What Schooling Is Required to Be a Radiologist?
If you're interested in using medical technology to help diagnose and treat patients, you may want to consider a career in radiology. In this career, you'll use medical imaging equipment to identify illnesses and other medical conditions. Read on to learn what schooling you'll need to embark on a career as a radiologist.
Overview of Radiology
As a radiologist, you'll specialize in diagnosing and treating patients through the use of medical imaging machines, such as MRIs, x-rays and ultrasounds. You'll likely work with a team of physicians, nurses and technicians who have expertise in other areas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported in May 2018 that the median salary for radiologic technologists was $59,520.
Important Facts About Education for Radiologists
|Prerequisites||High school diploma (for bachelor's degree)|
|Online Availability||Yes, coursework and full programs are available|
|Possible Careers||Medical sonographer, cardiovascular technologist, radiation therapist|
|Continuing Education||Various courses are offered for radiologic professionals seeking to acquire further knowledge or certification|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||13% growth (for all radiologic and MRI technologists)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earn a Bachelor's Degree
The first step to becoming a radiologist is to earn a bachelor's degree. You may choose any major, but you'll need to complete prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. You might want to gain healthcare experience as an undergraduate, which you could do by volunteering in a hospital or clinic. Consider developing your leadership skills and participating in extracurricular activities as well, because these things are looked upon favorably by medical school admissions committees.
Go to Medical School
Before you can study radiology, you'll need to attend medical school, where you'll spend four years learning about medicine as a general discipline. You'll spend your first two years of medical school in the classroom, studying broad topics such as:
- Patient care
- Infectious disease
- Human health
For your last two years of medical school, you'll participate in clinical clerkships, also known as rotations. During this time, you'll spend time rotating through different hospitals and receiving hands-on, clinical practice in various medical disciplines. Such disciplines may include obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, psychiatry, general medicine, surgery and pediatrics.
All physicians must be licensed to practice in the U.S., but specific licensure requirements vary by state. In any case, you'll need to pass a standardized licensing exam - most commonly the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This is a three-part exam. You can take the first two steps in any order while you are in medical school, and the third step is typically taken during your first or second year of residency.
Complete a Residency in Radiology
After graduating from medical school, you'll be paid to further explore your specialty field of radiology and receive four years of hands-on training with different types of medical imaging equipment. You'll be exposed to all the fields of radiology, including cardiovascular imaging, gastrointestinal radiology and ultrasound technology. The experience you'll gain during your residency may help you decide whether you want to specialize in a radiological sub-discipline and complete a fellowship. Completion of a residency may also qualify you to test for voluntary board certification in radiology. If you choose to become certified, you'll need to participate in lifelong learning to maintain your certification.
Pursue a Fellowship in Radiology
You may choose to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship in a specific radiology specialty after you finish your residency. Fellowships generally last 1-2 years. You could specialize in radiology that focuses on a specific area of the body, such as breast, cardiovascular or musculoskeletal imaging. You may also choose to specialize in radiology for a specific population, such as children, or radiology for a specific disease, like cancer. As a fellow, you'll continue your hands-on clinical training, conduct research, participate in radiology conferences and teach radiology residents.