Become a Radiologist Online: How-To Guide

Jan 02, 2019

Radiologists are physicians who specialize in diagnostic imaging. The schooling and residency requirements for radiologists do not allow for online education programs.

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Radiology degrees cannot be attained online. Aspiring radiologists need to earn a bachelor's degree and Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree, complete a residency and pass a licensure exam before they can start their careers in the field.

How to Become a Radiologist

Undergraduate Education

The first step toward becoming any kind of physician is to earn a bachelor's degree. It may be possible to complete this degree in an online format. Although no specific major is required, pre-medical students must take courses in subjects such as:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Math
  • English
  • Humanities
  • Social sciences

At some point before applying to medical school, students must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to demonstrate their knowledge of the subjects covered in their pre-med courses. Many undergraduate students choose to do so during their junior year of undergraduate school. Almost all U.S. medical schools use the scores from the MCAT exam as part of their admissions process.

Medical School

After successfully completing the MCAT and earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring radiologists go on to complete four years of medical school. Students in medical school generally spend the first two years working on academic coursework in the biomedical sciences, in both classroom and laboratory settings. The third and fourth years are spent in rotation through specialties at hospitals and similar settings, allowing further education through supervised patient contact.

Early in the fourth year of medical school, students look for an appropriate residency program to enter after graduation. The American Medical Association provides an online search program called FREIDA. The FREIDA database has over 10,000 accredited graduated medical programs and a residency and fellowship training program search function. Students can search this database based on criteria such as specialty, location and program size. Students can also search for a residency program through the National Resident Matching Program.

Radiologist Residency and Certification

Radiology residency programs last for 4 to 5 years. These programs provide residents with clinical hands-on experience under the supervision of licensed physicians. Residents also attend faculty-presented lectures, and they may conduct research in particular topics of interest. Some programs may rotate residents through many different radiology specialties in order to help them become more well-rounded in the field. Upon completion, radiologists are eligible to become board-certified by the American Board of Radiology, which requires the passage of a series of qualifying exams.

Fellowship Options

Radiologists who wish to specialize in a particular subfield can complete a one-year fellowship in that topic, and then take an exam to become certified in that subfield. The ABR provides certification in the following subfields:

  • Diagnostic radiology
  • Radiation oncology
  • Neuroradiology
  • Nuclear radiology
  • Pediatric radiology
  • Vascular and interventional radiology

Job Overview

A radiologist uses x-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans to diagnose, treat and monitor disease or injury in patients. Their regular job duties can include:

  • Performing diagnostic tests
  • Interpreting test results
  • Designing treatment strategies
  • Delivering radiation therapy for cancer patients
  • Overseeing the activities of other medical professionals

Because the educational requirements for radiologists are so extensive, it is not possible to become one entirely through online study. Preparation for the career requires undergraduate and graduate education, as well as a residency and optional fellowships.

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