How Long Does It Take to Become a Radiologist?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

Though it takes a rather lengthy amount of time to become a radiologist, the benefits outweigh the cost. Not only is this considered an advanced and important field in medicine, but you'll walk away from your day knowing you helped a patient on the the road to recovery. In this article, we define the role of a radiologist, the steps needed to become one and the duration of educational studies and training required.

What is a radiologist?

A radiologist is a medical professional who specializes in medical imaging procedures such as X-rays, ultrasounds or MRIs. These procedures help diagnose a variety of patient conditions such as broken bones or tumors. Based on what is found, doctors can determine whether or not they can create a treatment plan.

Radiologists can also have a specialty such as pediatrics and obstetrics or even a sub-specialty in gastrointestinal or cardiovascular. They can often be found working in hospitals and private practices, though some also work remotely.

Related: Learn About Being a Radiologic Technologist

How long does it take to become a radiologist?

Several requirements to become a radiologist make the career path rather long. An undergraduate degree will take you four years to complete, a medical degree program will take you another four, your residency consists of an additional four years and finally, the training for your sub-specialty will last a year. Therefore, in order to become a radiologist, it can typically take up to 13 years. Despite the lengthy qualifications you'll need to become a radiologist, the career itself offers many financial and personal benefits.

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What does a radiologist do?

Throughout their day, radiologists have many responsibilities, including:

  • Consider a patient's medical history

  • Request medical imaging procedures

  • Perform medical imaging procedures or techniques

  • Analyze imaging results

  • Diagnose patient illnesses or conditions

  • Provide treatment recommendations based on imaging results

  • Report back to physicians

  • Treat patient illnesses, injuries and conditions through various methods such as radiation

  • Direct equipment operators

Specialties for radiologists

Here are specialties you can choose if you want to become a radiologist:

Diagnostic radiology

Diagnostic radiologists use imaging procedures to diagnose or treat a patient's illness, injury or condition. They also report back to a patient's physician, recommend a treatment plan and instruct radiologist technicians during imaging procedures. Radiologists with a diagnostic specialty can also have a variety of subspecialties such as chest radiology, musculoskeletal radiology, pediatric radiology and cardiovascular radiology.

Interventional radiology

Interventional radiologists use image-guiding, minimally invasive procedures to diagnose injuries or illnesses. Based on their findings, they'll recommend a treatment plan for conditions including cancer or strokes. As an interventional radiologist, you'll choose a subspecialty such as nuclear radiology, pain medicine or neuroradiology.

Radiation oncology

Radiologists with a specialty in oncology work to treat cancer through radiation therapy. They also make sure the treatment plan is working well for the patient and that they're not experiencing any abnormal side effects. Radiologists with an oncology specialty can also have a subspecialty in hospice and palliative or pain medicine.

Average salary of a radiologist

The national average salary for a radiologist is $238,990 per year. It's important to keep in mind, however, that your own salary in this role will vary depending on your experience level, specialty, the company you work for and your location. For example, the salary for a radiologist can vary anywhere from $36,000 to $631,000.

Related: 12 Healthcare Jobs That Pay Well

How to become a radiologist

In order to become a radiologist, you'll need to meet a variety of qualifications. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree

  2. Earn a master's degree

  3. Complete your residency

  4. Apply for a fellowship program

  5. Obtain your state license

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

The first step toward becoming a radiologist involves the completion of an undergraduate program. After earning your high school diploma or GED, you'll need to obtain a bachelor's degree. This is a requirement for attending medical school.

2. Earn a master's degree

Upon obtaining your bachelor's degree, you'll need to attend medical school and earn a master's or doctorate degree. Your coursework during this time will include everything from physiology and pathophysiology to anatomy and pharmacology.

3. Complete your residency

Once you graduate from medical school, you'll need to apply for a license and job. Your first year as a radiologist is considered your residency. During this time, you'll care for patients through general medicine or surgery practices. This step will give you hands-on experience as a radiologist as you analyze imaging results and work with other physicians day-to-day.

4. Apply for a fellowship program

From here, you can apply for a fellowship program in a radiology subspecialty that interests you. During your fellowship, you'll advance your imaging knowledge through training centered on your particular subspecialty.

5. Obtain your state license

You'll need a state license to practice as a radiologist. In addition, it's possible that you might be asked to get board certified which involves testing your knowledge of various topics such as physics, medicine and anatomy. Once you have your state license, it's important to maintain it.

What skills should you have as a radiologist?

Radiologists need to have a variety of skills to perform well, including:

  • Communication skills. As with most medical professions, you'll need to know how to effectively communicate with your co-workers and patients. The better you're able to communicate, the more physicians will be able to understand you. This translates to better overall care for your patients.

  • Technical skills. As a radiologist, it's important that you know how to operate the various imaging machinery you'll be working with every day.

  • Analytical skills. Because you'll need to interpret the imaging results, it's important that you're able to look them over with a great eye for detail.

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