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

RDCS. Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer

RVT. Registered Vascular Technologist

RMSK. Registered in Musculoskeletal

RPVI. Registered in Physicians' Vascular Interpretation

Candidates must meet eligibility requirements, possess the proper prerequisites and pass an examination to earn ARDMS credentials.

Radiology. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists provides certification at two levels: primary (5 certifications) and post-primary (9 certifications). Example primary certifications include:

  • Nuclear Medicine Technology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radiation Therapy

Individuals pursuing primary certification must meet academic requirements and meet competency requirements prior to registering for examinations.

Radiologic techs pursuing post-primary certification need to posses primary certification in an appropriate discipline as well as meet clinical experience requirements. Example post-primary specialty certification areas include Mammography, Bone Densitometry and Vascular Sonography.

Professional associations and organizations

  • American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT)
  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART)
  • International Society of Radiographers and Radiological Technologists (ISRRT)
  • American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
  • American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM)
  • Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Employment outlook

Both fields should experience significant employment opportunity growth between 2012 and 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that time, job openings are expected to increase by 46 percent and 21 percent nationally, for diagnostic medical sonographers and radiology technologists, respectively.

If you're ready to get started, find radiology or sonography schools in your area.

Sources:

American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, http://www.ardms.org/credentials_examinations/

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, https://www.arrt.org/

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Radiologic Technologists, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292034.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292032.htm

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