Have you ever had a sonogram and marveled at the technologist’s skill in knowing what to look for? Sonographers and radiologic technologists learn these skills through associate and bachelor’s degree programs in diagnostic imaging.
Employment of diagnostic imaging sonographers nationwide is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And nationwide, radiologists are among the top physician specialties being recruited.
Diagnostic imaging technologists
The greatest demand in Kentucky among diagnostic imaging technologists is for diagnostic medical sonographers. These jobs are expected to increase by 19.1 percent from 2016 to 2026. Diagnostic medical sonographers create sonograms, images created by high-frequency sound waves, of the body’s internal organ and tissues.
Of all careers in the diagnostic imaging field, the highest average salary in Kentucky goes to MRI technologists, at $65,649. Magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetic fields and radio waves to make detailed images.
To get started, you must earn at least an associate degree and pass a certification exam. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System offers associate degree programs in radiography, where you can get hands-on practice. Morehead State University also offers an associate degree in radiologic science.
These programs have selective admissions, meaning not every applicant will be accepted.
Universities offering bachelor’s degrees are Morehead State University (in diagnostic medical sonography and in computed tomography and magnetic resonance) and Northern Kentucky University (in radiologic science). Admissions are selective.
- Cardiovascular technologists and technicians: 7.2 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 1,079 to 1,157 positions. Average salary $46,986. Cardiovascular technologists and technicians create images and conduct tests involving the heart and lungs. They might assist with heart catheterization or specialize in EKG (electrocardiogram) testing.
- Radiologic technologists and technicians: 8.8 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 4,130 to 4,493 positions. Average salary $51,239. These professionals specialize in X-ray and computed tomography (CT) imaging.
- Diagnostic medical sonographers: 19.1 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 855 to 1,018 positions. Average salary $63,533.
- Magnetic resonance imaging technologists: 9.0 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 376 to 410 positions. Average salary $65,649. Many MRI technologists start out as radiologic technologists.
You might also consider a career in radiation therapy. Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.
Bellarmine University in Louisville offers an accredited program leading to a bachelor’s degree in health science in radiation therapy.
- Radiation therapists: 7.8 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 231 to 249 positions. Average salary $81,659.
Nuclear medicine technologists
Nuclear medicine technologists prepare small amounts of radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes. To find an accredited nuclear medicine technology program, see the website for the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology. https://www.jrcnmt.org/find-a-program/
- Nuclear medicine technologists: 5.5 percent increase from 2016 to 2026, from 293 to 309 positions. Average salary $64,809.
There’s also a growing need for radiologists, the physicians who diagnose and treat disease and injury by using imaging techniques such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.
According to Merritt Hawkins, a national physician recruiting firm, radiology ranked fourth among its top physician recruiting assignments in 2018, trailing only family medicine, psychiatry, and internal medicine.
Radiologists must complete medical school and then serve a four-year residency. Most often, according to the American College of Radiology, they serve an additional one- or two-year fellowship of very specialized training, such as radiation oncology, pediatric radiology, or interventional radiology.
According to the 2016 Kentucky Physician Workforce Profile, the state had 348 active physicians in radiology and diagnostic radiology, 65 in radiation oncology, 28 in neuroradiology, and 23 in vascular and interventional radiology.
Figures unless otherwise noted are from the Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2026.