Diagnostic Radiology: Occupational Outlook & Career Profile

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

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It takes at least a dozen years of college, medical school and a residency to become licensed to practice medicine in diagnostic radiology. In addition to obtaining a medical license, radiologists must be board certified. Salaries are high in this field, and the job outlook for physicians is expected to be good for the next few years.

Essential Information

Diagnostic radiologists use imaging technology to scan patients for abnormalities. While he or she may oversee radiologic technologists and other qualified staff performing the actual scans, it is the diagnostic radiologist's job to read the scan and relay the findings. To enter this profession, individuals need to complete medical school and a residency program. Prospective diagnostic radiologists must then complete all licensure requirements and become certified by an organization such as the American Board of Radiology. These physicians play an important role in patient care, and they are predicted to experience a positive employment outlook in upcoming years.

Required Education Doctor of medicine degree
Additional Requirements State medical license and certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for physicians and surgeons
Median Salary (2019)** $300,365 for all radiologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Source: **Payscale

Career Profile for Diagnostic Radiologists

Diagnostic radiologists are medical professionals who work with imaging technology, such as computer tomography or ultrasounds, to perform procedures that are typically non-invasive. During a procedure, they may supervise diagnostic technicians and other assistants. Diagnostic radiologists examine images to look for abnormalities, which may be serious health problems. According to O*Net Online, they may consult with other medical professionals when interpreting an image or with patients about the results.

Educational Overview

After undergraduate school, prospective diagnostic radiologists need to complete medical school. The first two years of medical school include coursework in foundation-level medicine, diseases and anatomy, which cover the principles of radiology. The final two years of medical school, the clinical years, require students to complete clinical rotations (sometimes known as clerkships) in different medical departments. While radiology isn't a required rotation, interested students may pursue it as an elective.

Students may consider programs that are approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). As of September 2016, there were 141 LCME-accredited U.S. medical schools. According to the LCME, graduates of accredited programs are eligible to sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and for residencies approved by the American Council for Graduate Medical Education. Those trained as osteopathic physicians may take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) rather than the USMLE.

Once students have completed medical school, they must undergo a residency program. These programs typically last four years and allow residents to practice in the major areas of radiology with extensive hands-on diagnostic training. While in training, residents may attend lectures and conferences. Residency programs may offer benefits, such as insurance, paid vacation and stipends that increase as a resident advances.

Licensing and Board Certification Information

Diagnostic radiologists, like all physicians, are required to be licensed in every state. To become licensed, they must pass the USMLE, which tests individuals on principles in health, disease and patient care. Additional licensing requirements and the ability to transfer a license from another state may vary.

In addition to licensure, those seeking to specialize in radiology must typically seek board certification. The American Board of Radiology, a division of the American Board of Medical Specialties, offers certification in specialties including diagnostic radiology. Physicians may also seek certification through the American Osteopathic College of Radiology or the American Board of Physician Specialties.

Occupational Outlook and Salary Statistics for Diagnostic Radiologists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for physicians and surgeons, including diagnostic radiologists, is expected to increase a faster than average 7% from 2018-2028. The growing population and expansion of the healthcare industry are reasons for this projected growth. The need for more diagnostic testing and the growing number of individuals susceptible to cancer are expected to create job opportunities for radiologists. Payscale.com has reported a median salary of $300,365 for all radiologists in September 2019.

Diagnostic radiologists must complete a bachelor's degree program, then four years of medical school and a four-year residency. They'll need to pass a medical licensing test and obtain board certification to practice radiology. After all this training, they'll enter a field where salaries are high and job prospects promising.

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