Radiology vs Radiography: Exploring Differences and Careers

In the realm of medical imaging, it’s not uncommon for people to debate ‘Radiology versus radiography’. Both fields play crucial roles in diagnosing and treating patients, but they have distinct differences that are essential to understand.

radiologist studying images on computer

In this blog post, we will explore various aspects of these two professions including education requirements, salary comparisons, and job responsibilities. Additionally, we will delve into related topics such as sonographers versus radiographers and the difference between radiology and radiotherapy.

Whether you’re considering a career in either field or simply want to expand your knowledge on Radiology vs radiography, this comprehensive guide will provide valuable insights for both aspiring professionals and those already working within these industries.

Radiography vs Radiology: Overview

Radiography and radiology are both essential components of the medical imaging field, but they serve distinct roles and require different levels of education and training. In this section, we will provide an overview of these two professions to help you better understand their differences.


Radiographers, also known as radiologic technologists or X-ray technicians, are responsible for operating advanced imaging equipment such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. They work closely with patients to ensure proper positioning for accurate images while maintaining patient safety by adhering to radiation protection guidelines.


Radiologists are specialized physicians who interpret diagnostic images produced by various radiographic imaging techniques. Their expertise allows them to diagnose a wide range of conditions based on the findings in these images. Radiologists often collaborate with other healthcare professionals like surgeons or oncologists when developing treatment plans for patients.

Differences in Scope of Practice

  • Radiographer: Focuses on acquiring high-quality diagnostic images using appropriate equipment settings and patient positioning techniques.

  • Radiologist: Analyzes acquired images to identify abnormalities or diseases that may be present within a patient’s body; provides expert interpretation needed for diagnosis and treatment planning purposes.

In summary, while both radiographers and radiologists play crucial roles in the medical imaging process, their responsibilities and required education differ significantly. Radiographers are skilled technicians who operate imaging equipment to capture diagnostic images, while radiologists are specialized physicians who interpret these images to diagnose and treat patients.

 Education Requirements for Radiographers and Radiologists

The education requirements for radiographers and radiologists differ significantly due to the nature of their roles in medical imaging. While both professionals work with radiologic imaging techniques, they have distinct responsibilities that require specific training.

Radiographer Education

An associate’s degree in radiography is the typical requirement to become a radiographer, also known as a radiologic technologist or X-ray technician. Some institutions offer certificate programs or bachelor’s degrees in this field as well. The coursework includes anatomy, radiation physics, patient positioning, image evaluation, and radiation protection. Completing the program necessitates passing an ARRT-administered assessment in order to acquire authorization.

Radiologist Education

Becoming a radiologist requires more extensive education since they are specialized physicians who interpret medical images and perform diagnostic procedures. After obtaining their undergraduate degree, aspiring radiologists must complete four years at an accredited medical school. After obtaining their MD or DO, radiologists must then complete a four-year residency program specializing in diagnostic radiology or interventional radiology to gain hands-on experience interpreting medical images.

During their residency training period, future radiologists gain hands-on experience interpreting various types of medical images such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans, and ultrasound. Additionally, they may choose to pursue a fellowship in a specific area of radiology for one or two years.

Gaining familiarity with the requisite training and qualifications for radiographers and radiologists is imperative to thrive in this domain. With that in mind, let us now evaluate the income disparity between radiographers and radiologists.

Salary Comparison

When considering a career in either radiography or radiology, it’s essential to understand the potential salary differences between these two professions. While both fields offer competitive compensation packages, there are some notable disparities that may influence your decision.

Radiographer Salaries

Radiographers, who require less education and training than radiologists, tend to earn lower salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for a radiographer was $62,280 in 2023.

Factors Influencing Radiographer Salaries:

  • Level of experience: Entry-level positions tend to pay less than those with several years of experience.

  • Type of employer: Hospitals generally offer higher salaries compared to outpatient care centers or diagnostic laboratories.

  • Geographical location: Wages can vary significantly depending on regional cost-of-living factors and job market conditions.

