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Ultrasound Radiologist: Education Requirements & Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an ultrasound radiologist. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about fellowships, residencies and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Ultrasound radiologists use and analyze medical imaging to diagnose and treat patients. They are medical doctors who specialize in ultrasound radiology. The job growth outlook for ultrasound radiologists is much faster than the job market as a whole and the median salary for this profession is about $287,000.

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Essential Information

Ultrasound radiologists work in a variety of settings, from private care practices to hospitals. They use sonography to evaluate symptoms and map internal organs. Ultrasound radiologists must undergo extensive education. Job prospects are projected to be favorable for these physicians.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy
Additional Requirements State medical license; board certification may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Median Salary (2016)** $286,902 (for all radiologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

Education Requirements

Ultrasound radiologists are physicians who specialize in medical techniques like ultrasounds, x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They must be able to interpret scans in order to diagnose and treat patients. In addition to monitoring patients, ultrasound radiologists may need to evaluate and select imaging equipment for their workplaces. To enter this profession, candidates must earn a bachelor's degree, attend medical school, complete rotations, participate in a fellowship program and become licensed.

Schooling

Undergraduate degree programs related to science can help students prepare for medical school. Relevant coursework might include anatomy, biology, chemistry and physics. Some universities offer dedicated pre-med programs with a prescribed curriculum of classes that medical schools will look for on transcripts.

In addition to transcripts, med school admissions officers look at scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Medical school typically takes four years to complete and is comprised of both classroom learning and clinical care. Common coursework covers biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and standard medical practices. The second half of the curriculum is traditionally comprised of rotations, during which potential doctors work under supervision at on-site medical facilities to learn about various subspecialties; aspiring radiologists can use these experiences to gain hands-on practice with ultrasound.

Licensing

All ultrasound radiologists must be licensed by their state to practice medicine. Licensure typically occurs after medical school. Aspiring doctors must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX).

Residency

Med school graduates must complete a postgraduate residency that typically lasts 2-6 years. They might pursue diagnostic radiology or radiological science programs that incorporate lectures and clinical practice. Usually, residents are given more freedom to choose elective rotations in the later years of their residency.

Fellowship

After residency, ultrasound radiologists might want to further specialize by undertaking a paid fellowship that focuses on the uses of ultrasound in obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, emergency medicine, ophthalmology and other fields. Fellows in ultrasound programs should stay up to date with standard diagnostic practices and medicine. They typically have to complete in-depth research projects to complete the program.

Certification

Board certification through the American Board of Radiology is not strictly required for ultrasound radiologists. However, it does show patients and employers that the radiologist has demonstrated a strong knowledge of medical techniques, such as ultrasounds, MRI scans and CT scans. Board certification must be renewed after ten years.

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment of all physicians and surgeons could grow 14%, higher than average for all occupations, during the years 2014-2024. This is largely due to an aging population and increased need for health care. However, demand for physicians could fluctuate if healthcare costs continue to climb. Payscale.com reported that the median annual salary for all radiologists was $286,902 in 2016.

Ultrasound radiologists must complete medical school and obtain licensing by the state to practice medicine. Those seeking a license typically have to meet education and other requirements and pass an exam. Certification is available for this specialty, although not always required.

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