What’s a Medical Imaging Technician? Job Duties & Career Path

Explore the typical roles and responsibilities of medical imaging technicians.

Medical imaging technicians are responsible for gathering images through X-rays, ultrasounds and other equipment. These images are then used by doctors and other health care professionals to diagnose or more closely examine medical issues, concerns or conditions. Medical imaging technicians play a huge role in giving physicians the up-close look needed to determine what type of care a patient needs.

There are many different types of medical imaging specializations, but two popular and lucrative options are radiology and sonography. Radiology relies on radiation waves to produce images, while sonography uses sound waves. Both of these imaging techniques require skilled technicians to operate the machines, and both are integral for patient care.

What does a medical imaging technician do?

Your duties as a medical imaging technician will vary depending on the type of health care facility you work in. In general, you’ll be working with imaging equipment to capture a “picture” of an area of concern inside a patient’s body. You’ll also be making some preliminary assessments of the images before they’re handed off to a doctor. Specific duties will most likely include:

  • Prepare patients for imaging procedures
  • Prepare and maintain imaging equipment
  • Correctly position the patient to get the right image
  • Operate equipment to get diagnostic images
  • Know the difference between a normal and abnormal image
  • Analyze images for preliminary findings
  • Communicate with physicians about images
  • Maintain patients’ imaging records

Some variations exist among imaging technicians’ duties—radiologists use a radiation shield to protect patients whereas a sonographer doesn’t—but overall the roles are similar in nature.

Medical Imaging Certification

Certification requirements vary from state to state, but medical imaging technicians are usually required to have some type of certification and possibly licensure in order to work.

If you choose to pursue a career as a sonographer, you can become certified by graduating from an accredited program and then passing a certification exam. Most certification exams will focus on a specialty, for example, abdominal sonography. Some states also require sonographers to become licensed. Certification agencies vary by state, so be sure to consult your state’s board of health for specific requirements.

For a career as a radiologic technician, most states require you to be licensed or certified. In order to be licensed in most states, radiologic technologists need to graduate from an accredited program and then pass a certification exam from their state or from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT). For specific state requirements, contact your state’s health board.

What career paths can I take as a medical imaging technician?

Medical imaging technology plays an important role in today’s health care system. Workers with the knowledge and skills to perform diagnostic imaging procedures are in high demand in a few different types of health care facilities. Both radiologists and sonographers are often needed in hospitals, physicians’ offices or even labs that specialize solely in medical imaging.

If you’re looking to advance during your career, related jobs, such as X-ray technician or medical and clinical laboratory technologist, are options if you earn the appropriate degree.

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