- Radiologists are doctors trained in medicine, technology, and diagnostic radiology. They diagnose and treat diseases using various medical imaging methods.
- The United States (US) has several high-caliber colleges and universities that offer some of the best radiology programs.
- To become a radiologist in the US, an individual must study for at least 13 years.
- Radiologists should earn an undergraduate degree, go to medical school, and complete radiology residency before becoming licensed and certified.
- Because of the high compensation and excellent job opportunities, the career path for radiologists is promising.
Best Radiology SchoolsAccording to rankings from the US News and World Report, some of the best radiology programs in the US are(1):
- Johns Hopkins University
- Harvard University
- University of California, San Francisco
- Perelman School of Medicine (University of Pennsylvania)
- Duke University
- Stanford University
- Washington University in St. Louis
- University of Michigan
- David Geffen School of Medicine (of the University of California, Los Angeles)
- Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine
- New York University Grossman School of Medicine
- Columbia University
- Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
- Midwestern State University
- Pima Medical Institute-Houston
- College of Health Care Professions (Northwest)
- The University of Texas Health Science Center (better known as UT Health San Antonio)
- Fortis College (Grand Prairie)
- The University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston)
- Southwest University at El Paso
- Weatherford College
- Odessa College
- Galveston College
- Lone Star College System
- El Paso Community College
- Houston Community College
- Tyler Junior College
- Amarillo College
- Austin Community College District
- Covenant School of Nursing and Allied Health
- The College of Health Care Professions found in Fort Worth
- Del Mar College (Corpus Christi)
- El Centro College
- Lamar Institute of Technology
- The College of Health Care Professions (Dallas)
- Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas
- Tarrant County College District
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Laredo Community College
- St. Philip’s College
- McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas
- Baptist Health System School of Health Professions
How to Become a Radiologist
Radiologist Education RequirementsBecoming a radiologist in the US takes around 13 years. However, this time frame may vary per country. For instance, it takes 10 to 12 years to be a radiologist in Canada(3). To become a radiologist, individuals should first get a high school diploma and then pursue higher education. These radiologist aspirants should earn at least a two-year and full-time study associate degree, such as the Associate of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology degree. They also have the option of completing a bachelor’s degree program for radiology. When picking a radiology school, individuals should consider the following factors:
- The school should be accredited.
- It should offer accredited programs from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT).
- Financial aid offered to students is useful, as schooling can be expensive.
- The school should offer appropriate certification and licensing options.
Medical SchoolIn medical school, the students’ coursework focuses on biomedical sciences in the first two years. These branches of science include pathology, anatomy, pharmacology, and biochemistry. During the other two years, students undergo rotations so that they can learn about hospital specialties. Clinical rotations include different medical areas, like psychiatry, surgery, pediatrics, and internal medicine.
Radiology ResidencyRadiologist aspirants are required to continue their education by completing at least four years of radiology residency programs. Joining radiology school residencies means training in patient care, learning technical research, and getting clinical experience. Doctors learn state-of-the-art technology to prepare them for fellowship programs. Here are some technologies these programs offer:
- Myelogram – X-ray or computed tomography is used to diagnose spinal canal problems.
- Arteriogram – Diagnostic images of the arteries are produced.
- Mammography – This is an X-ray diagnosis of the breast.
- Fluoroscopy – Similar to X-ray movies, this technology focuses on moving body structures.
- Nuclear medicine – Small amounts of radioactive materials (radiopharmaceuticals) are used to investigate organ function and structure.
- Ultrasound (sonography) – High-frequency sound waves are used to detect abnormalities in tissues, organs, and vessels.
Licensure and CertificationIndividuals with a radiology degree should work on getting a license from the state where they want to practice. They should take licensing exams, which vary depending on the state. To get more job opportunities, some radiology degree holders undergo a voluntary certification program through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Some states require ARRT certification before they issue radiology licenses. Radiologists should secure licenses to practice medicine, and they should renew these licenses regularly. They should fulfill the requirements of the state they want to work in to get licensure. They should also pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). Radiologists may also get certified through the American Board of Radiology (ABR) or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (AOBR). Getting a board certification is not required. However, to maintain this board certification, continuing education is necessary.
Continuing EducationThe ABR issues board certification valid for ten years after radiologists complete written and oral exams. Radiologists should renew these certifications by passing re-certification exams. Continuing education is vital to individuals who want to pursue a career in radiology. Technology is continually changing, so radiologists must keep their skills up-to-date by joining personalized and specialized training programs. Radiologists who take up continuing education courses broaden their expertise and career opportunities.
Career and SalaryThe US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that employment opportunities for physicians and surgeons are expected to increase by 7% from 2018 to 2028(4). Radiologists are responsible for interpreting data from diagnostic imaging methods. They share these findings with fellow doctors and patients, draft medical reports, and communicate treatment risks, benefits, and alternatives to patients. Usually, radiologists handle a team composed of imaging technicians and assistants. They keep up with the latest radiology developments through online programs and other forms of continuing education. On average, radiologists make around $416,290 yearly(5).
The Pros and Cons of Being a Radiologist
- The job of radiologists can be exciting as it may entail diagnosing several pathologies daily. These doctors may also pursue continuing education and study further for a radiology subspecialty of their choice.
- Radiologists engage in collaborative work. Aside from working with fellow doctors, they communicate with radiographers, radiology technicians, and even patients.
- The job outlook for radiologists is promising. These medical professionals are also generally well-compensated.
