Career Comparison: MRI Technologist vs Sonographer
Interested in modern healthcare, but not sure which way to turn? We take a look at two closely related pathways that can lead to job satisfaction for tech lovers: MRI and sonography.
You typically won’t see a great difference between an MRI technologist salary and sonographer salary. In terms of work environment, the setting is generally a hospital or imaging center for both professions. Therefore, choosing between the two can be tricky unless you know more about the ins and outs of each role.
We’ve listed a few of the differences between the two jobs to help you decide.
Uncover the bare bones of what it is to be a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer and get to the heart of MRI Technologist training.
MRI Scans and Ultrasound Imaging
You know already that both a medical sonographer and an MRI Technologist scan body parts in some form or another. They use machines and equipment to make what is internal and invisible to the naked eye, visible. This helps to diagnose serious and often complex conditions.
Let’s clear up the jargon:
MRI Scanning Equipment
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI machine is used to produce 3D images of tissue and organs, or bones and joints.
DMS Scanning Technology
DMS stands for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. This is ultrasound equipment that scans internal body structures like the heart and vascular system, or a fetus during pregnancy, to produce images called sonograms.
If the idea of using modern technology as a diagnostic tool excites you, both MRI tech training and sonography could lead to a high level of job satisfaction in the long term.
How Do Scanners Work, Exactly?
MRI scanners make use of magnetic field and radio waves, whilst ultrasound equipment uses sound waves. These waves send signals from the body to the imaging equipment. It’s then the job of the MRI Techologist or Ultrasound Tech to make sure images are interpreted correctly.
The results from an MRI scan must be clear, otherwise a diagnosis won’t be possible. It is the responsibility of the technologist to make sure results are easy to ‘read.’
Sonograms must also be clear, but ultrasound tech schools must teach students first and foremost how to recognize normal and abnormal results from the images.
MRI Training Highlights Vulnerability
As a student or trainee, it’s easy to be blown away by science and how far we’ve come with our man-made machines. What technologists must never forget is that patients are equally overcome by the power of new technology, and may be scared of it.
When learning how to become an MRI Tech, students are shown how to help settle a patient. Often new to a clinical environment, patients having an MRI scan are expected to lie very still in the long tunnel of an MRI machine. This is enough to make most people anxious. On top of this, the scan can take a while and it’s loud inside, so being able to relax is difficult.
It’s no different for sonographers when pregnancy presents a problem for an unborn fetus, or an abnormality presents itself to confront unsuspecting parents.
In both professions, being able to work closely with patients and set them at ease is vital. If you enjoy this part of the role, you’re likely to excel.
Accreditation for Sonography Programs and MRI
Prospects for both roles is healthy.
There were more MRI Technologists (230,600) in 2014 than there were Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (112,700), but the Bureau of Labor Statistics also predicts that job opportunity in DMS is growing 24% faster than average. However, advancements in modern machinery means there are rich pickings for any kind of technical role.
Because it is smaller, sonography equipment is more portable than MRI equipment, which means workers may be able to work outside a hospital setting if they choose to. However, this could change in the future if it advances further still.
MRI Tech Certification & Degrees
There are two main routes to becoming an MRI Technologist. The traditional route is to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiography and then later specialize in MRI. For those who want to focus solely on MRI, it’s also possible to earn a certificate, associate, or bachelor’s degree in MRI Technology. Professional certification through ARRT or ARMRIT may also be required.
Ultrasound Tech Certification & Degrees
The most recognized certification for sonography is offered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). In order to sit for the specialty exams offered by ARDMS, students must graduate from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Other routes to certification through ARDMS exist for students with a bachelor’s degree or relevant work experience. Certification for sonography is also available through ARRT.
How to Become an MRI Technologist or Sonographer
Training to be an Ultrasound Technologist often takes two years or more, depending on the school and type of program you choose. Sonography programs focus on a number of subject areas including Patient Care, Cross-Sectional Anatomy, Ultrasound Physics, and Ultrasound Scanning Techniques.
MRI Technologist training usually takes 18 – 24 months. This time is vital for learning how to conduct MRI scans appropriately. For example, MRI training programs will demonstrate how important it is that patients don’t wear jewelry to a scan or have metal inside their body. This could interrupt the scan or be dangerous to the patient.
Allied health professionals in both sonography and magnetic resonance imaging are dealing with potentially fatal conditions, trauma, and complex health issues. Training and accuracy in these roles can’t be hurried and a good bedside manner is important.
Learning how to follow correct procedure and learn new people skills enables students to go about their new job with confidence. Whichever route you choose to follow, the rewards are great.