Difference Between an Ultrasound Technician and a Radiologist

When looking into ultrasound technician schools, programs, careers, types of facilities you can work in, you probably see a lot of mention of the field of radiology in comparison. Although these fields use completely different technology, both types of care providers use imaging techniques as a primary tool for their diagnosis. Ultrasound utilizes sound waves while the radiologist uses a variety of tools, including x-rays, ultrasound, radionuclides and other methods to help patients.

Ultrasound tech in front of machine

Ultrasound vs Radiology Salary

If you are wanting to get started in an entry-level area that is experiencing faster than average growth, there are many ultrasound technician and sonography programs to compare. You might also be wondering about ultrasound vs radiology salary. Radiologists are doctors, which can earn a significantly higher salary, in the range of physicians and surgeons. If this is a career path you decide, you will need to prepare for a graduate level education and consider medical schools.

However, an ultrasound tech vs. radiology tech salary is a little bit closer, with sonographers (ultrasound techs) coming in a little higher nationally.

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Let’s look at the role of an ultrasound technician a little more. Most people think of those fuzzy images of fetuses when we talk about ultrasound images. However, if you train as an ultrasound tech or take a sonography program, you can work in multiple areas, upon certification. For instance, you may work at a cardiac focused clinic and spend your time helping physicians analyze images of patients’ hearts, vessels and surrounding areas. Or, you may work in vascular or abdominal focused care. Your training will involve taking images of organs, tissue and blood vessels. Of course, if you work in OB/GYN and spend your time watching the smiles on expecting mothers as you perform their sonograms. In addition to imagery, you may have to perform other related tasks, such as taking measurements and calculating information that helps the physician better understand the patient’s condition.

You can typically qualify for certification as a sonographer or ultrasound tech in as little as 18 months. There are online and brick and mortar programs to give working students more options. Even more traditional programs are offering a mix of online coursework, when it makes the path to completion more efficient – and cost-effective for the school to deliver. Many programs include internship opportunities at the end to give the student a chance to see what it’s like to work in ultrasound environments. This can also help students transition into the workforce more quickly.

Radiology has many different areas students can focus on as well. Diagnostic, Oncology, Neuroradiology, Nuclear Radiology and Pediatric Radiology are some examples. It takes a lot longer to become a radiologist than it does to become an ultrasound technician. No matter which discipline of radiology you choose, you should be prepared to complete four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, and spend about four years in residency. That’s a huge difference, and commitment compared to an 18-month program. However, if you have a dream of becoming a doctor, why should anything hold you back?

How to Become a Radiology Tech

Becoming a radiology tech vs ultrasound tech is more comparable. If you have a long-term plan of working as a radiologist, you will want to look at tech programs first. Programs can result in certificate, Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. Your curriculum will likely cover patient care procedures, radiation protection, imaging, radiobiology, ethics, and other related topics.

If you are just looking to get some information about becoming an ultrasound technician or work as a diagnostic medical sonographer, start by calling schools that accept students from your area. Both public and private institutions, as well as hospitals, are great resources for prospective students to use. Also contact organizations that help current and future sonographers with their career trajectory.