Becoming a radiologist is not easy or simple, and will take several years of study and practical work before you get your title. A radiologist is a doctor specialised in techniques such as x-rays, PET, MRI, CT, ultrasounds and other imaging technologies that allow a glimpse into the human body. A radiologist is a doctor, so you must go to medical school. But how long does it take to become a radiologist?
Becoming a Radiologist Overview
In order to become a radiologist you will require:
- Bachelor’s degree (4 years)
- Passing the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
- 4 years of medical school
- USMLE exam
- 4 years medicine residency in radiology
In order to gain entry into a medical school you will need a Bachelor’s degree from a college or university. Good grades are a must since you are competing with many other dedicated, well prepared and hard working future doctors. The same rules apply when selecting your major as if you wanted to become a cardiologist or any other medical specialisation: while a major in sciences is not mandatory, the entry requirements of Medical school means you will need to take science and maths classes such as biology, chemistry (organic and inorganic), physics or calculus.
In order to enter medical school you will need to take a national, standardised exam called the MCAT. If your career goal is becoming a radiologist, you will need to ace this exam and not just pass, as most Medical schools will look at your MCAT grades as part of the candidate selection process. This exam is clearly science oriented, so if you major in a non-science subject you may need to spend additional months or even a year studying for it. However, if you are planning your studies towards becoming a radiologist you may be able to only dedicate a few months alongside your last year of college to study for the MCAT.
Medical schools have different requirements, and the best schools are difficult to get into. Some people need to spend several years trying until they get in, which can add a year or two to how long does it take to become a radiologist. The MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) handbook is published every year with the requirements of each medical school in the United States and Canada, and it’s a handy guide to plan your education and make yourself the most attractive applicant to minimize the chances of having to re-apply.
Once you get into medical school 4 more years of intensive studying await. You will study the same subjects as other future doctors, but on your last year you should be able to pick up some electives that are related to your dream career to make yourself a more attractive medical residence applicant. There are no majors in medical school, so at this point you will be studying the same stuff as a future dermatologist or cardiologist. In order to become a doctor you will need to pass the USMLE exam, which is the national medical licensing exam. After medical school is over you will be a doctor, but you won’t be allowed to work without supervision.
The last step in order to become a radiologist is a 3 or 4 years radiology residence program at a hospital. Only after this residency is over will you become a licensed radiologist, but at least during this time you will be paid and working as a doctor, albeit under supervision. This post-graduate education will allow you to see the real life at a hospital, and put into practice everything you learned at Medical School.
Average Radiologist Salary
Most people assume that becoming a radiologist is a long winded and difficult career choice, but it is a very rewarding one. According to the American Association of Medical College, the average salary of a radiologist is $325,438, which is nothing to complain about, but keep in mind that your salary will be substantially lower when you are just starting your career.
How long does it take to become a radiologist shouldn’t be your only concern if you want to work in this area, as you may find that devoting 12 years of intensive training is not something you do unless is because you love helping other people.