Radiologist: Degree Programs and Majors for Aspiring Radiologists

Jan 02, 2019

Radiologists are physicians trained to use x-rays and other diagnostic images to diagnose injury or disease. Radiologists must complete a medical degree program and a residency in order to become licensed medical doctors.

Essential Information

Aspiring radiologists can complete Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) education programs. Both M.D. and D.O. degree programs require four years of study beyond the undergraduate level, with two years of mostly classroom instruction followed by two years of clinical experience. After graduating from a medical program, students may enter a residency program in radiology. Students must hold a bachelor's degree to apply for medical school. Most medical schools require students to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Previous coursework in math, chemistry, physics and biology is generally required.

Radiology Degree Programs

The first two years of a medical program are spent covering broad topics such as anatomy, physiology, infectious disease, pathology and patient care that apply to all areas of medicine. During the last two years, in which students participate in clinical rotations, students explore individual specialties and can begin radiology studies. During the residency program, prospective radiologists focus on theories of radiology and radiology tools and techniques. Medical school course topics for radiologists include:

  • Computed tomography
  • X-Ray
  • MRI and fMRI
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Diagnosis and treatment using radioactive compounds

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The average annual salary for physicians and surgeons, including radiologists, was greater than $187,200 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The BLS also reports that employment for all physicians and surgeons is projected to grow at 14%, a much faster than average rate during the decade from 2014 to 2024, fueled by a rapidly growing elderly population requiring radiology treatment and related services for conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Continuing Education

Once aspiring radiologists have completed their residency program, they may sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and become licensed physicians. Physicians can become board certified in radiology through the American Board of Radiology. After initial certification, radiologists may pursue subspecialties such as pediatric radiology. Continuing education is necessary to maintain certification.

Beyond the undergraduate level, aspiring radiologists must enter to a 4-year program in either Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy. Once residency is completed, sitting for the USMLE is the next step prior to becoming licensed physician.

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