How to Become a Radiologist

A radiologist is a physician who interprets radiological images, such as mammograms, X-rays and MRIs. To become a radiologist, it requires eight years of post-secondary education, including medical school, and a four or five year residency.

Education

Radiologists are physicians, so to become a radiologist it requires an undergraduate degree, as well as graduation from an accredited medical school program. A list of accredited medical schools is available on the website of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

License and Certification

After graduating from an accredited medical school, radiologists must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and complete licensure process for the state where they wish to practice. A radiologist may also decide to become board certified by the American Board of Radiology. The board requires that the radiologist completes one year in clinical training and a four year residency in a diagnostic radiology program. There are several different types of board certification, such as nuclear radiology or pediatric radiology, but the first step is to become certified in diagnostic radiology. Becoming board certified is not a requirement.

Tips and Advice

If you are currently in high school, you will need to complete courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics, as well as any other prerequisites for admission to the college of your choice. As a college student, you can pursue any type of undergraduate degree, from liberal arts to the sciences, though you will need to complete all of the prerequisites for admission to the medical school of your choice.

In high school and in college, pursue volunteer or paid positions in health care. If you plan to work in pediatric oncology, look for opportunities to work with children and young adults, such as working in a summer camp or becoming a tutor. There are also many opportunities to work in hospitals, hospices and clinics, as well as non-profit organizations, such as the American Cancer Society. Refer to these experiences on your personal statement or application for admission to medical school to show your suitability for a career in medicine.

Specialization

There are many types of specializations for radiologists, such as pediatric radiology, interventional radiology, neuroradiology and radiation oncology. Pediatric radiologists offer diagnostic procedures and treatments for children and young adults. Interventional radiologists will diagnose and treat abnormalities of the lymphatic system and arteries and veins, sometimes using invasive techniques to correct conditions. Neuroradiology examines the skull, sinuses, neck, spine, and the central and peripheral nervous system. They perform procedures, such as MRIs, to diagnose conditions and may perform invasive procedures to treat tumors and aneurysms. Radiation oncology performs cancer treatments using various radiation therapies delivered by an x-ray source or injected into the body. Pursuing any sub specialty will require an additional one to two year residency.

There are also careers in academic radiology performing research into new and existing diagnostic tools, treatments and interventions. An academic radiologist is a physician as well as a professor and a researcher, so they will have clinical duties as well as teach and instruct other physicians in regards to radiological techniques and tools.