Many people are confused by the differences between a radiographer and a radiologist. So, who do you see when you need an x-ray, CT scan, MRI or ultrasound?
Your scan will be done by a radiographer, who is an allied health professional. But the diagnosis will be made by a radiologist, who is a medical specialist.
How do radiographers and radiologists differ?
Radiographers are allied health professionals who take x-rays and other medical images to assist doctors in diagnosing diseases and injuries. They are also known as medical imaging technologists.
Radiologists are specialist medical doctors trained to interpret x-rays and other medical imaging tests. They diagnose and carry out treatments using ultrasound, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other imaging technology.
Radiologists may do further training to become an interventional radiologist, performing image-guided procedures inside a person’s body, such as treating cancerous tumours or inserting stents to open up arteries.
Education and training of radiographers and radiologists
Radiographers complete a university bachelor’s degree in medical imaging, medical radiation science or technology which takes 3 or 4 years. Another option is a 2-year master’s degree. Students doing the 3-year bachelor’s degree also need to do a supervised practice program.
Radiologists complete at least 5 years of specialist medical radiology training after qualifying as doctors and working for at least 2 years in hospitals.
Do I need a referral for a radiographer or radiologist?
In general, you will need a referral from a nurse, physiotherapist, general practitioner or specialist for radiological and other imaging tests. With some procedures, such as MRIs, you will need a referral from a specialist.
How much do radiographers and radiologists charge?
The amount you’ll need to pay varies, depending on where you go, the type of imaging, who is referring you and the condition being looked into or treated.
In general, you won’t pay anything for common x-rays and ultrasounds. They are largely covered by Medicare.
But you may have to pay for more complex tests. In 2016, the average out-of-pocket cost for radiology services was almost $100. The average out-of-pocket cost for complex tests such as CT scans and MRIs was about $150.
Ask what your out-of-pocket costs will be before visiting a radiologist. Also, find out if you need to get a referral from a particular medical professional.
Where do radiographers and radiologists work?
Radiographers and radiologists work closely together in private medical centres, major public and private hospitals and specialist clinics, such as cancer clinics.
Last reviewed: February 2019