- Becoming a radiologist requires several years of education and experience. Individuals begin with an associate’s degree or a bachelor of science degree before pursuing being a radiologist.
- Radiologists are regularly exposed to ionizing radiation, which can increase the risks of injury and other diseases(6). Hence, proper training on radiation safety and management and good radiation protection habits are essential.
- Radiologists need to look at screens regularly, which may result in eye problems. A study found that 36% of American radiologists experience eyestrain(7).
Radiology College SpecializationsRadiology college students may choose from several specializations, including:
Radiologic TechnologyA radiologic technology program covers the full-scope use of the X-ray. It also includes fluoroscopy, a medical imaging technology that produces continuous X-ray images (X-ray movie) on a monitor. Radiologic technologists work in physicians’ clinics, hospitals, urgent care facilities, and private imaging centers.
Radiation TherapyRadiation therapy or radiotherapy trains students to treat certain cancer types through the use of radiation. Students interested in radiation therapy study oncology, advanced anatomy, radiation physics, patient care courses, and medical dosimetry. Oncology is the study of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile, medical dosimetry is a program that prepares healthcare professionals to become a part of the radiation oncology team.
SonographyDiagnostic medical sonography is also known as ultrasound. To become a sonographer, students should learn how to operate sonography equipment, position patients, conduct patient care in the medical imaging setting, and finish the medical terminology course. Sonographers may pursue further education and choose a specialization, including abdominal sonography and breast sonography.
Nuclear Medicine TechnologyNuclear medicine technology programs train students to use radiologic agents to create diagnostic images. These agents are introduced into the body orally or intravenously (through or within a vein). Students aspiring to become nuclear medicine technologists are required to study radiation physics, radiochemistry or radiopharmacy, and nuclear medicine technology equipment. They should also complete clinical placements.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging TechnologyStudents aspiring to become MRI technologists study for at least one year. They usually take MRI technology programs as an add-on option for radiologic technology and sonography degrees.
Limited Scope X-rayLimited Scope X-ray programs are certificate programs that train students to conduct X-ray examinations, prepare patients, and explain radiology procedures. This program is also known as the Limited Medical Radiography and Basic X-ray Machine Operator program. Limited scope X-ray technologists should pass the ARRT examination or register and secure a state license to practice their profession. They usually work in outpatient care centers, laboratories, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.
Alternative Careers for Radiology College Students
Radiology TechniciansTo become radiology technicians, students should learn how to operate diagnostic imaging machines, position patients properly, and practice specific radiographic procedures. These skills help them create high-quality diagnostic images of internal body parts. An entry-level associate’s degree in a radiologic technology program is required to practice this profession.
Radiologic TechnologistsRadiologic technologists or radiographers have similar responsibilities as radiology technicians. The main difference is that radiologic technologists complete a four-year bachelor’s degree. To become a radiologic technologist, students should complete the Bachelor of Applied Science in Radiologic Technology program. They are responsible for operating equipment and conducting exams using X-rays, computerized axial tomography scans (CAT scans), or mammography. These skills help them produce images of a patient’s body parts.
Radiologist AssistantsThe American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) describes radiologist assistants as more seasoned radiologic technologists with further education, training, and additional certification(8). A master’s degree in radiology can prepare students to become radiologist assistants. Radiologist assistants work with radiologists to give advanced patient care and perform diagnostic imaging tests. Only licensed radiologists can diagnose patients officially by evaluating radiologic images. However, radiologist assistants may share their preliminary observations with radiologists.
ConclusionRadiologists are medical doctors knowledgeable in medicine, technology, and radiologic sciences. Through medical imaging methods, they diagnose and treat diseases. Radiology schools in the US offer some of the best radiology programs. Aspiring radiologists must finish an undergraduate degree, pursue medical school, complete radiology residency, and work for licensure and certification. It usually takes radiologists 13 years to complete their education. They may also pursue further education to specialize in various radiography programs. Radiologists have excellent career opportunities. The job outlook for their profession is promising. However, they may be faced with particular challenges while on-the-job. Common problems of radiologists include exposure to ionizing radiation and the prevalence of eyestrain. Thus, they should practice good radiation protection habits. Students of radiology schools may also pursue alternative careers aside from becoming a radiologist. They may study to become radiology technicians, radiologic technologists, and radiologist assistants.
- The Best Medical Schools for Radiology, Ranked. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools/radiology-rankings
- Best Radiology Colleges in Texas. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://www.universities.com/find/texas/best/healthcare/radiology
- What is a Radiologist? (2015, December 09). Retrieved from https://oarinfo.ca/patient-info/what-radiologist
- Physicians and Surgeons: Occupational Outlook Handbook. (2020, April 10). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm
- Radiologist Salary. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.salary.com/research/salary/alternate/radiologist-salary
- Parikh, J. R., Geise, R. A., Bluth, E. I., Bender, C. E., Sze, G., & Jones, A. (2017, March). Potential Radiation-Related Effects on Radiologists: American Journal of Roentgenology: Vol. 208, No. 3 (AJR). Retrieved from https://www.ajronline.org/doi/full/10.2214/AJR.16.17212
- Vertinsky, T., & Forster, B. (2005). Prevalence of eye strain among radiologists: influence of viewing variables on symptoms. AJR. American journal of roentgenology, 184(2), 681–686. https://doi.org/10.2214/ajr.184.2.01840681
- Careers in Radiologic Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.asrt.org/main/career-center/careers-in-radiologic-technology