Radiology vs. radiography

Updated April 17, 2017

Radiology can be confused with radiography as both disciplines fall in the same field of medical imaging, however the field of radiology is an advanced branch of learning and practice. Radiographers work with patients to produce the medical images, such as X-rays, that radiologists and others use to diagnose and detect disease or injury. Because of the level of advanced training and responsibilities, a radiologist makes a higher salary than a radiographer.


Radiologists are physicians who learn the advanced skill of interpreting or diagnosing medical imaging such as mammography, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fluoroscopy and computed tomography (CT). While many radiologists use their skills to diagnose, some radiologists treat disease, especially cancer, using radiation. They are called radiation oncologists or nuclear medicine specialists.

Radiographers create medical images using X-ray, mammography, MRI and other methods to produce images for doctors, usually radiologists, to analyse. Similarly, some radiographers can train to use radiation to treat cancer. Radiographers can also be called radiology technicians, radiologic technologists, X-ray techs, radiologic assistants and rad techs.


After earning a bachelor's degree, usually in a pre-med field, students wanting to become radiologists attend an accredited medical school and earn a Medical Doctorate (M.D.) degree. They must pass a licensing exam and complete an internship. Then they go on to least four years of graduate medical education in radiology, called a residency. The doctor then enters a fellowship program and can choose a sub-speciality, according to Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). Radiologists have 13 to 14 years of medical education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Radiographers have significantly less education and training. They usually earn an Associate of Applied Science, which takes two years. Some study to achieve a four-year bachelor's degree and more on-the-job responsibility, and others may get a one-year certificate. A radiographer usually has two to four years of post-high school education, usually earned at a community or technical college.


Radiology can be subdivided into many speciality fields, such as cardiovascular radiology, breast imaging, emergency radiology, neuroradiology, musculoskeletal radiology and more, according to RSNA.

Radiography has many similar specialised fields, the most common for radiographers being magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), mammography, diagnostic medical sonography (ultrasound) and computed tomography (CT).


The field of radiology is practised by radiologists in hospitals, clinics and private medical practices. They can work with referring physicians to treat patients.

Radiographers can work in the same places, and also in imaging centres, urgent care and research laboratories, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Both radiologists and radiographers learn to protect themselves and patients from the harmful effects of radiation.


The Association of American Medical Colleges says radiologists can make anywhere from £251,390 to £390,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, as of May 2008, the median annual wage of radiology technicians was £33,936.

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About the Author

Kirsten Sorenson has been an online, print and television reporter, and a columnist since 1994. Her work has appeared in the "Washington Post," "Parade Magazine," the "Arizona Republic," the "Cincinnati Enquirer," KSL Television, Associated Press and the "Deseret News." Her areas of expertise include health and medicine, education and parenting. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.