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Study abroad : Subject Guides

How to become a radiologist

Use this guide to find out more about becoming a radiologist.

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You may already know that there are many different specialisms within the field of medicine. For example, you can choose to work in anesthesia, gynecology, phlebotomy, rheumatology, and so on. Or you might have an interest in working with a particular age group such as pediatrics. In this guide we’re going to look specifically at radiology as a branch of medicine and what this field of study involves.


What is radiology?

Radiologists are trained medical doctors with the specialist knowledge and skills needed to interpret medical images. This process is used to detect and diagnose disease using a variety of medical imaging techniques such as:

  • MRI – (magnetic resonance imaging) A scan using powerful magnetic fields, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and tissues.
  • Ultrasound – a medical test using high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of the body.
  • Mammograms – a breast x-ray used to look for signs of cancer.
  • CT scans – (computerized tomography) A specialised X-ray test.


Radiology is used for many purposes including the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, surgery, and obstetrics, to name a few. Radiologists also work closely with radiographers who perform the scans on patients while radiologists interpret the images.


Medical definitions

You might be wondering what all these terms actually mean. Use this list better understand the different specialisms.

Anesthesia – the use of medicines to prevent pain during medical procedures such as surgery. This can be general, regional, or local anesthesia.

Gynecology – the study of women’s health with a focus on the female reproductive system.

Phlebotomy – taking blood for testing, transfusions, or donating.

Rheumatology – the detection and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions. This can include muscle pain and arthritis.

Pediatric – the medical treatment of children and young people.

Obstetrics – the field of study concentrating on pregnancy.


What do you need to study to become a radiologist?

To qualify as a radiologist, you will first need to gain an accredited degree in medicine. This will generally take four to six years to complete, depending on your chosen study destination. For example, in the USA, medicine is only offered as a postgraduate course. So, in this case, you will need a relevant undergraduate degree (ideally in the sciences) before enrolling onto a medicine course. Whereas, in the UK, you can study medicine at undergraduate level.


After this, you will then need to complete a two-year foundation training programme where you will work on rotation as a junior doctor across different departments. Once you have finished this course you will then need to complete a specialty training programme in radiology which takes five years to complete.


For the first three years you will study general radiology which is followed by two years of special interest training. You can elect to do another year on top if you want to train in interventional radiology.


It is advised that radiology foundation students contact the radiology department at the hospital placement and ask to get involved in auditing or research.


Want to study medicine in the UK? Check out these institutions:


What are the entry requirements?

Medicine is a very popular degree subject and so the field is highly competitive. In the UK and Australia, you will be expected to have high grades at A-level or equivalent when applying for an undergraduate degree in medicine. In particular, you will need to have top grades in the sciences and maths (chemistry, biology, physics). Most universities will be looking for straight A students.


In the USA and Canada, where medicine is only offered at postgraduate level, you will most likely need a top grade in your pre-med undergraduate programme in order to be considered.


Take a moment to look at these universities offering medicine in the USA:


Of course, entry requirements differ according to each university so there will be some variation around specific entry requirements. We recommend checking the admissions criteria for each medical school you are interested in before applying for an undergraduate degree in medicine in either of these countries. You need to make sure that the subject you have chosen is accepted by medical schools.


You may also be required to take the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) in Canada or the USA. In Australia, the UK and Ireland (among other destinations) you may be asked to sit the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions test) if you wish to pursue medicine at postgraduate level.


Find out more admissions tests for university.


Other entry requirements for medical school:


Work experience will benefit your application at any stage of becoming a radiologist. For example, you may apply to work on a voluntary basis at your local hospital or GP surgery. This reflects your commitment to the field and your desire to work in this medical setting.


Check out these medical schools in Australia for more inspiration:


What do radiologists earn?

In the UK, specialist doctors can earn GBP 41,158-76,751 per year. As a consultant radiologist you can expect to earn anywhere between GBP 82,096- 110,683 per year with 10-19 years of experience (Graduate Prospects 2021).


During the foundation programme, trainees typically earn GBP 28,243-32,691 as a starting salary. You can also choose to work weekend and night shifts which you will be paid for accordingly.


In the USA, radiologists can earn USD 319,320 on average per year (Payscale 2021). In Canada, salaries for radiologist’s average at CAD 430,610 per year.


So, you can see that although training to become a radiologist takes time and dedication, salaries are high and if this field interests you, it can be an incredibly rewarding career.


That’s it for now on radiology but we have plenty of other articles and guides to help you find that perfect course and university.


Before you go, try out our new course matcher tool to find a programme, country and university all tailored to your needs.


Remember to also check out our international student news bulletin for all the latest updates.


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