The difference between a radiologist and a radiographer

June 29, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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With all the jobs in the medical field, it can sometimes be confusing to understand the differences between certain careers. For example, a radiologist and radiographer are both medical professionals who use imaging technology in their practice. However, in this article we will explain the difference between a radiologist and a radiographer.

Medical imaging involves various types of diagnostic procedures and tests, such as CT scans, ultrasounds and nuclear medicine scans. Imaging procedures are used to create pictures of the tissues, organs and bones in the body.

By viewing an image, doctors can diagnose medical conditions and injuries, such as cancer, fractures and blood clots. Imaging scans can also play an important role in helping physicians monitor how a patient is responding to treatment.

Although radiologists and radiographers each have a role in the use of medical imaging procedures, their responsibilities, training and opportunities are different. One big difference is the amount of education and the length of training it takes to work in each of the professions. To decide if either profession is right for you, it’s helpful to learn more about each.

What does a radiologist do?

Radiologists are doctors who specialize in using medical imaging to diagnose and treat people with various conditions. Radiologists usually do not perform the imaging tests. Instead, they review and interpret the scans to aid in making a diagnosis.

To become a radiologist, you need to earn an undergraduate degree and attend four years of medical school. Next, you’ll have to complete a residency in radiology. A residency in radiology is usually four years and includes studying radiation safety and interpreting imaging scans.  After completing four years of residency, some doctors choose to also pursue a fellowship in radiology. A radiology fellowship gives a doctor the chance to narrow their focus even further and become an expert in a specific area, such as nuclear medicine or cardiovascular imaging.

What does a radiographer do?

A radiographer has a different role involving medical imaging. Radiographers do not interpret the results or make a diagnosis. Instead, they are healthcare professionals who perform the imaging scans.

They operate various types of equipment and scan devices and also guide patients through the scanning process to ensure quality images are produced. Some radiographers perform all types of imaging scans, while others specialize in certain procedures, such as ultrasounds or mammograms.

Another big difference between radiographers and radiologists is the training and education they are required to complete. A radiographer is not a medical doctor. Instead, they must complete a radiological education program that is accredited by the Joint Review Commission on Education in Radiologic Technology.

Both two-year associate degree programs and four-year bachelor’s degree programs are available for people who are interested in becoming a radiographer. Although it can vary, most states require radiographers be licensed or certified.

The two professions are different, but they are dependent on each other. Radiologists and radiographers work together. Radiologists depend on radiographers to provide quality scans so they can interpret the results. They both must have an understanding of what different scans are used for and keep patient safety in mind.

The best way to decide which healthcare career is right for you is through job shadowing. Shadowing can help you truly understand the difference between a radiologist and a radiographer, and a observe many other types of doctors and healthcare workers.

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight for students aspiring to be doctors, nurses, midwives, and physician assistants – helping you focus on your career aspirations before embarking upon medical training. You can learn more about our programs here