Radiologist Training and Education

Training to be a Radiologist

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Radiologist Training and Education

Radiologist, Pulse of Surgery May 2012—Greater Louisville Medical Soc… (Flickr.com)

A radiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the unique field of reading and interpreting medical images like MRIs, ultrasounds, CT scans, and X-rays. He uses those images and the information they contain to diagnose diseases that may not be otherwise apparent. After looking over the images, a radiologist will typically discuss his findings with the patient’s primary physician, who will be responsible for taking action if necessary. Some radiologists deal solely with tests and don’t interact with patients at all. Others may go into interventional radiology, therapeutic radiology or similar specialized fields.

The Skinny on Radiologist Job Training

Aspiring radiologists will need to earn a bachelor’s degree before going into four years of medical school. After earning their MD degree, a prospective radiologist will spend a one-year internship working in a hospital, followed up by to seven years of specialty training as a radiology resident. From there, many radiologists will even do another couple years of sub-specialty fellowship training.

Starting Early

Since med school will be a large part of your education, you’ll do yourself a favor by getting a head start in high school. Putting a major focus on biology, chemistry, physics, math and English will provide you with invaluable resources once you’ve moved into your career training. If you’re serious about a career in radiology, it’s a smart move to take as many AP classes in these subjects as possible.

Bachelor’s Degree

From high school, you’ll go right into a general college to begin work on your bachelor’s degree. This will take about four years, and you will need to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher in order to qualify for med school.

Pre-med courses are a vital part of your education at this time, and a number of your courses should be related to the field of radiology. Your primary emphasis will be in the areas of math, physics, science, biology, chemistry, or anatomy. Most students will choose to major in science, though you do have the option to major in biology, physics, anatomy, or chemistry instead.

While many don’t realize it, it’s also quite important to your career to excel in the areas of writing and communication. As a radiologist, you will need to be able to communicate clearly and express yourself well both verbally and in writing. The area of communication won’t be a large focus in your education; however, it’s wise to invest in this area of your training as the skills you learn will be invaluable later in your career.

The MCAT Exam

Most respected medical schools require students to take the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) before their application will be considered. Aspiring radiologists will typically sit for their MCAT during their junior year of college, and will need a minimum score of 24 to be eligible for enrollment in medical school. Once you have passed your MCAT and have your bachelor’s degree in-hand, you’re ready to launch into med school.

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Medical School

The initial two years of your medical study program will be spent covering topics that apply to all medical fields. These broad topics include areas like physiology, anatomy, patient care, pathology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and infectious disease. You’ll participate in both classroom and laboratory lessons where you will learn how to examine patients, understand symptoms and diagnose illnesses. These two years will give you a solid foundation as a medical doctor, and will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the world of medicine and health care.

In your final two years of medical school, students will begin to explore individual specialties and each will hone in on their desired area of expertise as they participate in clinical rotations. This is when you will begin your specific radiology studies. During this time, aspiring radiologists will focus on the tools, techniques and theories of radiology. You are likely to study topics such as:

– MRI and fMRI

– X-ray

– Fluoroscopy

– Computed tomography

– Diagnosis and treatment using radioactive compounds

Students of radiology will spend these two years completing clinical rotations through the various areas of radiology. The field of radiology is fairly broad, including areas like mammography, musculoskeletal radiology, emergency radiology, interventional radiology, and nuclear medicine. These two years will help you to choose an area to specialize in.

Residency

Once you have graduated from medical school, you will be required to go into a residency program – also known as a post-graduate program – which can take from 4-5 years. The first year will be spent learning all about general medicine in a hands-on capacity. In the following years, you will delve into your chosen field of radiology.

It’s important that you choose your residency program wisely, as not all will meet the needs of your particular educational or career goals. During this time, you will also make a final decision on your sub-specialty, whether it is pediatric radiology, interventional radiology, oncology, or some other special interest.

Your sub-specialty will take you down a very specific career path. For example, in oncology you will focus on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients, while pediatric radiology will deal with very child-specific diagnosis and treatment. Interventional radiology will provide you with invasive methods of diagnosing and treating your patients, while emergency radiology will devote you to the diagnostic imaging of trauma (and non-traumatic) emergency conditions.

The Home Stretch

The path to a career in radiology is a long and tough one, but at this point you’re coming down to the home stretch. The final step you’ll need to take is obtaining licensing and certification. You will need to take a variety of oral, clinical and cognitive tests administered by the American Board of Radiology, who will award you with a certificate upon completion. You will then need to sit for the largely computer-based United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) which will provide you with your medical license to practice in radiology. Once you’ve got your license and certificate in hand, you’re ready to begin your career as a full-fledged radiologist.

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