Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take math and science classes. Biology, anatomy, chemistry, and physics classes will be particularly useful. Computer classes are essential because radiologists use various software programs in their daily work. English classes will help you improve your communication skills, which you will need for interacting with patients and when working as part of a health care team. Also take photography classes, which will give you experience with taking and viewing images.

Postsecondary Training

Education for radiologists is extensive. They must have a medical degree and be licensed to practice medicine in the state in which they practice. They must have completed a bachelor's degree program, graduated from an accredited medical school, complete a medical residency, which may last up to four years, and pass the medical licensing examination. The bachelor's degree program is usually a premedical program. Courses include biology, physics, chemistry, math, as well as social sciences, English and humanities. Students must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) in their junior year; the MCAT is required for admission to medical school.

Medical school lasts for four years. Courses in the first two years focus on practical medical skills and cover such topics as biochemistry, cell structure, physiology, cardiovascular studies, and hematology. In the third and fourth years of medical school, students work in hospitals, health centers, and clinics, receiving close supervision by physicians and other experienced medical professionals. They work in clinical rotations in different medical specialties, such as radiology, surgery, and internal medicine.

After graduating from medical school, radiologists must then complete a four-year residency, which provides them with further practice and understanding of how to take scans and interpret images, and how to follow safety procedures. Some radiologists complete a voluntary fellowship training after completing their residency. Fellowships may be one to two years, and may be in subspecialties such as pediatric radiology or radiation oncology.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Radiologists must be licensed to practice medicine in the state in which they practice. To qualify for the licensing exam, radiologists must have graduated from an accredited medical school and complete residency training in their specialty. Medical doctors must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination to receive the M.D. designation; doctors of osteopathy must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examinations for the D.O. designation. Contact your state's medical board for details on licensing requirements.

Many radiologists are board certified by the American Board of Radiology or the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology. Certification demonstrates a high level of training and expertise in the field. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Extensive experience is required to start practicing as a radiologist. After completing medical school, radiologists must complete a four-year residency and then pass the medical licensing examination. Some go on after the residency to complete a one- to two-year fellowship, honing their practical skills in a subspecialty. Radiologists are knowledgeable about radiology technologies, medical conditions, and treatment options. They are able to examine images and identify diseases, injuries, and disorders. They are detail oriented, analytical thinkers who are able to clearly write their findings in reports. They also have good interpersonal skills and are able to communicate well with health care teams, referring physicians, patients, and their families. In small medical practices where radiologists have more interaction with patients, radiologists must be sensitive to patients who are anxious and afraid. Radiologists continue to learn throughout their careers. They must be knowledgeable about the most current radiology technologies, equipment, and medical practices. They take classes and attend educational events and conferences offered by medical organizations and industry associations.