Radiologist Salaries

Radiologists, who are highly educated medical professionals with specialized expertise in interpreting medical images using X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and ultrasounds, have the potential to earn significantly higher salaries than other professions. The Medscape Physician Compensation Report states that the average annual salary for a US-based diagnostic radiologist was around $427,000 in 2023.

Factors Influencing Radiologist Salaries:

  • Subspecialty: Some radiologists may choose to specialize in a specific area, such as interventional radiology or pediatric radiology, which can impact their earning potential.

  • Type of employer: Private practice and hospital-based positions tend to offer higher salaries than academic or research roles.

  • Geographical location: Similar to radiographers, wages for radiologists can vary based on regional factors and job market conditions.

In summary, while both careers in the field of medical imaging provide competitive compensation packages, it’s important to consider the differences in education requirements and salary potential when choosing between a career as a radiographer or a radiologist.

Becoming a Radiologist

Becoming a radiologist requires extensive education and training, as they are specialized medical doctors who diagnose and treat diseases using radiologic imaging techniques. The path to becoming a radiologist typically involves the following steps:

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Aspiring radiologists must first complete an undergraduate degree in pre-med or another related field.

  2. Attend Medical School: After completing their bachelor’s degree, students need to apply for and attend an accredited medical school. This is usually a four-year program that covers various aspects of medicine, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and more.

  3. Complete Residency Training: Upon graduating from medical school with either an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree, aspiring radiologists enter into residency programs in diagnostic radiology. These programs generally last four years and provide hands-on experience under the supervision of experienced professionals.

  4. Fellowship Training (Optional): Some radiologists choose to pursue additional fellowship training after their residency to specialize further within the field. Fellowships can range from one to three years depending on the specialty chosen.

  5. Certification & Licensure: Finally, all practicing physicians must obtain licensure in their state by passing licensing exams such as USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination). Additionally, The American Board of Radiology (ABR) offers board certification for qualified candidates who pass its examination process.

The process of becoming a radiologist can be challenging, requiring intensive study and practice. Nevertheless, those who successfully traverse this path will be rewarded with a rewarding career in utilizing advanced medical imaging techniques to diagnose and treat patients.

To become a radiologist, one must have extensive knowledge and experience in medical imaging technology as well as a strong understanding of anatomy. With this knowledge and expertise, you can set out on your path to becoming a master in the field of radiology. Now let’s explore what it takes to become a radiographer – the professionals who use radiation for diagnosis or treatment purposes.

 Becoming a Radiographer

For those intrigued by medical imaging yet not eager to devote to the intensive schooling needed for becoming a radiologist, radiography is an ideal career path. Radiographers, otherwise known as radiologic technologists, are tasked with executing imaging tests such as X-rays and CT scans on individuals.

Educational Requirements

To become a radiographer, you will need to complete an accredited radiologic technology program. Completing an accredited radiologic technology program typically requires two years of study, although some institutions offer bachelor’s degree programs that last four. Coursework includes anatomy, patient care, radiation physics and protection, image evaluation, and clinical practice.

Certification & Licensing

After completing your education, you must pass the certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). This certification demonstrates your competency in radiographic procedures and ensures adherence to professional standards. Additionally, most states require licensure for practicing radiographers; requirements vary by state but generally include passing the ARRT exam or another approved examination.

Continuing Education & Advancement Opportunities

  • Specialization: As a certified radiographer with experience under your belt, you can choose to specialize further within medical imaging fields like mammography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Continuing Education: Radiographers are required to complete continuing education every two years to maintain their certification and stay up-to-date with the latest radiologic imaging techniques.

  • Career Advancement: With additional education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health administration or management, radiographers can advance into supervisory or administrative roles within medical facilities.

In summary, becoming a radiographer involves completing an accredited program in radiologic technology, obtaining certification from ARRT, and acquiring state licensure if necessary. Opportunities for specialization and career advancement make this profession both rewarding and dynamic.

