How to Become a Radiologist in 5 Steps
Radiologists are doctors who specialize in using radiation to diagnose and treat patients. Learn about the education, training and licensure required for this profession, from medical school to board certification in radiology. Schools offering Biomedical Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a Radiologist?
Radiologists typically specialize in diagnostic radiology or oncology radiation. Through the use of x-rays, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear medicine, you'll interpret and diagnose illnesses. Physicians and oncology radiologists apply radiation to treat illnesses such as cancer. You may also choose one or many sub-specialties to treat.
Step 1: What Should I Study?
Success in medical school requires advanced undergraduate courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics and math. A pre-med bachelor's degree is helpful but not necessary. Some bachelor's programs, such as biology, offer a pre-med track. Some colleges combine the bachelor's degree and the medical degree into a dual program. This sometimes shortens the length of your study.
Step 2: Take the MCAT Exam
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required to enter medical school. This exam tests you on your writing, communication and science skills. Most colleges request MCAT results be submitted with applications.
Step 3: Do I Need Medical School?
There are two kinds of medical degrees that you may consider; a Medical Degree (M.D.) and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). As an M.D., you'll use common drugs and medical treatments. As a D.O., you'll focus on the musculoskeletal system and holistic care. Many of the M.D. programs are combined with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. These dual programs allow you to speed up your study and begin a subspecialty. Medical school students spend two years in classrooms, laboratories and clinics learning sciences and medical subjects such as neurology, immunology, epidemiology, emergency care and patient care.
Supervised contact with patients begins in the third and fourth years as students rotate through medical specialties in hospital and outpatient settings. You'll settle on a specialty, such as radiology, early in your fourth year of medical school. To find the right residency program for you, consider using the National Resident Matching Program, www.nrmp.org.
Step 4: How Do I Complete a Residency?
Residencies are offered through a number of teaching hospitals. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), you'll spend at least four years in a radiology residency and an additional year in the subspecialty residency you desire (www.aamc.org). Further sub-specialties will require additional years of residency. Many teaching hospitals have residencies in both diagnostic radiology and radiation oncology (or nuclear medicine). As a resident, you'll be paid for your studies.
Step 5: Become Board Certified
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you must have state licensure if you want to practice medicine (www.bls.gov). You can seek additional radiology certification through the American Board of Radiologists (www.theabr.org). You must complete the certification as a diagnostic radiologist before earning certification in a subspecialty. As an osteopathic doctor you can earn certification through the American Osteopathic College of Radiology (www.aocr.org). This certification requires both a written and oral exam.
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