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Radiologist Education Requirements, Training and Career Info

A radiologist is a physician who specializes in using medical imaging techniques, such as X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries. What does it take to become a radiologist? What does a career in radiology entail?

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Education Requirements for Radiologists

Radiologists are highly educated professionals. The road to a career as a radiologist typically begins with earning a bachelor's degree. Medical school prerequisite courses include biology, chemistry and physics. A number of undergraduate students opt to work or volunteer in medical settings to gain experience.

The road continues with four years of medical school to become a physician. Medical school consists of two years of classroom education in the sciences, such as anatomy, pathology, pharmacology and biochemistry, followed by two years of clinical rotations in different areas of medicine, such as pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery and internal medicine.

Radiology Training

After graduating from medical school, a physician must complete four years of a radiology residency, which is a combination of specialty medical education and paid on-the-job training, to become a radiologist. Residents complete clinical rotations in different subspecialties of radiology, attend lectures and conduct research. Some radiologists then go on to complete additional training so that they may further specialize. For example, interventional radiology, which requires doctors to use catheters, wires and other probes during certain imaging procedures, involves 1-2 years of fellowship training following completion of a residency.

In addition, the continuing emergence of new technologies requires extra training for the equipment to be used safely and accurately. It's common for even advanced radiologists with many years of practice to take part in specialized training programs.

Career Information

A radiologist must be licensed in order to practice medicine, and licenses must be renewed periodically. Licensure may be earned by passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). In addition, many radiologists are certified through the American Board of Radiology (ABR) or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (AOBR). Board certification is optional, but requires continuing education to be maintained.

A radiologist's day-to-day job duties may include interpreting information gathered through imaging techniques, communicating results with doctors and patients, writing medical reports and explaining treatment risks, benefits, and alternatives to patients. Typically, a radiologist oversees a team of imaging technicians and assistants. Radiologists may stay current on the latest developments in radiology through online classes and other forms of continuing education. According to December 2013 data from Payscale.com, radiologists' median annual salary was $254,332, with most of these physicians earning $99,216-$405,441.

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