Gaining a qualification as a radiographer necessitates rigorous preparation and commitment, but can be an immensely gratifying profession. Sonographers and radiographers both use imaging technology to diagnose illnesses; however, there are some key differences between the two roles that should be explored in further detail.

Sonographer vs Radiographer

In the field of medical imaging, both sonographers and radiographers play crucial roles in diagnosing and treating patients. However, there are significant differences between these two professions that potential students and professionals should be aware of before choosing a career path.

Roles and Responsibilities

Sonographers, also known as ultrasound technologists or diagnostic medical sonographers, specialize in using ultrasound technology to capture images of internal organs, tissues, blood vessels, and fetuses during pregnancy. They work closely with physicians to analyze the images for any abnormalities or issues that may require further attention.

Radiographers, on the other hand, are responsible for operating various radiologic imaging techniques, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and mammograms. Their primary role is to produce high-quality images that can assist doctors in diagnosing diseases or injuries.

Educational Requirements

To become a sonographer, candidates typically need an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate from an accredited program in diagnostic medical sonography. Some programs even offer bachelor’s degrees for those seeking advanced education.

In contrast, radiography candidates must complete an accredited associate’s degree program in radiologic technology or radiography. Additionally, some states require licensure through passing a certification exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Salary Comparison

The average salary for sonographers and radiographers varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and specialization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diagnostic medical sonographers earned a median annual wage of $75,920 in 2023. Meanwhile, radiologic technologists had a median annual wage of $62,280 during the same period.

The two professions of sonography and radiography are quite dissimilar, yet both make vital contributions to the medical realm. Having discussed the distinction between sonographers and radiographers, let us now delve into radiology and radiotherapy to gain a deeper understanding of their respective roles in healthcare.

Difference Between Radiology and Radiotherapy

The fields of radiology and radiotherapy are often confused due to their similar names, but they serve different purposes in patient care. While both involve the use of radiation, radiology focuses on diagnostic imaging techniques to identify medical conditions, whereas radiotherapy is a treatment method that uses high-energy radiation to target cancer cells.

Radiologic Imaging Techniques in Radiology

In radiology, various imaging techniques such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and nuclear medicine scans are used by radiologists to diagnose diseases or injuries. These professionals interpret the images obtained from these tests and provide valuable information for physicians who determine the appropriate course of action for patients’ treatments. The primary goal of radiologic imaging is to aid in accurate diagnosis so that proper treatment can be administered.

Treating Cancer with Radiotherapy

On the other hand, radiotherapy involves using targeted radiation beams or radioactive substances directly on cancerous tumors or areas where cancer cells may exist after surgery. This form of therapy aims at killing or shrinking tumor cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. There are two main types of radiotherapy: external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) which delivers focused high-energy rays from outside the body onto specific areas; and internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) which places radioactive materials inside the body near affected regions.

Career Paths in Radiology vs Radiotherapy

  • Radiology: To become a radiologist, one must complete medical school and then pursue specialized training in diagnostic imaging through a residency program. Afterward, they may choose to further specialize in specific areas such as interventional radiology or pediatric radiology.

  • Radiotherapy: Radiotherapists are also known as radiation oncologists who have completed medical school followed by a residency program focused on cancer treatment using radiation therapy techniques. They work closely with other healthcare professionals like medical physicists and dosimetrists to develop individualized treatment plans for patients.

In summary, while both fields involve the use of radiation technology, their roles differ significantly – with radiology focusing on diagnosis and radiotherapy targeting cancer treatments.

Can a Radiographer Become a Radiologist?

Yes, it is achievable for a radiographer to become a radiologist; however, further study and instruction are needed. A radiographer who wishes to advance their career as a radiologist must first complete an undergraduate degree in radiologic imaging techniques, followed by attending medical school.

  • Undergraduate Degree: To begin the transition from being a radiographer to becoming a radiologist, one needs to have completed or pursue an undergraduate degree in either health sciences or any other relevant field. This will provide them with foundational knowledge required for medical school.

  • Medical School: After completing their undergraduate studies, aspiring radiologists must attend and graduate from an accredited medical school program that typically lasts four years. During this time, they will gain comprehensive knowledge of medicine and specialize in diagnostic imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, etc.

  • Radiology Residency: Upon completion of medical school, graduates need to enter into a residency program specializing in radiology. These programs usually last between four and six years depending on the chosen subspecialty within the field of radiology.

  • Certification & Licensing: Finally, after successfully completing their residency program, candidates are required to pass board certification exams administered by organizations like The American Board of Radiology (ABR) before obtaining licensure needed for practicing independently as qualified radiologists.

It is important to note that the transition from a radiographer to a radiologist requires significant time and financial investment. However, those who successfully complete this process will enjoy higher salaries, increased responsibilities, and more diverse career opportunities within the field of radiologic imaging techniques.

Having explored the distinction between a radiographer and a radiologist, it is imperative to understand the difference between X Ray Tech and Radiology Tech in order to make an informed decision. Now that we have established what distinguishes a radiographer from a radiologist, let’s explore the difference between X Ray Tech and Radiology Tech.

 Difference between X-Ray Tech and Radiology Tech

In the world of medical imaging, there are various professionals with specific roles and responsibilities. Two such professionals are X-ray technicians (X-ray techs) and Radiologic Technologists (Radiology techs). Although these terms may seem interchangeable, they refer to different positions within the field.

 Roles and Responsibilities

An X-ray technician primarily focuses on performing diagnostic imaging examinations using x-rays. Their primary responsibility is to capture images that help physicians diagnose patients’ conditions accurately.

Radiology technologists, on the other hand, have a broader scope of practice as they can work in multiple radiologic imaging techniques like computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammography, nuclear medicine, or ultrasound in addition to x-rays.

 Education Requirements

Candidates typically need to complete a certificate program or an associate degree in radiography from an accredited institution in order to become an X-ray technician, with these programs providing training specifically for taking x-rays and covering essential topics such as anatomy, radiation safety protocols and patient care procedures. These programs provide training specifically for taking x-rays while covering essential topics such as anatomy, radiation safety protocols, and patient care procedures.

Radiology technologists usually require more extensive education than X-ray technicians since their role encompasses several modalities beyond just x-rays; hence most pursue either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in radiological technology from accredited institutions approved by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).

 Certification and Licensing

Both X-ray techs and radiology techs need to obtain certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). However, they may have different certifications depending on their specialization. For instance, an X-ray technician will hold a certification in Radiography (R), while a radiology technologist might have additional certifications such as CT or MRI.

Licensing requirements vary by state; however, most states require both professionals to be licensed before practicing independently.


Is there a difference between radiology and radiography?

Yes, there is a significant difference between radiology and radiography. Radiology is the medical specialty that focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases using imaging techniques like X-rays, MRI, CT scans, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine. On the other hand, radiography involves producing these images through various technologies for interpretation by a radiologist.

What is so special about radiology?

Radiology plays an essential role in modern healthcare as it enables non-invasive diagnosis of numerous conditions without surgery or extensive testing. It allows early detection of diseases such as cancer or heart problems while minimizing patient discomfort. Moreover, interventional radiologists can perform minimally invasive procedures to treat specific ailments using imaging guidance.


Overall, Radiology and Radiography are two distinct fields in the medical industry. While both require knowledge of imaging technology, they differ in terms of education requirements, salary, and job responsibilities. Becoming a radiologist requires extensive schooling and training beyond that of a radiographer. Click the following link to learn how to improve quality of MRI images.

Doc J

Dr. J has worked in biology all his life and holds several advanced degrees and certificates in biology, anatomy, scientific illustration, 3d animation and motion graphics. He has always had an interest in teaching others the wonders of biology using the latest advances in graphics, including visualization, digital microscopy, animation, illustration, VR and interactive media.

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