Radiologist Duties, Responsibilities and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a radiologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Radiologists use medical imaging technologies, such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs, to diagnose and make treatment decisions regarding patients' health problems. Radiologists are fully licensed physicians who complete at least eleven years of higher education, which includes an undergraduate degree program, Doctor of Medicine program and a residency. Additionally, all medical doctors must be licensed to practice. Many choose to become certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine degree from an accredited medical school; medical residency
Other Requirements State licensure and optional certification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 18% for all physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (Sept. 2014) $273,980 for radiologists**

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

Radiologist: Career Profile

A radiologist is a medical doctor who is trained in executing and interpreting medical images such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs and using them to treat health problems in patients. Radiologists perform image-guided procedures but do not normally handle the general medical needs of a patient. Instead, a radiologist is a specialist who uses the tools of his or her trade to make a diagnosis for a patient, then presents the results to the patient's physician.

The most common tool a radiologist uses is the X-ray. An X-ray is an image taken by using a machine to beam radiation through a patient's body onto a radiation-sensitive plate after carefully covering other portions of the patient's body with lead shields. Radiologists normally employ radiological technicians to do the actual X-ray photography, but they are trained in the photography process as well.

Other devices that radiologists use in their work include computer tomography (CT) scanners, which take cross-sectional X-ray pictures of the human body and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, which use magnets and radio waves to create a picture of the inside of the human body. Radiologists may specialize in nuclear medicine, therapeutic radiology, interventional radiology or other subspecialties.

Education Requirements

Because radiologists are fully-licensed medical doctors, they must undergo a minimum of 11 years of education, beginning with a bachelor's degree that is heavily weighted toward biology and physics requirements, such as a premedical degree. After completing the Medical College Admission Test and being admitted, prospective radiologists must complete four years of medical school in an accredited medical program. During this period, a prospective radiologist must sit for two United States Medical Licensing Examinations by the National Board of Medical Examiners. After graduating from medical school, prospective radiologists must complete a final medical licensing examination during the first year of their residency, or medical internship. Most residencies last 3-5 years, after which radiologists sit for examinations to become board certified.

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