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What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Radiologist?

Radiologists rely on x-rays and other imaging machines to help monitor health in several areas, such as dental health, cancer, or broken bones. Read on to discover what the education requirements are for radiologists.

Field Overview

To work as a radiologist, you'll first need to become a licensed physician and specialize in medical imaging. You'll examine images from ultrasounds, x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other radiographic devices to diagnose your patients' illnesses. You'll work with a team of nurses, technicians, and physicians to determine the cause of medical issues and recommend the best treatment for patients. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not report salary figures specifically for radiologists, it does state that surgeons and physicians earned an average annual wage of $203,450 in May 2019 (www.bls.gov).

Important Facts About Radiologists

Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4% growth (for physicians and surgeons, all other)
Key Skills Extensive medical knowledge, social awareness, reading comprehension, decision making, detail oriented, problems solving, time management, service oriented
Fields-of-Study Biology, anatomy, human physiology, chemistry
Specializations Career specific requirements and duties distinguish radiologists from other physicians
Work Environment Hospitals and physician's offices
Similar Occupations Radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists, diagnostic medical sonographers, cardiovascular technologists, vascular technologists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical School

To become a radiologist, you must go to medical school for four years after attending undergraduate school. As a medical student, you'll spend the first two years completing basic medical and science coursework in laboratories and classrooms. Courses usually include:

  • Microbiology
  • The nervous system
  • Molecular biology
  • Immunology
  • Reproduction/women's health
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Skin/endocrine systems

In the final two years, you'll participate in clinical rotations at various hospitals and medical facilities to receive hands-on training in the major medical disciplines, such as obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, pediatrics, surgery, and general medicine. Though the length of rotations depends on your program, you could spend about four to eight weeks in each. The training you receive in medical school qualifies you to sit for the medical licensing exam and for a residency in radiology.

Residency

In a radiology residency, you'll receive a salary while getting practice in the field of radiology under the supervision of a licensed radiologist. You'll generally spend four years gaining hands-on experience in different areas of radiology, including cardiovascular imaging, gastrointestinal radiology, and ultrasound technology. You'll likely complete your entire residency at one healthcare facility in partnership with your medical school. After completing a residency, you could voluntarily become board certified in radiology or a radiologic specialty.

Fellowship

After you finish your residency, you can choose to apply for a fellowship in a radiology sub-specialty. As a fellow, not only will you continue with your clinical training, but you might also be expected to conduct research and attend radiology conferences. You can specialize in a sub-field of radiology that focuses on one area of the body, such as breast imaging or head and neck radiology. You could also choose to specialize in radiology for a particular population, like children or the elderly, or radiology for a specific disease, such as cancer. Fellowship training generally lasts about one to two years and qualifies you to become board certified in your sub-specialty.