How to Become a Radiologist
A radiologist is a physician, or medical doctor, who specializes in using medical imaging techniques, such as X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or computer tomograhy (CT) to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries. For instance, if you break your arm, it will most likely be a radiologist assesses an X-ray of the injury in order to determine the extent of it. Certain specialized radiologists called interventional radiologists pair imaging with procedures that use catheters or other instruments to treat diseases or injuries. For instance, radiologists can insert stents into blood vessels to open them up and prevent blockages.
Here, we will explore how to become a radiologist. Radiologist education is extensive and includes numerous components, including:
Completion of a bachelor’s degree program
Completion of medical school
Completion of a residency
Fellowship in a specialized field and certification (optional)
Radiologist Schooling Requirements
Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree
The radiologist education requirements typically begin with earning a bachelor’s degree. There is no required undergraduate major to satisfy the radiology degree requirements, but you must complete several prerequisite classes to prepare you for medical school coursework. Medical school prerequisite courses include biology, chemistry (general and organic), biochemistry, physics, and several other classes. A number of undergraduate students opt to work or volunteer in medical settings to gain experience. It is also necessary to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before applying to medical school.
Step 2: Attend Medical School
The road continues with four years of medical school to become a physician. Medical school often begins with 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. However, some medical schools have changed their curriculum to shorten the amount of time spent on classroom education and increase the amount of time for clinical rotations. After four years of medical school, you will graduate with either an M.D or a D.O., completing the most significant of the radiology degree requirements.
Step 3: Complete a Residency Program
After graduating from medical school, an aspiring radiologist must complete a radiology residency, which is a combination of specialty medical education and paid on-the-job training. Residents complete clinical rotations in different subspecialties of radiology, attend lectures, and conduct research. Residencies allow licensed doctors to practice medicine in a specific field under the supervision of an experienced physician. The radiology residency takes at least four years, bringing the total radiologist schooling years to twelve.
Step 4: Pursue a Fellowship
Some radiologists then go on to complete additional training so they can 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. There are also some condensed residency and fellowship programs that allow physicians to specialize in interventional radiology directly following medical school, reducing the number of years required.
In addition, the continuing emergence of new technologies requires extra training so that equipment can be used safely and accurately. It’s common for even advanced radiologists with many years of practice to take part in specialized training programs.
Radiologist Requirements for Licensure & Certification
After completion of radiologist schooling, a radiologist must be licensed to practice medicine, and licenses must be renewed periodically. Licensure can be earned by passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) and meeting any other state requirements. 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 might 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 can stay current on the latest developments in radiology through online classes and other forms of continuing education.
According to November 2020 data from PayScale.com, the average annual salary for a radiologist was $307,784, with most of these physicians earning between $121,000 and $462,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of all physicians and surgeons was expected to increase by 4% in the decade spanning 2019-2029.
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