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Which is a Better Career: Radiology or Radiography?

In the world of diagnostic imaging, the terms “radiology” and “radiography” tend to be interchangeable.

While both are medical professions that use imaging technology to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of certain health conditions, the differences between the two involves job responsibilities and education.

If you are considering a career in either field, it’s important to consider the education required for each profession as well as the potential earnings.

When looking at radiology versus radiography, it’s important to weigh the length of education against average wages. It’s also key to take note of the differing job responsibilities.

Here is some information that will help you make the choice between radiology and radiography:


Radiology is a field of specialization practiced by medical doctors to provide diagnostic imaging support.

This includes preparing for imaging procedures, consulting with other doctors, interpreting imaging results and making diagnoses.

Radiology is used in the diagnosis of many diseases, particularly cancer.

Career Options

Radiologists can further specialize in areas such as nuclear medicine, pediatric radiology and cardiac imaging.

For those not interested in pursuing a medical education, there are other opportunities available in the field of radiology:

  • Radiology Technician: Radiology technicians operate machinery, position patients and perform tests that create digital images. This career path usually requires only 1-2 years in a trade school/community college.
  • Radiology Assistant: Radiology assistants work directly under radiologists and conduct tests, manage patients and make preliminary judgments of test results. This field requires advanced study.
  • Radiology Nurse: Radiology nurses are registered nurses who assist patients during testing. This field requires the completion of nursing school as well as extra study in radiology.

Education and Certification

The requirements needed to radiologists is a longer education process – since radiologists are licensed medical doctors.

This involves completing a four-year undergraduate degree as well as four-years at medical school.

Afterwards, radiologists are required to complete a hospital residency in radiology, which typically lasts another four years.

Radiologists looking to practice more specialized areas of radiology may require to pursue more specialized training.


The average annual pay for a radiologist in the U.S. is around $325 000 per year – which works out to about $155 per hour.

However, annual earnings can vary between $80 000/year to $400 000/year depending on the location, experience and area of expertise of the radiologist.

Because radiologists require a vast range of education, the earning potential is significantly high.


Radiography is a medical profession that involves operating medical imaging equipment – whereas radiology focuses more on providing imaging interpretation.

Radiographers use scanning equipment that includes x-rays, CT scanners and other advanced technologies such as digital fluoroscopy.

They are responsible for properly preparing patients, following safety protocols and producing quality imaging results while following the supervision of a radiologist.

Career Options

While radiographers typically deal with x-rays, they can also specialize in alternate forms of imaging such as CT scans, MRI scans, bone denistometry,mammography and nuclear medicine.

Radiographers can also work in physician’s offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories and outpatient treatment centers.

Another potential career path for radiographers is that of therapeutic radiography. Therapeutic radiographers are responsible for planning and delivering accurate radiotherapy treatments to treat tumors and destroy diseased tissue.

However, this does require further education including qualified training in oncology and the care of cancer patients.

Education and Certification

While radiographers do not require a medical degree to practice radiography, they do need to complete a two-year associate and four-year bachelor’s degree programs before sitting for a certification examination.

Most programs provide education of the essential skills of medical imaging as well as professional experience through clinical rotations.

Radiographers can also further specialize in certain procedures through additional education. 


In the United States, radiographers make an average hourly rate of $34.00, although wages can go as high as $57.00 per hour.

The earning potential of radiographers varies, which means there are opportunities for advancement and increased pay based on skill level, location and experience.

Radiology Versus Radiography

When it comes to choosing between radiology and radiography, your decision may come down to how much time you are willing to dedicate to study.

Radiologists require more schooling, but have a significantly larger earning potential. However, there are lower paying areas of radiology that require less schooling that can place you in the same field.

Alternatively, being a radiographer means less study but a lower earning potential. This may be a field of choice for you if you enjoy the operational side of diagnostic imaging as opposed to patient contact and care.

No matter the path you choose, both radiography and radiology are exciting career choices that will place you on the helping end of the healthcare field.

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