Becoming a Radiologist: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a radiologist? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to decide if a career as a radiologist is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of a Radiologist Career

Radiologists are physicians who review and interpret the results of diagnostic imaging procedures, and they also deliver radiation treatments to patients with cancer and other illnesses. To learn more about the pros and cons of a career as a radiologist, just keep reading.

Pros of a Radiologist Career
Faster than average job growth (18% from 2012-2022)*
Good compensation (median annual salary of about $276,656)**
Job location flexibility*
Results-oriented nature of work***

Cons of a Radiologist Career
Extensive and very expensive educational requirements*
Potential for high amounts of stress***
Threat of exposure to disease or infections***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com, ***O Net Online.

Essential Career Information

Basic Duties

Along with the primary responsibilities of reviewing and interpreting the results of diagnostic imaging procedures, the work of a radiologist can involve taking patients' medical histories, providing counseling to radiologic patients and evaluating the risk factors of certain procedures. Working as a radiologist might also require you to administer radiation-based treatments to patients with cancer and other serious illnesses. Communicating with other physicians is another key responsibility of radiologists, since radiologists must make sure to relate accurate information regarding treatments and diagnoses.

You'll need to utilize the latest technology in your work as a radiologist, both in reviewing images and preparing reports of your findings. You might work with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems, computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET) or ultrasound technology. You'll also use the latest medical records systems to keep accurate and detailed information about your patients and their evaluations.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected above-average job growth for all physicians and surgeons, with overall employment expected to increase by 18% from 2012-2022. As of July 2015, PayScale.com reported a median annual salary of $276,656 for radiologists.

Requirements

Extensive and demanding educational requirements exist for becoming a radiologist. Typically, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree, then graduate from medical school and complete several years of on-the-job training. Internships and residency programs will likely provide you with the hands-on training that you'll need, and this specialized preparation may take 3-5 years. Licensure is also required to become a radiologist, and requirements vary by state. Candidates usually need to graduate from an accredited medical school, complete a residency and pass both written and practical exams to qualify for licensure. You'll also need to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) and earn certification through the American Board of Radiology (ABR).

To become a successful radiologist, you'll need to have good communication skills and a sharp eye for detail. You'll also need to be able to empathize with patients who are facing intensive treatments and difficult recoveries. A good amount of patience is required to work as a radiologist, especially when consulting with other physicians to determine a proper course of treatment.

What Are Employers Looking For?

If you meet the advanced educational and certification standards to become a radiologist, you might find work in a broad range of facilities across the country. Some job postings open as of November 2012 give an idea of the job market for radiologists.

  • A veteran's hospital in Des Moines, IA, looked for a licensed, board-certified radiologist to perform duties in general radiology, fluoroscopy, MRI and ultrasound. The position called for a pre-employment examination but had no experience requirements.
  • A diagnostic imaging company in New Castle, PA, sought a radiologist to work with MRI, CT, X-ray and mammography. All board-certified applicants would be considered for the position.
  • A private healthcare company looked for radiologists with 3-5 years of experience to fill positions in several locations. The position required some travel and called for full medical licensure and board certification. Proficiency in CT, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and MRI was preferred.

Standing Out in the Field

A good way to set yourself apart from other prospective radiologists is to make sure you're adept in working with the latest technologies. As more advanced digital X-ray and mammography devices become available, employers will look for candidates who are comfortable working with emerging technology. Many employers also require experience with a broad array of imaging techniques, so you'll benefit from having expertise in as many methods as possible. Keeping up to date with developments in electronic medical records systems can also help enhance your qualifications.

Alternate Career Options

Becoming a radiation therapist might be a good alternate career option if you're not interested in completing the extensive education required to become a radiologist. Radiation therapists administer radiation treatments and often work in cancer treatment centers. You can attain an entry-level position in radiation therapy with an associate's degree, and licensing is required in most states. The BLS reported a median annual salary of nearly $77,000 for radiation therapists as of May 2011, and overall employment was projected to increase by 20% from 2010-2020.

If you'd like to work on the technical side of diagnostic imaging, you might want to consider a career as a radiologic technologist. These careers involve preparing patients for imaging procedures as well as operating computerized equipment to take the images. Radiologic technologists are also responsible for maintaining and adjusting imaging equipment. An associate's degree is required for entry-level positions, and the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $55,000 for radiologic technicians and technologists as of May 2011. The BLS projected 28% job growth for radiologic technicians and technologists from 2010-2020.

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