Radiologist Duties, Responsibilities and Career Information

Radiologists use medical imaging technologies such as x-rays, CT scans and MRIs to diagnose and make treatment decisions regarding patients' health problems. Radiologists are fully licensed physicians who must complete at least eleven years of higher education.

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Radiologist: Career Profile

A radiologist is a medical doctor who is trained in executing and interpreting medical images such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs and using them to treat health problems in patients. Radiologists perform image-guided procedures but do not normally handle the general medical needs of a patient. Instead, a radiologist is a specialist who uses the tools of his or her trade to make a diagnosis for a patient, then presents the results to the patient's physician.

The most common tool a radiologist uses is the X-ray. An X-ray is an image taken by using a machine to beam radiation through a patient's body onto a radiation-sensitive plate after carefully covering other portions of the patient's body with lead shields. Radiologists normally employ radiological technicians to do the actual X-ray photography, but they are trained in the photography process as well.

Other devices that radiologists use in their work include computer tomography (CT) scanners, which take cross-sectional X-ray pictures of the human body and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, which use magnets and radio waves to create a picture of the inside of the human body. Radiologists may specialize in nuclear medicine, therapeutic radiology, interventional radiology or other subspecialties.

Education Requirements

Because radiologists are fully-licensed medical doctors, they must undergo a minimum of 11 years of education, beginning with a bachelor's degree that is heavily weighted toward biology and physics requirements, such as a premedical degree. After completing the Medical College Admission Test and being admitted, prospective radiologists must complete four years of medical school in an accredited medical program. During this period, a prospective radiologist must sit for two United States Medical Licensing Examinations by the National Board of Medical Examiners. After graduating from medical school, prospective radiologists must complete a final medical licensing examination during the first year of their residency, or medical internship. Most residencies last 3-5 years, after which radiologists sit for examinations to become board certified.

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