Ultrasound Radiologist: Education Requirements & Career Profile
Ultrasound radiologists work in a variety of settings, from private care practices to hospitals. They use sonography to evaluate symptoms and map internal organs. Ultrasound radiologists must undergo extensive education, and job prospects are projected to be favorable for these physicians.
Ultrasound radiologists are physicians who specialize in medical techniques like ultrasounds, x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They must be able to interpret scans in order to diagnose and treat patients. In addition to monitoring patients, ultrasound radiologists may need to evaluate and select imaging equipment for their workplaces. To enter this profession, candidates must earn a bachelor's degree, attend medical school, complete rotations, participate in a fellowship program and become licensed.
Undergraduate degree programs related to science can help students prepare for medical school. Relevant coursework might include anatomy, biology, chemistry and physics. Some universities offer dedicated pre-med programs with a prescribed curriculum of classes that medical schools will look for on transcripts.
In addition to transcripts, med school admissions officers look at scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Medical school typically takes four years to complete and is comprised of both classroom learning and clinical care. Common coursework covers biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, physiology and standard medical practices. The second half of the curriculum is traditionally comprised of rotations, during which potential doctors work under supervision at on-site medical facilities to learn about various subspecialties; aspiring radiologists can use these experiences to gain hands-on practice with ultrasound.
All ultrasound radiologists must be licensed by their state to practice medicine. Licensure typically occurs after medical school. Aspiring doctors must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX).
Med school graduates must complete a postgraduate residency that typically lasts 2-6 years. They might pursue diagnostic radiology or radiological science programs that incorporate lectures and clinical practice. Usually, residents are given more freedom to choose elective rotations in the later years of their residency.
After residency, ultrasound radiologists might want to further specialize by undertaking a paid fellowship that focuses on the uses of ultrasound in obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, emergency medicine, ophthalmology and other fields. Fellows in ultrasound programs should stay up to date with standard diagnostic practices and medicine. They typically have to complete in-depth research projects to complete the program.
Board certification through the American Board of Radiology is not strictly required for ultrasound radiologists. However, it does show patients and employers that the radiologist has demonstrated a strong knowledge of medical techniques, such as ultrasounds, MRI scans and CT scans. Board certification must be renewed after ten years.
Career Profile: Salary and Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment of all physicians and surgeons could grow 24%, higher than average for all occupations, during the years 2010-2020. This is largely due to an aging population and increased need for health care. However, demand for physicians could fluctuate if healthcare costs continue to climb. According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary for physicians specializing in radiology was $257,729 in October 2013.
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