Sonography vs. Radiology: Difference Between X-Ray & Ultrasound Tech

Can you be an ultrasound tech with a radiology degree? Yes, but you need additional training/courses. Here is the difference between ultrasound and radiology tech.

Frequently, people confuse certain medical professions due to several similarities between them.

Examples of such include radiology and ultrasound tech. Now both of these have points of similarity and differences. Here, we’ve provided some help in identifying what these are.

As you read this article, you’ll find information on different aspects of both specializations. Plus, you can determine the specifics of specializing in either of them.

By the end, you should have no doubts about what radiology and ultrasound techs entail.

Sonography vs. Radiology

It’s common to find confusion or mix-ups between closely related specialties in medical diagnosis.

One of those includes sonography and radiology. If you’re new to these specializations, you will likely have seen or heard one being interchanged for the other.

So, are these forms of medical diagnosis completely different? If they are, what sets them apart? Do they have any similarities?

These questions and more have been thoroughly discussed below. If you’re reading this, you probably want answers or clarifications. We’ve provided comprehensive details on each.

  • An Overview

Understanding the similarities and differences between sonography and radiology requires providing the basic definition of each specialization.

Sonography is a medical procedure involving ultrasound or sound waves to produce visual images of organs and tissues.

These images are produced by differential bouncing sound waves off different structures or organs of the body. The ultrasound waves are sent out or emitted by a transducer that reads the echo within the body.

Radiology, on the other hand, is another medical specialty that deals with diagnosing and treating medical conditions. Here, radiology technology is deployed to help produce images for review.

It’s widely used in almost every healthcare field.

Are there Differences between Sonography and Radiology?

You’ll discover that sonography and radiology are used interchangeably in many situations.

While that is true, these are actual medical imaging specializations with areas of similarity and differences. In a nutshell, sonography and radiology have critical areas of difference.

Such differences can be seen in the type of diagnosis and the technology being adopted. This section will cover these areas before critically comparing sonography and radiology.

i. Type of Diagnosis

Regarding the type of diagnosis performed, sonography goes beyond checking fetal development.

As the name suggests, sonography uses sound waves to check the heart condition and those of the vascular system, musculoskeletal system, abdominal region, and breasts, amongst other body parts.

In the case of radiology, the goal is to carry out diagnostic imaging procedures like MRIs, x-rays, and CT scans. Radiology technicians work in different medical settings ranging from specialty clinics and hospitals.

Radiology specializations include basic x-ray, bone densitometry, mammography, computed tomography, mammography, MRI, etc. Each of these caters to or performs a particular type of diagnosis.

ii. Technology Being Used

In terms of the predominant technology being deployed by each of these specializations, sonography mainly deploys high-frequency sound waves.

These are emitted by specialized equipment to create images. Unlike radiology, no radiation is involved with sonograms.

Radiology techs, on the other hand, adopt radiation-emitting technologies. This help provides x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), and computed tomography CT scans.

Sonography vs. Radiology: Roles or Responsibilities

Technicians in either specialization handle several specific responsibilities.

For example, the typical roles of sonography techs include prepping exam room(s) & equipment for performing examinations or tests.

A sonography tech also positions patients before and during the sonography test.

Sonography technicians collaborate with radiologists by providing ultrasound-guided techniques as needed.

Other roles include creating reports, troubleshooting faulty equipment, and identifying and recording related pathology & anatomy from sonography equipment.

After concluding the test, sonography techs inform medical teams of any abnormalities detected.

For radiology techs, the job descriptions are equally varied. These include presenting a detailed explanation of the entire treatment process to the patient.

Radiology techs also position the patient’s body for accurate radiography. Exposed parts of the patient’s body are protected with radiation-resistant protective equipment.

More responsibilities include measuring the thickness of the body part targeted for examination, prepping patients for a diagnostic imaging exam, determining the patient’s phobia, and easing any fears by reassuring patients of the procedure’s safety.

Sonographer vs. Radiology: Salary

While both sonography and radiology attract a steady demand, sonography tends to have a slightly higher order.

This could be why sonography as a profession typically has a higher median wage than radiology.

Diagnostic medical sonographers have a median salary of around $68,750 per year, while radiologic technologists have a median wage of about $62,280 per year.

While this is true, the average annual salary range could widely differ based on several factors.

These influencing factors include your experience level, preferred specialization, and location.

Based on these factors, the salary range will fall between $40,550 and $98,000 per year.

Sonographer vs. Radiology: Specializations

Having decided on going for either of these healthcare professions, you’ll need to determine what specialization to go for. Each medical field has its many disciplines.

For example, specialties in sonography include diagnostic cardiovascular sonography.

Others include diagnostic medical sonography, obstetrics, and abdominal sonography (covering organs like the spleen, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, pancreas, and abdominal aorta).

Breast sonography, musculoskeletal sonography, and neuro sonography are more specialties.

For radiology, there are equally many specializations to choose from.

Some of the most common include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), cardiovascular interventional radiology, fluoroscopy, interventional radiology, and angiography.

Mammography, bone densitometry, computed tomography (CT), and basic x-ray are more specializations in radiology.

By researching further on what each of these specialties is about, you can quickly go for the one you find most interesting.

Sonographer vs. Radiology: Job Outlook

So far, we’ve covered various points of comparison between sonography & radiology.

Also highlighted is the rising demand for sonography and radiology techs. This reality points to a favorable job outlook. The market is expected to grow significantly within the next decade.

According to estimations, sonography jobs are expected to grow by at least 19% between 2018 and 2028. On the other hand, radiology positions are expected to increase by about 9%.

Ultrasound Tech vs. Radiology Tech

To better understand the similarities and differences, we’ve included several points to be used for such comparisons.

These include educational requirements, job description or roles, salary, study duration, skills and competencies, subspecialties, work environment, work schedule, and job outlook.

Each of these areas highlights the main differences between radiology and ultrasound techs. A closer look at each point of comparison enables you to choose what specialty to go for.

With that said, let’s proceed by identifying each of the points mentioned.

i. Educational Requirements

You’ll need to earn an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree to qualify as a radiology tech. Some others hold a graduate certificate in radiologic tech. The program of study covers imaging and radiation physics.

All radiography schools must be fully accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiology Technology. Having earned a radiology degree, you’ll need to also sit for a licensing exam.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) issues such.

On the other hand, ultrasound techs require minimal certification or an associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography from accredited schools.

Here, courses are offered in sonography, medical terminology, and anatomy.

To become an ultrasound tech, you’ll need to complete clinical in medical settings. This includes options for in-person instructions or online sonography programs.

ii. Job Description or Roles

The job descriptions for both radiology and ultrasound techs are pretty varied.

For radiology techs, responsibilities include reviewing patient charts & doctors’ notes before the examination. Others include maintaining patient records during & after procedures.

Radiology techs also complete the patient intake process accompanied by the education of patients about imaging procedures.

As a radiology tech, you get to position patients & equipment for optimal capturing while also prepping radiopharmaceuticals for contrast in diagnostic images.

Patient monitoring, equipment calibration, logging & organizing image results, and proper sterilization & storage of equipment are other responsibilities of radiology techs.

Also, these technicians get to keep updated with current radiology practices.

On the other hand, ultrasound techs are saddled with a unique set of responsibilities, including prepping the exam room & ultrasound equipment.

Other roles include identifying & recording appropriate anatomy & pathology with the help of specialized equipment.

What more? Ultrasound techs also care for sonography equipment, report equipment failure, and write reports from scan results.

Alerting appropriate medical staff of abnormalities, working with minimal supervision or independently are more roles of ultrasound techs.

iii. Radiology Tech vs. Ultrasound Tech Salary

The salary of these specialists is another vital point of comparison you’ll need to know. Radiology techs earn a median wage of around $61,900 per year.

Depending on your experience level and location, a radiology tech will earn anywhere from $42,180 to $92,660 per year.

Ultrasound techs, on the other hand, earn a median annual salary of $75,920.

Based on your location and experience level, you may earn anywhere from $53,790 to $105,340 per year as an ultrasound tech.

The growing need for radiology and ultrasound techs may further push salaries up.

iv. Duration of Study

Like ultrasound techs, the study duration for radiology techs is primarily determined by the program or subspecialty they pursue. Training and certificate programs sometimes take about a year to complete.

However, joining an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree program in radiology tech may take anywhere from 2 to 4 years.

On the other hand, aspiring ultrasound techs will have to undergo study for a particular duration based on the programs they go for. These last anywhere from one to four-year programs.

Also, your level of education, as well as your job role, will play a part in determining how long you study.

For example, one-year certificate or diploma programs, while associate’s or bachelor’s degree lasts around four years.

v. Course of Study

Courses covered under each specialization give you a better idea of what they’re about.

For radiology tech, courses include radiographic positioning, introduction to healthcare in radiographic technology, radiographic imaging technology, and radiation protection.

More courses include patient care for the radiographer, radiographic positioning & clinical procedures, and radiographic physics.

Advanced radiographic procedures, pathology & cross-sectional anatomy, digital processing & computerized tomography, etc., are more courses covered.

Under ultrasound tech, courses covered include anatomy & physiology, sonographic anatomy, principles of sonography, and echocardiography.

More courses include obstetrics & gynecology sonography, abdominal sonography, vascular ultrasound, ultrasound physics, medical terminology, and anatomy & physiology of the heart.

vi. Skills & Competencies

A whole range of skill sets is necessary for radiology and ultrasound techs.

For radiology techs, critical skills include medical & anatomical skills, communication skills, mechanical aptitude, time management, stress management, teamwork, and timely & accurate documentation of patient contacts.

More skills include manual dexterity, multitasking, and ongoing learning. Others include maintaining patient confidentiality, effective interaction, high energy, and flexibility.

For ultrasound techs, essential skills are verbal communication, interpersonal, and active listening.

Critical thinking and reading comprehension skills are also necessary. Most of these skills are required by both radiology and ultrasound techs.

vii. Subspecialties

Subspecialties in radiology tech include cardiac radiology, breast imaging, interventional radiology, pediatric radiology, nuclear medicine, and neuroradiology.

In the case of ultrasound techs, subspecialties cover abdominal sonography, obstetric and gynecologic sonography, breast sonography, and neuro sonography.

viii. Job Outlook

The job outlook for radiology techs has been projected to grow by about 9% by the next decade (2020 to 2030). This is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The job outlook for ultrasound techs is also excellent, as it’s expected to grow by about 17% by the next decade.

These points of comparison have been necessary to allow you to better assess radiology and ultrasound techs.

  • Making a Choice

Having provided you with essential information, you’re left to decide what career path to take between the two.

These are the primary factors necessary for comparing sonography with radiology. Choosing what serves your needs best is critical.

These are the fundamental similarities between sonography and radiology. Any prior misconceptions you had should be cleared by now.

To have an exact idea of what to go for, you might want to look further at the different specialties under each career path.