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Radiologist: Educational Overview for a Career in Radiology

Radiology uses medical imaging techniques to assess patient conditions and administer treatment. Radiologists earn doctoral degrees, complete extensive training and obtain state licensure.

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Job Description

Radiologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing patients through the use of medical imaging achieved through X-rays, nuclear medicine, ultrasounds, mammography, computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Radiologists manage diseases by treating patients with radiation and image-guided surgery. Some radiologists specialize in a specific field such as breast imaging, cardiovascular radiology, chest radiology, emergency radiology, musculoskeletal radiology, neuroradiology, pediatric radiology and nuclear radiology.

According to Payscale.com, the median yearly salary for radiologists was $254,332, including bonuses, as of December 2013. The top ten percent of radiologists made more than $400,000, while the bottom ten percent made just under $100,000 or less as of the same time.


Aspiring radiologists must earn an undergraduate degree, complete medical school and participate in residency and fellowship training. Although there is no required major or education curriculum to enter medical school, the American Medical Association (AMA) states that undergraduate programs that emphasize sciences are beneficial for prospective candidates (www.ama-assn.org). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that getting into medical school is no easy task thanks to fierce competition (www.bls.gov).

Students spend the first two years of medical school reviewing basic sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pathology and biochemistry. They also learn medical ethics, medical law, patient communication, how to obtain medical histories and perform medical exams. The last two years are spent doing clinical clerkships where students work in medical facilities putting their knowledge into practice under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Students may rotate through pediatrics, internal medicine, family practice and surgery.

After graduating medical school, students continue their training in residency programs. During the next 3-7 years, individuals complete clinical training in a specialty, such as radiology, under the supervision of a licensed physician.


Before doctors can begin practicing, they must obtain a license from their state or jurisdiction. This requires passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, completing graduate medical education and any other provisions set by the state.

Board Certification

Board certification is voluntary, but validates that a doctor is competent in a medical specialty. Radiologists receive board certification through the American Board of Radiology (www.theabr.org). The certification process begins with a core exam that is taken 36 months after students begin their radiology residence training. The core exam includes questions about anatomy, pathophysiology, diagnostic radiology and physics.

Next, students take the certifying exam 15 months after completing a diagnostic radiology residency. During this exam, applicants are tested on diagnostic radiology essentials, safety, preventing inaccuracies, communication skills, ethics, and clinical practice.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics