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Radiologist: Career Summary, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a radiologist. Learn about education requirements, job responsibilities, average salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Do Radiologists Do?

Most doctors, such as ER doctors or surgeons, will want to know what's going on inside a patient before they make any major decisions about treatment or cutting someone open. To do this, doctors depend on radiologists to take the pictures they need to get an idea of what is happening inside a patient's body.

Radiologists use medical imaging technologies to aid in the assessment and treatment of various diseases and injuries. The following table gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree
Training Required Clinical internship, radiology residency program, optional sub-specialty fellowship program
Job Responsibilities Use imaging technologies to diagnose patients, communicate with patients and their primary physicians, and perform radiation procedures
Licensure/Certification Required in the state where you will practice; board certification in radiology
Job Growth (2018-2028) 7% for all physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (2019) $300,880 for radiologists**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

What Education Do I Need to Become a Radiologist?

Education for an aspiring radiologist begins with completing a bachelor's degree program, usually in a scientific field, such as biology or chemistry, although no specific major is required. After that, you must earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) Once you have completed a medical degree program as well as one transitional year in a clinical internship, you must complete a 4-year residency program; diagnostic radiology residency programs are available, although you may also choose to go into radiation oncology, which concentrates on the treatment of cancer with radiation.

If you wish to further concentrate in a subspecialty after completion of a radiology residency program, you may choose to undertake a fellowship program. Fellowship programs in radiology are typically 1-2 years in length. Some radiology subspecialties include:

  • Cross-sectional imaging
  • Neuroradiology
  • Breast imaging
  • Pediatric radiology
  • Genitourinary radiology
  • Thoracic imaging
  • Vascular and interventional radiology

What Are Other Requirements?

In addition to completing education requirements, you'll need to obtain a medical license in the state where you practice. Radiologists also usually obtain certification through either the American Board of Radiology or American Osteopathic Board of Radiology. You can also acquire subspecialty certification in areas such as pediatric radiology and nuclear radiology.

What Would My Job Responsibilities Be?

As a radiologist, you use computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), ultrasound and other technologies to create medical images from which to diagnose patients. You would also communicate your findings to the patient's physician, so a treatment plan could be developed. Additionally, you might perform some procedures using radiation.

What Is the Career Outlook and How Much Might I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for all physicians and surgeons, including radiologists, is expected to grow 7% from 2018-2028. The BLS also reported that physicians in general will find more employment opportunities in low-income and rural areas where medical practitioners are needed. Employment prospects should be greater for specialists such as radiologists who work with elderly populations, given their greater risks for diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

As of May 2018, the median annual salary for all physicians was $200,890, according to the BLS. Radiologists tend to earn a higher salary, as PayScale reported that radiologists earned a median annual salary of $300,880 in 2019.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers that also require a doctorate include the medical fields of dentistry, chiropractic medicine, optometry, podiatry, and veterinary medicine. Master's degrees are required for professions such as physician assistants or nurse anesthetists, midwives or practitioners. Registered nurses only need the equal education of a bachelor's degree, yet they will assume the medical care of patients in hospitals, emergency rooms or private care.