CAT Scan vs. CT Scan. Are They the Same Thing?


CT (computed tomography) scans and CAT (computed axial tomography) scans are commonly used medical imaging tests. Both CT scans and CAT scans utilize computer-processed X-rays to produce tomographic images of structures inside the body. While the terms CAT scan and CT scan are often used interchangeably, some people wonder about the difference between CAT scan technologists and CT scan technologists. Are they the same profession, or are there important distinctions? This article will provide an overview of CT and CAT scans, the training and responsibilities of the technologists who operate them, and whether a CT tech and a CAT scan tech can be considered the same profession.

Definition of CT Scan

A computed tomography (CT) scan, also known as a CAT scan, is a diagnostic imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed cross-sectional images of the inside of the body (Mayo Clinic, It is an important tool in diagnostic radiology and modern medicine.

During a CT scan, the patient lies on a table that slides into a large, doughnut-shaped machine called a gantry. The X-ray tube inside the machine rotates around the body and sends out narrow beams from many different angles. Detectors on the opposite side of the body pick up the rays and transmit the data to a computer, which processes the information to create 2D cross-sectional images (slices) of the body. These images are combined by the computer to produce 3D images that can be viewed from different angles on a monitor.

CT scans are used to examine organs, bones, soft tissues, blood vessels and blood flow. They can detect abnormalities, diagnose diseases, plan radiation therapy, guide minimally invasive procedures like biopsies and monitor disease progression. CTs are fast and painless. The actual scan takes only seconds to complete and is usually performed on an outpatient basis.

Definition of CAT Scan

CAT scan stands for computerized axial tomography scan. A CAT scan, also known as a CT scan or computed tomography scan, is a specialized X-ray test that produces cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays and a computer [1].

During a CAT scan, the patient lies on a table that slides into a large donut-shaped machine. X-rays are taken from many different angles around the body and transmitted to a computer, which processes the information to generate cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues [2]. These images provide more detailed information than regular X-ray images.

CAT scans are primarily used to examine organs in the abdomen and pelvis. They are often used to identify tumors, infections, blood clots, and fractures, as well as to detect internal injuries after trauma. CAT scans are also commonly used in cancer diagnosis and staging, to guide biopsies and evaluate the effectiveness of cancer treatments [3].

Training and Certification

To become a CT technologist or CAT scan technologist, there are specific education and certification requirements that must be met. Most CT techs complete an associate degree program in radiography or radiation therapy technology from an accredited institution. These programs provide both didactic coursework and clinical experience operating CT scanners [1]. Some common courses include anatomy, pathology, patient care, radiation physics, imaging procedures, and CT scanning techniques.

After completing an associate degree, CT technologists must obtain professional certification to work in most states. The primary credential is the Registered CT Technologist (R.T.(R)) certification from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). To qualify for ARRT certification, technologists must complete an accredited program and pass the national certification exam. Many employers require the R.T.(R) credential. There are also certificate programs available that provide condensed CT training for radiologic technologists who want to cross-train in CT scanning [2].

Some states require additional licensing to work as a CT tech. It’s important to research the specific requirements based on your location. With the right combination of an accredited education program, ARRT certification, and state licensing, CT and CAT scan techs can begin their careers operating CT scanners.

Job Duties

The day-to-day job responsibilities of CT and CAT scan techs are very similar. According to sources, some of their core duties include:

  • Preparing patients for CT scans by getting medical history and explaining procedures (Source)
  • Operating CT scanners to obtain cross-sectional images of the body (Source)
  • Ensuring safety protocols are followed to minimize radiation exposure (Source)
  • Monitoring imaging to ensure quality results (Source)
  • Analyzing images and conveying results to radiologists (Source)

Overall, CT and CAT scan techs are responsible for operating equipment to obtain diagnostic images, monitoring image quality, analyzing results, and providing quality care and safety for patients undergoing scans.

Work Environment

CT and CAT scan technicians typically work in hospitals, diagnostic imaging centers, outpatient care facilities, and physicians’ offices The working conditions vary depending on the setting. In hospitals, they may need to be on call during nights or weekends. The job can be fast paced as technicians need to complete scans quickly to serve many patients. Technicians operate complex machinery and work with patients that may have illnesses, disabilities, or injuries. They wear protective equipment while operating the scan machines. The role requires being on one’s feet for long periods, lifting or moving patients, and attending to their needs.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a CT technologist ranges from $40,000 to $86,499, with most salaries falling between $63,500 and $74,999[1]. reports a slightly higher range, with CAT scan technologists earning between $73,355 and $87,788 on average[2]. Indeed cites the average weekly salary for a CT technologist as $2,398, which equates to about $124,696 per year[3].

The job outlook for both CT and CAT scan tech roles is strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for radiologic technologists, including CT and CAT scan techs, will grow 9% between 2020-2030, faster than the average across all occupations[4]. This growth is driven by an aging population requiring more medical imaging services.

Key Differences

There are a few notable differences between CT (computed tomography) and CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan tech roles, though they are largely similar positions (Source):

Education and Certification: CT techs typically have an associate’s degree and are certified in CT scanning specifically. CAT scan techs usually have a certificate and on-the-job training focused on CAT scans.

Job Duties: While there is overlap, CT techs are trained to operate CT scanners specifically, while CAT scan techs use CAT scanners. Their daily tasks may vary slightly based on the equipment.

Salary: CT techs generally earn a higher median salary than CAT scan techs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for radiologic technologists (including CT techs) is $61,900 annually. CAT scan techs average around $55,000 annually.

Job Outlook: Job growth is projected to be much faster than average for radiologic technologists at 9% between 2020-2030, compared to just 4% for cardiovascular technologists (including CAT scan techs).

In summary, while CT and CAT scan technicians have similar roles operating medical imaging equipment, CT techs typically have more advanced training and earn higher salaries on average.

Are CT and CAT Scan Techs the Same?

When it comes to CT and CAT scan techs, the short answer is yes – they are the same profession. CT stands for “computed tomography” while CAT stands for “computerized axial tomography.” Both CT and CAT refer to the same imaging technology that produces cross-sectional X-ray images of the body using computer processing.

Originally, this technology was referred to as CAT scans. However, over time the terminology evolved and CT became the more widely used and accepted term. Now, CT and CAT can be used interchangeably when referring to the imaging technology and the technologists who operate the equipment.

The two terms describe the same type of diagnostic medical imaging and the same job role and credentials. CT technologists are also sometimes referred to as CT scan technologists, CT techs, or radiologic technologists. Regardless of whether they are called CT or CAT scan techs, they have the same duties, skills, and training.

So in summary, CT and CAT scan technologists are identical – just with two interchangeable names for the same profession. The imaging technology, requirements, job responsibilities are all the same for CAT scan and CT scan technologists.


In summary, CT technicians and CAT scan technicians refer to the same profession. They are highly trained medical imaging professionals who operate CT or CAT scan equipment to produce cross-sectional images of the body. Both terms are used interchangeably to describe technicians who work in the CT scanning field.

The main takeaways around CT/CAT scan technicians are:

  • They have specialized training and certification to operate CT/CAT scan machines.
  • Their main job duties include preparing patients, using radiation protection, monitoring scans, and documenting results.
  • They work in hospitals, imaging centers, and diagnostic laboratories.
  • The average salary for CT/CAT scan techs is around $60,000 per year.
  • Employment is projected to grow faster than average over the next decade.
  • While the terms are used interchangeably, CT scan may be more common in clinical settings.

In the end, CT tech and CAT scan tech refer to the same radiology profession focused on administering CT scans to aid in medical diagnosis.

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