A radiologist is a physician who specializes in using medical imaging techniques, such as X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries. Education is extensive and includes completion of a bachelor's degree program, medical school, and a residency. Medical licensure is required. A fellowship in a specialized field as well as certification is optional.
The road to a career as a radiologist typically begins with earning a bachelor's degree. Medical school prerequisite courses include biology, chemistry and physics. A number of undergraduate students opt to work or volunteer in medical settings to gain experience.
The road continues with four years of medical school to become a physician. Medical school consists of two years of classroom education in the sciences, such as anatomy, pathology, pharmacology and biochemistry, followed by two years of clinical rotations in different areas of medicine, such as pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery and internal medicine.
After graduating from medical school, an aspiring radiologist must complete four years of a radiology residency, which is a combination of specialty medical education and paid on-the-job training. Residents complete clinical rotations in different subspecialties of radiology, attend lectures, and conduct research. Some radiologists then go on to complete additional training so they can further specialize. For example, interventional radiology, which requires doctors to use catheters, wires and other probes during certain imaging procedures, involves 1-2 years of fellowship training following completion of a residency.
In addition, the continuing emergence of new technologies requires extra training so that equipment can be used safely and accurately. It's common for even advanced radiologists with many years of practice to take part in specialized training programs.
Licensure and Certification
A radiologist must be licensed to practice medicine, and licenses must be renewed periodically. Licensure can be earned by passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX), and meeting any other state requirements. In addition, many radiologists are certified through the American Board of Radiology (ABR) or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (AOBR). Board certification is optional, but requires continuing education to be maintained.
A radiologist's day-to-day job duties might include interpreting information gathered through imaging techniques, communicating results with doctors and patients, writing medical reports, and explaining treatment risks, benefits, and alternatives to patients. Typically, a radiologist oversees a team of imaging technicians and assistants. Radiologists can stay current on the latest developments in radiology through online classes and other forms of continuing education.
According to January 2016 data from PayScale.com, the median annual salary for a radiologist was $286,902, with most of these physicians earning between $101,778 and $436,058. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of all physicians and surgeons was expected to increase by 14% in the decade spanning 2014-2024.