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In 2006, a study by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements found that nearly 400 million radiological procedures were performed in the United States. Whether you’ve had an MRI after a car wreck or an ultrasound for your pregnancy, chances are that you’ve had this procedure done at a hospital thanks to a radiology, one of the most important fields of medicine.


What is a radiologist?

A radiologist is a physician specializing in medical imaging technology to diagnose and treat ill patients using the following:

  • X-ray radiology
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Ultrasound
  • Computerize tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)

Usually, a radiologist has little contact with patients, instead working with physicians to diagnose patients. They will act as a consultant to your physician and aid him or her in choosing the best examination or will interpret medical images. In some cases, however, a radiologist will treat diseases using radiation, such as radiation oncology.

Radiologist education

In order to become a radiologist, you must complete, on average, at least 13 years of radiologist schooling. This will include an undergraduate degree, 4 years of medical school, an internship and residency. Below, you will find a detailed explanation of a radiologist education path.

Undergraduate Degree

An aspiring radiologist must first be accepted into a 4-year university and obtain a bachelor’s degree. During this time, it’s recommended to maintain a high GPA as well and gain leadership experience by volunteering.

During your undergraduate education, you will need to take the MCAT, a necessity for those going to medical school. This 4.5-hour multiple choice exam will test your ability to solve problems, fluency in concepts related to the social sciences, and knowledge necessary to study medicine.

Medical School

After you receive your bachelor’s degree, you must attend a 4-year medical school or a combined (MD) + (Ph.D.) program. Here, you will learn different all of the areas needed to be a physician such as anatomy,physiology, pharmacology, and pathology.

During the 3rd and 4th years, you can expect to have clinicals that include different medical specialities. During your 4th year, however, you will then declare your speciality in radiology. Also, during the last year of medical school, you take the US medical licensing exam. (USMLE)


After completing medical school, you will attend a radiologist school. The radiology residency program will be 4-years where you learn everything you need to know to successfully become a radiologist. Your requirements for your residency will depend on what area of schooling you choose, but some of the different positions will be:

1. Interventional Radiology and Diagnostic Radiology: This training requires at least 3 years of Diagnostic Radiology and 2 years of Interventional Radiology.
2. Diagnostic Radiology: For this training, you must finish one year of clinical work than 5 years of radiology training.
There are also sub-specialities with special requirements:
a. Pediatric Radiology: You must take an additional 2 years, made up of 1 year of a fellowship as well as 1 year of training.
b. Neuroradiology: You must take an additional 2 years, made up of 1 year of a fellowship as well as 1 year of training.
c. Vascular and Interventional Radiology: You must take an additional 2 years, made up of 1 year of a fellowship as well as 1 year of training.
d. Nuclear Radiology: This will require a training of 5 years: 1 year of clinical work then four years of radiation oncology training.
e. Radiation Oncology: This will require a training of 5 years: 1 year of clinical work then four years of radiation oncology training.

Becoming Board Certified

After completing your schooling, your next step will be to become board certified. This is mandatory for all practicing physicians and most employers require certification. Certification requirements can be found on the American Board of Radiology website.

Job Outlook and Salary

In general, the jobs for physicians will increase by 18% between the years of 2012-2022. However, due to the aging population of baby boomers, radiologists may see an even larger increase of 21 percent.

How much does a radiologist make?

The average salary for a radiologist in the United States was $396,000, making them the 6th highest paid physicians in the country; this number refers to after-tax earnings, including salary, bonuses, and deductible business expenses. This number does increase with more experience and more specialities you gain in your field.

Depending on your location, your salary may vary for different locations. The highest earning salaries for radiologists can be found in the following regions:

  • Great Lakes: $413,00
  • The Northeast: $411,000
  • South Central Regions: $410,000

As a radiologist, according to the Medscape Radiologist Compensation Report 2017, the lowest earning regions for radiologists include:

  • The Mid-Atlantic: $384,000
  • The Southwest: $377,000
  • The Northwest: $373,000

As a radiologist, your salary will be different depending on if you choose to become self-employed or work for a medical clinic. Generally, being self-employed could earn you a significantly higher salary of $486,000 (43% more) than your peers, who on average earn $339,000.

Work Environment

As a radiologist, you will be responsible for:

  • Getting medical images with the technologist’s help
  • Reading and analyzing images to make diagnoses
  • Communicate with other doctors
  • Record imaging data
  • Prescribe medications and consult with patients

Some of the biggest complaints about working as a radiologist include working long hours, having to follow strict regulations, and the fear of getting sued. However, while working as a radiologist, at least 62% these physicians believe they are fairly compensated at their job.
As a radiologist, you can also expect to see patients less than most physicians. If you do have to consult with patients, on average, radiologists usually see patients for less than 30 minutes.

In conclusion, becoming a radiologist requires many years of education, on-the-job training, and continuous research throughout your career. However, there is a positive outlook for this position as well as a high-salary. With the advancements in technology combined with the high demand due to the aging population, there should be a sustained job growth in the future.

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