How to Become a Radiologist in 5 Steps

Is it hard to become a radiologist? Learn about radiologist schooling, salary, and potential job growth, along with how long it takes to become a radiologist. Schools offering Cardiovascular Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Radiologist Overview

Radiologists typically specialize in diagnostic radiology or oncology radiation. Through the use of x-rays, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear medicine, they interpret and diagnose illnesses. Steps to becoming a radiologist typically include:

  1. Bachelor's degree
  2. MCAT exam
  3. Medical school
  4. Residency
  5. Board certification

Radiologists also learn to perform other tests like computer tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. They share their findings with patients and other physicians and may be consulted further to perform additional tests. Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a radiologist is right for you.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Key Skills Detail oriented, physical stamina, communication, organizational
Licensure/Certification State license required, certification options available
Job Growth (2016-2026) 13% (for all physicians and surgeons)*
Average Salary (2018) $203,880 (for all physicians and surgeons)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Steps to Becoming a Radiologist

Step 1: What Should I Study?

Success in medical school requires advanced undergraduate courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics and math. Bachelor's programs are also available in the radiologic sciences. A pre-med bachelor's degree is helpful but not necessary. Some bachelor's programs, such as biology, offer a pre-med track. Some colleges combine the bachelor's degree and the medical degree into a dual program. This sometimes shortens the length of your study.

Step 2: Take the MCAT Exam

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required to enter medical school. This exam tests you on your writing, communication and science skills. Most colleges request MCAT results be submitted with applications.

Step 3: Do I Need Medical School?

There are two kinds of medical degrees that you may consider; a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). As an M.D., you'll use common drugs and medical treatments. As a D.O., you'll focus on the musculoskeletal system and holistic care. Many of the M.D. programs are combined with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. These dual programs allow you to speed up your study and begin a subspecialty. Medical school students spend two years in classrooms, laboratories and clinics learning sciences and medical subjects such as neurology, immunology, epidemiology, emergency care and patient care.

Supervised contact with patients begins in the third and fourth years as students rotate through medical specialties in hospital and outpatient settings. You'll settle on a specialty, such as radiology, early in your fourth year of medical school. To find the right residency program for you, consider using the National Resident Matching Program,

Step 4: How Do I Complete a Residency?

Residencies are offered through a number of teaching hospitals. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), you'll spend at least four years in a radiology residency and an additional year in the subspecialty residency you desire ( Further sub-specialties will require additional years of residency. Many teaching hospitals have residencies in both diagnostic radiology and radiation oncology (or nuclear medicine). As a resident, you'll be paid for your studies.

Step 5: Become Board Certified

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you must have state licensure if you want to practice medicine ( You can seek additional radiology certification through the American Board of Radiologists ( You must complete the certification as a diagnostic radiologist before earning certification in a subspecialty. As an osteopathic doctor you can earn certification through the American Osteopathic College of Radiology ( This certification requires both a written and oral exam.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Radiology is a specialty that you could choose after while in medical school. There are a number of other specialties that medical students could choose instead, like pediatrics or pediatric surgery. Pediatricians would work with radiologists when trying to diagnose illnesses in children, while pediatric surgeons would perform surgery on children. You could also choose to become an anesthesiologist. These medical professionals administer certain drugs to patients before they undergo procedures and surgery to relieve them of feeling and sensation. Finally, a radiologic technician is another closely related career field, where you'll be responsible for operating the equipment required for diagnosing a radiologist's patients.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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