Radiologists are physicians who specialize radiology, which uses ionizing and nonionizing radiation to diagnose and treat disease. The American Medical Association claims that about 1% of all physicians in training choose this field. The field of radiology is further divided by the areas of the body studied or the types of diagnostic methods. For example, some radiologists specialize in reading X-rays while others inject radioactive materials into the body then use equipment to follow the material within the body. Radiologists may specialize in breast, chest, or gastrointestinal images, as well.
Radiology is considered a medical specialty. To practice in this field, you must become a full-fledged physician. Begin with a strong undergraduate education with an emphasis on the sciences. Once you are in medical school, you will spend the first half in science-related courses on anatomy, pharmacology, biochemistry, psychology, and more.
Becoming a radiologist requires four years at the undergraduate level, two years in medical school classrooms and labs and two more in rotation in a hospital. A five-year residence in radiology is also required. Overall, it takes about 13 years of training to become a radiologist.
While 13 years may seem like an enormous commitment to make, the benefits are worth the effort. First, radiology pays well. On average, radiologists earn around $350,000 per year. They also do not have as much stress in their jobs as other medical specialties, such as surgeons, nor are they constantly on call from patients like obstetricians. Most radiologists work set schedules in clinics and hospitals, so they have more personal time to spend with their families.
Radiologists also play an important role in the treatment of patients. Because they have knowledge of some of the most advanced technology used in diagnostic medicine, they can discover the causes of injuries or illnesses missed by a normal examination. Through an X-ray, for example, radiologists can determine the severity of a bone break and can make treatment recommendations. Radiologists can spot brain functioning problems with CAT scans and MRIs.
The field of radiology has a promising outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in radiology should be faster than in other fields. As the population ages, more people need diagnosis and treatment. Becoming a radiologist requires patience and money. Those 13 years of schooling can cost more than $150,000.