How to Become a Radiologist

Radiologist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $50,020
Avg. Pay / hour $24.05
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 7%

A radiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in medical imaging.

When you become a radiologist you will use a range of techniques to create visualizations of the interior of the human body, all of which use radiation.

An X-ray, a CAT scan, and an ultrasound are all common methods that radiologists use the create images of the human body.

If you are interested in medicine and health and enjoy study and research, then you might like to become a radiologist.

The educational pathway to get there is long, but nuclear medicine and radiology are also fascinating subjects to learn about.

Radiologists are rewarded with a challenging career, excellent job prospects, and a secure salary upon graduation.

Education Requirements to Become a Radiologist

To become a radiologist, you will first need to complete a four-year bachelor degree at college.

Look for a school with a strong pre-medicine course line.

Take subjects like math, physics, biology and chemistry.

You’ll need to get strong grades to be accepted into medical school.

After college, you’ll need to complete medical school, which takes an additional four years.

You will complete theoretical work which relates to the practice of medicine, and also start gaining practical experience with patients.

After medical school, you will need to complete a residency in radiology, this will take an additional five years.

After this you can work as a licensed radiologist.

In all states you need to be licensed to become a radiologist, in most places this involves sitting for an exam.

The American College of Radiology has good career information available on its website.

Radiologist Job Description

When you become a radiologist, you will use a range of techniques such as ultrasounds, tomography, nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography, and magnetic reasoning imaging.

Radiology involves far more than just forming images.

A radiologist must work closely with a patient as well as their referring doctor.

A wide range of variables can affect imaging, and for this reason a radiologist takes a detailed medical history.

Just as important as taking the images is analyzing them and forming a diagnosis.

A radiologist will look for a host of problems in the images they take.

They may treat a patient themselves, or refer them on to another specialist for care.

A patient is usually referred to a radiologist by another medical practitioner.

The doctor will send ahead the patient’s file, along with a letter explaining why they have been referred and what problems the radiologist will look for.

The radiologist will then complete a range of tests to produce internal imaging.

Common problems that a radiologist will diagnose include broken bones, cancer, kidney stones, torn ligaments, pneumonia, and internal bleeding.

Here are some of the daily tasks a radiologist might complete:

  • Consulting with a patient
  • Communicating with other medical professionals
  • Using a range of imaging techniques
  • Analyzing images to make a diagnosis
  • Keeping accurate patient records

Radiologist Salary and Career Path

Radiologists work in hospitals, laboratories, and from private consulting offices.

Almost all of their work comes from a referral source like a doctor or the hospital they work in.

Most radiologists will stay in the same role for most of their careers.

Others may move on to become department heads, or other supervisory positions within a hospital.

Some will move into other areas of healthcare which could include occupations such as:

  • Physician
  • Pharmacist
  • Medical researcher
  • Diagnostic medical sonographers
  • Nuclear medicine technologist
  • Radiation therapist
  • Cardiovascular technologist

Job prospects for radiologists are strong and with an aging population, only look to improve in the future.

The median salary for a radiologist is $330,000 a year.

Those that work in hospitals will usually earn less than those in private practice.

A radiologist working in an urban area could expect to earn more than someone in a rural area.

If you are interested in health care, and intrigued by the idea of nuclear medicine, then you might like to become a radiologist.

Although the path to get there is a long one, the job at the end is rewarding.

Employment prospects are only going to become stronger in the future.

Working conditions are good, and the average salary is very high.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$79,320
New Hampshire$70,250
New Jersey$74,300
New Mexico$61,200
New York$77,140
North Carolina$59,910
North Dakota$59,220
Rhode Island$77,680
South Carolina$57,450
South Dakota$56,170
West Virginia$55,060
Puerto Rico$28,280
Virgin Islands$50,670

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $95,170.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $95,170
Hawaii - $84,100
Massachusetts - $79,360
District of Columbia - $79,320
Oregon - $78,800
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Radiologic Technologists and Technicians, OCC Code 29-2034, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a radiologist?

Radiologists are physicians specialized in using medical imaging to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries.

As a radiologist, you will be trained to interpret x-rays, CAT scans, magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI), ultrasounds, nuclear medicine positron emission tomography, computed tomography (CT), to detect disease and injury.

Using these medical technologies you will be able to diagnose a wide range of conditions, from diseases to broken bones.

You will consult with other doctors to formulate a medical treatment and you can request further physical examinations to decide what is the best course of medical care.

Regarding the skills you need in this profession, attention to detail is very important because interpreting a scan isn’t always easy.

Also, you need technical skills because you will use complex medical machinery and good communication skills because you will have to deal with patients face-to-face.

Patience and compassion are essential but you also need to be physically fit because you will be on your feet long hours.

As a radiologist, you can usually find employment in hospitals or large healthcare centers.

How much does a radiologist make?

The median annual pay for physicians and surgeons, in general, was equal to or greater than $208,000, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2018.

Salaries vary widely depending on the specialty and the physician’s experience and experienced radiologists may make as much as $400,000-$500,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a radiologist?

If you want to become a radiologist you should start with four years of pre-med coursework.

For your bachelor’s degree, you will pay, on average, around $30,000 a year.

Next is the medical school with a cost that varies between $30,000 and $60,000 depending on the school.

Medical school graduates continue their training with a residency program.

During residency training, you will be paid a minimal salary.

What is the demand for radiologists?

According to BLS, the demand for physicians and surgeons, in general, is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028 but exact job opportunities depend on the physician’s education, specialty, and the region.

Job prospects should be better for those who are willing to relocate to underserved areas.

How long does it take to become a radiologist?

If you want to become a radiologist you have to complete four years of college and another four years to medical school, a one-year internship, four years of radiology residency, and finally one or two years of fellowship.

A bachelor’s degree at a four-year university will help you learn biology, chemistry, biochemistry, maths, physics, and English- courses that are required by most medical schools.

Once admitted to a medical school the first two years will be spent in the classroom where you will learn basic theory and the last two years include a couple of months of clinical rotation in many specialties; during this time you will have the chance to follow a physician in their daily duties.

After finishing medical school you will continue your training with a residency program that will help you become a radiologist.

Most radiologists are certified by the American Board of Radiology or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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