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How to Become A Radiologist

As the healthcare industry continues to grow rapidly, the demand for radiologists is at its peak. Radiologists are skilled experts who use radiology equipment and machinery for diagnostic imagining. These generated images can help reveal diseases and illnesses in patients, and help physicians devise better treatment plans.

The role of radiologists has become more complex due to advancement in technology. Healthcare institutions are seeking highly skilled radiology specialists who can operate radiology equipment and manage complex diagnoses.

What do Radiologists Do?

  • Maintain medical imaging equipment
  • Prepare patients for radiology procedures
  • Use various radiology procedures and processes
  • Interact and work with physicians
  • Generate images with the help of radiologic equipment

Become a Radiologist

Becoming a radiologist requires college education, training, and licensing. Individuals who are interested in joining this field must go through various programs and develop skills necessary for the career. The first step includes completion of a bachelor degree. It is recommended that students opt for courses that will help them prepare for medical school studies ahead. Some of these courses are:

  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Math
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry

Upon completion of the degree, prospective medical school applicants are strongly advised to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).  Prospective radiologists may opt for doctor of medicine (MD) or a doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree.

What you will Study at a Medical School

In an MD or DO degree, students will cover a wide range of courses. The coursework will help students develop a solid foundation of medical knowledge. It is important for students to understand the functioning of the human body, medicinal procedures, and diagnosis processes for chronic diseases.  The first few years of a medical school are dedicated to fundamental concept building. In the last years, emphasis will be laid on specialization and clinical learning. The coursework may vary from school to school. However, students are most likely to cover important areas such as the following:

Radiographic Procedures

This course focuses on the standard terminology and radiographic positioning routines. Students will gain insight on the various processes used for projections.

Imaging Production and Imaging Equipment

This course will introduce students to the various imaging machinery used for radiography procedures. Students will learn how to manage and control imaging systems. Important topics such as x-ray tube, x-radiation, radiographic image formation, and image quality are covered in the course.

Patient Care and Management

Students enrolled in this course will cover the main principles of patient care. The course will allow students to explore professional and ethical issues that may arise in medical settings. Topics such as infection control, communications, and pharmacology are included in the course.

Radiation Biology and Protection

This course will focus on the safety of patients. Students will learn about the various bio-hazards that come with using radiation procedures. The course will cover important areas such as ionizing radiation, biological effects, and radio sensitivity.

General Psychology

General psychology is a social science course included in most radiology programs. It is designed to provide students with an overview of psychology principles. Students will study the cognitive processes and behavioral aspects relevant to the field.

Radiologic Technology

This course will allow students to perform basic radiation tasks. The course will help students learn how to perform imaging techniques safely.

Practical Learning

Most programs will include clinical courses in the curriculum. Alongside theoretical learning, it is crucially important for students to develop skills and gain hands-on experience. In clinical radiology courses, students work under the supervision of instructors, and learn how to use imaging equipment. The course will enable students to demonstrate proficiency in radiology procedures and quality control.

Residency Program

Upon completion of a medical degree, individuals must then enroll in a residency program in radiology. Residency programs are typically paid on-the-job training programs. These are designed to help entry-level radiologists gain experience and practice. Residents will be required to complete various rotations at hospitals and clinics. Students can also specialize in various branches of radiology, depending upon their career choice and interest. Some of the most common specialties of radiology are:

  • Diagnostic radiology
  • Thoracic imaging
  • Neuroradiology
  • Interventional radiology
  • Pediatric radiology

Licensing and Certification

To work as a radiologist, it is important to have a license in your state. Every state has a department of health and radiologic health that issues licenses to radiologists. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) are the leading boards that sponsor the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The licensing requirements may vary slightly from state to state.

While a license may be mandatory for pursuing a career as a radiologist, getting certified in the field can boost your career opportunities. A certification will reflect an individual’s level of expertise in radiology. The American Board of Radiology (ABR) is one of the most popular certification agencies in the United States.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Radiologist?

It can take approximately 4-8 years to become a radiologist. The exact duration basically depends upon the academic path chosen by a student. Students must complete four years of medical school and an additional 4 years in a residency program.

Career Prospects

According to O*NET OnLine, radiologists earned $187,200+ as median annual salary in 2013.  The employment growth rate has been projected to be between 15% and 21%. These professionals are mostly employed by surgical hospitals and clinics.


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