Ultrasound Radiologist: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become an ultrasound radiologist. Learn about education and licensure requirements, job duties, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Ultrasound Radiologist?

Ultrasound radiologists are physicians who specialize in interpreting images captured by diagnostic medical technology like ultrasounds and MRIs. They use these ultrasound and MRI images to make diagnoses and treatment recommendations. They then discuss these decisions with patients to determine whether or not the patient wants to proceed. Radiologists may also administer radiologic treatment, which involves exposing malignant growths to x-rays and radioisotopes. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Training Required 4-year radiology residency is required
Key Responsibilities Examine patient using ultrasound, x-ray and radiation; analyze images of patient's body and make diagnosis; prescribe medication and treatment; administer radiation therapy and other treatment
Licensure and/or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification is available
Job Growth (2012-2022) 14% for all physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (2014) $383,249**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

What Are My Duties as an Ultrasound Radiologist?

As an ultrasound radiologist, you interpret ultrasound images captured by a sonographer to diagnose illnesses and injuries. Diagnostic activities might include locating tissue abnormalities or evaluating the behavior of organs in motion. Your other duties include coordinating the scheduling of ultrasound procedures; explaining procedures to patients; conferring with physicians about diagnoses; conferring with patients, family members and physicians about exam results; performing medical interventions such as angioplasties, biopsies and catheterizations; and maintaining records on treatment outcomes.

Where Could I Work?

In a broad category of physicians that includes cardiologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists and radiologists, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 2014 employment was estimated at around 708,300 (www.bls.gov). Figures for ultrasound radiologists alone weren't available; however, employment of physicians in general was projected to increase about 14% from 2014-2024.

Your potential employers include hospitals, federal health agencies, outpatient clinics, and colleges and universities. The medical imaging needs of a growing population of elderly patients and improvements in ultrasound technology that expand its potential uses will be the main factors supporting demand for your services.

What Training Do I Need?

Because radiologists are physicians, you need to earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. The path to an MD begins with a bachelor's degree. Medical schools don't specify a degree subject as long as you complete courses in chemistry, biology, physics, English and mathematics. However, 4-year biology and chemistry programs with a pre-med emphasis are available from many schools. In a 4-year MD program, your first two years are devoted to the accumulation of general medical knowledge through intensive classroom study and lab work. In the third and fourth years, you work a series of clinical rotations under the supervision of a licensed physician.

After completing your MD degree requirements, you need to enter a residency program in radiology. Many programs include subspecialties in ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear medicine that acquaint you with a full spectrum of imaging technologies. Radiology residencies typically last four years. Finally, you must obtain a license by passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of other specializations an MD can pursue in a residency program. A few of these include anesthesiology, pediatrics and surgery. For those who want a related career that doesn't require a doctorate, they may want to look into becoming physician assistants or registered nurses. Physician assistants work with physicians, help make diagnoses and treat patients. Nurses provide medical support to patients and patients' families.

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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