How To Become a Radiologist

If you are a good problem-solver and are naturally good at science, you might wonder how to become a radiologist. Radiology is a specialty of medical care that revolves around the use of imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRIs, to diagnose and treat medical conditions. Radiologists are healthcare professionals who work in hospitals and outpatient diagnostic laboratories, evaluating the results of radiologic imaging tests and administering radiation treatments. Radiologists are not simply technicians, but doctors who have attended medical school and undergone specialized education and training in radiology.

Like other kinds of physicians, radiologists diagnose and treat medical conditions. Radiologists use radiologic technology to perform imaging tests, often for diagnostic purposes. While they are most well-known for working with X-ray technology, radiologists also use common technology such as ultrasounds or sonograms, positron emission tomography (PET scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT scans) as well as less well-known technology, like nuclear medicine. Radiologists develop skill at reading test results, assessing the images created through the use of any of these technologies, to determine the physical ailment affecting a patient. Various kinds of tests can show such conditions as broken bones or the growth of tumors. Radiologists typically do not administer X-rays and other tests themselves. Instead, they have a radiographer or radiologic technologist, a healthcare professional without the advanced medical schooling required of radiologists, do that work. This allows the highly-trained radiologists focus their time and attention on interpreting the results of these tests.

Within the field of radiology, subspecialties exist. Oncology radiologists administer courses of radiation treatment to cancer patients. In a subspecialty known as interventional radiology or surgical radiology, radiologists use these imaging technologies to actually perform medical procedures. Surgical radiology is most commonly used in minimally invasive procedures used to treat vascular, neurologic, spine and kidney conditions, as well as women’s health issues and certain causes of infertility in both men and women. Interventional radiology allows doctors to see inside an intact body and perform corrective procedures with the use of catheters, so they may avoid making incisions that could cause the patient pain, increase the risk of infection and result in scarring.

As medical doctors, radiologists need an advanced education. Aspiring radiologists should begin by pursuing an undergraduate degree in a science-related field, such as biology, in order to develop the necessary background for succeeding in medical school. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, aspiring radiologists must complete a four-year medical school program, and finally a radiology residency, which can last as long as five years. Like other doctors, radiologists must obtain appropriate state licensure.

Aspiring radiologists must invest a substantial amount of time, and often money, in their education and training. Their high salaries of around $372,000, according to, reflect this commitment. If you pay attention to detail and want to help patients get well, knowing how to become a radiologist could be the start of a lucrative new career in the thriving healthcare industry.

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