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What Is a Radiologist?

A radiologist is a medical specialist who uses imaging techniques of several types to diagnose patients. Sometimes, the radiologist is involved with administering treatments as well. A radiologist is a graduate of medical school and possesses an MD degree.

What Does a Radiologist Do?

Radiologists are involved with the diagnosis of medical issues. They work with physicians by integrating information from various sources, including the results of images, to produce the diagnosis. Some radiologists, interventional radiologists, perform surgical procedures. The path to becoming a radiologist is long and arduous. However, the rewards of the satisfaction of helping patients make the whole process worth the effort.
In the early days, radiologists only had x-rays to work with. Nowadays, they have a whole array of tools at their disposal. These include:

  • X-ray radiography
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Ultrasound
  • Computerized tomography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Nuclear imaging

Radiologists typically work behind the scenes. They are involved in the process of diagnosis, working with the physician. Occasionally, they do work with the patient. They might help prepare the patient or give the necessary instructions to the technician.
Interventional radiologists are actually involved with treating patients. They might insert a catheter, remove malignant tissue, or carry out other procedures.
If you are a person who thrives on intellectual stimulation, then radiology may be your cup of tea. There is constant innovation in the field, and you will always have something new to learn about. The thinking that goes into diagnoses is also complex and will challenge you to the nth level.

Work Environment

Most radiologists work in hospitals and outpatient diagnostic centers. However, with the advent of teleradiology, radiologists can now practice off-site with an internet hookup. Teleradiology assists emergency departments and intensive care units in getting consultations after hours.
Radiologists many times have little direct contact with patients. They may go for many weeks without a face-to-face consultation. The radiologist is primarily devoted to analyzing image results and formulating diagnoses.
Radiologists who work in the hospital have long, irregular shifts. These may include nights, weekends, and holidays. If you work for an outpatient center, then it is more likely that you will work regular hours. However, the difficult hours are taken into consideration when settling the terms of the radiologist’s employment contract.

Requirements and Education

Radiologist Schooling

The first step in radiologist education is to attend an undergraduate program at a 4-year university. Your performance must be exceptional to get into medical school. This means that you will have a high GPA, great letters of recommendation, and research experience. You will also need to do well on the MCAT exam.

Medical School

After you have been accepted to a medical school, you must complete the rigorous program with exceptional performance. You must complete the program towards the top of your class. In the program, you will learn all of the subjects that are necessary to become a basic physician. This will include anatomy and physiology and pathology, along with several other subjects. You must also perform well on the United States Medical Licensing Examinations. In the last year of medical school, you will apply to a post-graduate training program in radiology.

Clinical Internship

After you have graduated from medical school, you are granted an MD or DO degree. You can then apply for a limited medical license. The more hands-on training now starts. Radiologists need to spend a year practicing general medicine or surgery, or a combination of the two. You will actually be seeing patients during this time.


At this time, you will begin your training in radiology. This training program will take four years. During this time, you will spend countless hours interpreting imaging studies and working with other doctors on diagnoses. You will also be involved in interventions. At the end of your training, you must pass many board-certifying exams.

Radiology Fellowship

Most residents will then attend a fellowship program in a subspecialty of radiology. You might choose neuroradiology, musculoskeletal radiology, or interventional radiology. At this time, a fellow participates in the final phase of their training.

Attending Radiologist

After the fellowship is completed, a radiologist is ready to start practicing in their field.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Radiologist?

To sum up, how long does it take to become a radiologist? It is a total of 13 years after high school at a minimum. There are four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, four years of residency, and one to two years of fellowship.

Licenses and Certification

A state license is necessary for all practicing physicians. This includes radiologists. Most employers require radiology candidates to hold board certification. As of 2013, this requires passing a two-part exam that covers medicine, anatomy, imaging modalities, and physics.

Career Path

Potential Employers and Work Environments

  1. Public and Private Hospitals – The majority of radiologists do not technically work directly for the hospital where they are located. Although the radiologist is not a hospital employee, they use the hospital’s equipment and the radiation technologists on the hospital’s staff.
  2. Staffing Agencies – Private and public hospitals and clinics and diagnostic imaging centers create partnerships with staffing agencies to supply the need for Board Certified radiologists.
  3. Medical Groups – Radiologists can create a partnership with other physicians to form a practice.
  4. Private Practice
  5. Teleradiology – At around the year 2,000, radiologists started to work from home as teleradiologists. There are many benefits to this kind of practice. The hours are more flexible, and there are less patient-related stressors.


How Much Does a Radiologist Make?

Radiologists have a high salary level. They make an average yearly income of nearly $350,000 a year. Radiology is among the three highest paid medical specialties. However, radiologists commonly work a busy work week. The hours may also be irregular. The salary is even higher for radiologists who choose a subspecialty. Gender also has something to do with pay. Male radiologists earn more than female ones.

Radiologist Technician

Radiologic technologists are the medical personnel who carry out diagnostic imaging examinations and administer radiation therapy treatments. The radiologist technician salary is around $57,000 a year.

Radiologist Assistant

A radiologist assistant is an advanced practice radiologic technologist who works under the supervision of a radiologist. The main function of this professional is to enhance patient care by aiding the radiologist with patient assessment, management, and radiological procedures. The radiologist assistant salary is about $60,000 to $80,000 annually to start.
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