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A radiologist, X-ray technician, and X-ray technologist all work in the same field — radiology. However, they all have different roles to play in providing services to patients, and may work in different settings. It may also be possible for someone who starts his or her career as a X-ray technician to become X-ray technologist or a radiologist, but the training for a radiologist, X-ray technician, and X-ray technologist always varies.
X-ray technicians are trained in using X-ray equipment to take pictures of the inside of a person's body. These pictures are used in diagnosing diseases and injuries. Typically, X-ray technicians receive one to two years of training at a trade school, where they learn how to operate different types of X-ray equipment as well as how to position patients for efficient imaging.
X-ray technicians may find employment in hospitals and doctors' offices as well as in radiology clinics. They may also find jobs in nursing homes and dentistry facilities. In some cases, X-ray technicians venture into using other imaging technology besides X-rays, performing MRIs, CAT scans, and even ultrasounds. Though some people refer to those that repair X-ray equipment as X-ray technicians, they are more properly terms "X-ray repair technicians."
An X-ray technician cannot talk to patients about the results of X-rays or issue diagnoses. Instead, a radiologist or doctor typically has this responsibility. A radiologist is a person who is trained in interpreting diagnostic images, such as those obtained from X-rays as well as MRIs, CAT scans, and ultrasounds. Sometimes, a radiologist will also handle radioactive materials in the course of her medical-imaging work. A radiologist can also find work in a hospital, clinic, doctor's office, radiology center, dentist's office, or nursing home.
The difference between an X-ray technician and a radiologist is that an X-ray technician can only perform the X-rays while the radiologist gets the images from the technician and analyzes them, making a diagnosis. Sometimes radiologists also operate imaging equipment, such as when they work in a small facility that does not also employ a technician. Additionally, radiologists may perform some minor medical procedures that incorporate the use of imaging machines.
An X-ray technologist, also known as a radiographer, has typically completed at least two years of intensive training, culminating in an associate's or bachelor's degree. X-ray technologists use X-rays and other diagnostic-imagining tests to take images of a person's insides. Once these images have been taken and developed, an X-ray technologist passes them on to a radiologist who will diagnose the patient. Often, X-ray technologists are able to fill supervisory jobs and even interpret data in addition to operating imaging machinery.