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If you're attracted by a career in radiology, it's in your best interests to plan your education long in advance. First, you need to have a Bachelor's degree with a high GPA; second, you require a good score at a universal med examination (MCAT).

You have to fill in both these requirements before you get enrolled in a radiology program. Once you are granted enrollment, it takes many years of study and clinic work to actually become a practising radiologist.

How to Become a Radiologist

It should be noted that a radiologist is not the same as a radiology technician (RT). A radiology tech is basically an assistant of a radiology doctor who performs different imaging diagnostic procedures (X-ray imaging, MRI's, interventional radiation, etc.). They are not physicians and need only a Bachelor's degree and a certificate to start practising.

A diagnostic radiologist is an RT's supervisor who holds an M.D. degree or higher. They are the specialists who actually do the diagnosis based on the findings of the diagnostic procedures implemented by technologists. That's why it takes much more time and effort to become a radiologist than to become an RT.

While the profession is extremely rewarding in terms of the future salary, employment possibilities, and prestige, becoming a radiologist is a very complicated task. It takes tons of commitment, sense of purpose, and persistence just to get through.

Simply consider these facts:

  1. The average study period required to become a radiologist is from 7 to 8 years (4 of undergraduate studies and 3-4 more in a medical school);

  2. If you plan on post-graduate education to work in a contiguous business or purely scientific field, you can add 2-4 more years to the initial number;

  3. On top of that, there are 4 years of residency plus at least 1 year of radiologic practice or fellowship after that;

  4. All radiologists have to get a license at the end of their residency term. Licensing is an extensive test that is designed to examine candidate's all-round abilities. It is broken down into several separate parts to test candidate's knowledge of Anatomy, Physics, Technology, and other subjects;

  5. If you plan on further specialization (e.g. if you plan to become an interventional radiologist, nursing radiologist, or pediatric radiologist), expect 1-2 more years of fellowship in a specific field.

Here's a sequence of steps that shows what it takes to become a radiologist:

Bachelor's degree (3.6+ GPA) > MCAT (31+ score; every section above 9) > 3-4 years (M.D.) >

> 4 years of residency > Licensing test > 1-2 years of radiological practice or fellowship

It's not only the pure duration of the entire education that is so demanding. At all levels of your studies (starting from you bachelor's degree) you have to excel academically. E.g. one of the admission requirements to a radiology program is a GPA of 3.6 (or above).

It takes hundreds of hours of class work, lab research activities, and many more hours of clinical work and self-study at home to become a radiologist.

As far as informal requirements of the profession are concerned, it is certainly not for someone with low study and work efficiency. High exposure to stress both during the studies and the job is another factor you should consider.

Yet, there are also many formal prerequisites you should keep in mind long before you submit the documents needed for enrollment in a radiologist program. Let's have a look at some of the key points.

How to Get Admission to a Top Radiologist Program?

To get enrolled in a medical radiologist program there are several requirements that you have to fill in:

  1. Bachelor's degree with any major is required to apply for a radiological program. There are no strict rules as for the field of the degree, yet the track record shows that science and math undergrads are more likely to pass all formal admission steps. Students with such degrees have great problem-solving and critical thinking abilities - the key skills needed to succeed in the MCAT examination;

  2. Most schools require an average of 3.65 GPA from the candidates, which is already quite high. Many private universities that specialize in radiology demand GPA of as high as 3.7-3.9;

  3. MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a universal multiple choice test all candidates pursuing degrees in medicine have to pass. The test is divided in a number of parts and each radiologist school has separate score requirements for each of these parts.

Radiologist Technician (RT) Bachelor's Degree

As it was mentioned earlier, candidates are required to have a Bachelor's degree to get enrolled in a program. Undergrads with any majors are qualified, yet getting an RT bachelor can certainly be beneficial in many ways:

  • RT's and radiologists are not the same professions, but they have many similarities, too. Some of health- and technology-related subjects are nearly identical. This implies an RT education can be a good basis for more extensive future studies at a medical school;
  • Bachelor's RT education includes a big share of practical training at diagnostic facilities and practising physicians. Students often deal with real patients through that training and get invaluable, hands-on experience of what a real med environment is;
  • If you come to a radiology program as an RT Bachelor, you have the knowledge of imaging technology and know what working with a real patient is. You also have insider information on the healthcare industry as a whole.

RT Bachelor's degree gives you a combination of educational and practical knowledge that can be very useful during years at a medical school. While this certainly is not the only way to a radiological degree, it gives many benefits to a student during his medical studies as well as practical assignments.

Top Radiologist Schools

As usual, most of the top-rated schools that have radiologist M.D. programs are private colleges. First and foremost, this implies high tuition fees and a rigorous selection process for every candidate. The very few scholarships they offer each year are only available for candidates with exceptional academic and personal achievements. Here are 5 private universities with the nation's top-rated radiologist programs:

  1. Harvard Medical School (;
  2. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (;
  3. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (;
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center (;
  5. University of Chicago School of Medicine (

Tuitions fees at public universities can be quite high, too, especially for out-of-state students. Yet, some highly-rated medical schools have very low tuition fees compared to the rest (e.g. University of Massachusetts Medical School).

Top 5 public schools are:

  1. University of California San Francisco School of Medicine (;
  2. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas (;
  3. University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine (;
  4. University of Massachusetts Medical School (;
  5. University of Washington School of Medicine (

Once You Are Admitted

If you are successful during the selection process, you'll be granted admission to the program. It usually takes 3 to 4 years to become a radiologist depending on a selected program. Average tuition fees for all American radiology schools stand at around $28,000-$30,000. However, most top-rated schools, both private and public, have higher tuition fees.

The actual curriculum of a typical radiologist program is broken down into 2 key areas of studies: classroom studies and practical assignments.

Classroom. As with any other physicians, the study workload at a radiology program is massive and the topics covered are very broad. The first set of subjects includes radiology, biology, anatomy, physics, and so on. Other subjects are not directly linked with professional work but their importance proved to be equally significant. This set includes Math, Social Sciences, Medical Ethics, etc.

Clinical work. As far as the practical side of the studies is concerned, clinical rotations make up the biggest part of it. They usually come in 1-4 month blocks, during which students undergo practical training at real medical facilities. The assignments vary and cover different parts of healthcare practices. E.g. one assignment can be in intensive care, the second one - in pediatrics, and so on.

At the end of the studies there comes a 4-year residency program. It can be hospital residency, residency at a specialized radiologic center, or large private practice. Upon completion of the residency period, each candidate must sit for a special certification examination to finally become a radiologist.

The exam is carried out by the diagnostic radiology board and is subdivided into a written test and oral parts. Only candidates who are successful in the written multiple choice test are admitted to an oral examination. The oral phase is based on the cases. In this part a candidate is confronted with simulated clinical cases that he or she has to manage.

Post-Graduate Study

The majority of top schools that offer M.D. programs in radiology have other advanced programs as well. The exact set of post-graduate programs differs by school, but you can usually find J.D., MBA, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees within this scientific field.

Post-graduate education is not necessary to start practising. It is a very narrow field and should probably be considered by someone interested in a certain specialization within the diagnostic field. Possible specialization paths include scientific research, teaching activities, and marketing-related career.


As with any other physicians, it takes many years of study, months of clinic rotations, hundreds of tests, and several certifications to become a radiologist. While radiologist education is extremely lengthy, financial gains it offers are quite significant too. If you enjoy working with people and helping them, the financial stability such job provides coupled with its altruistic nature can certainly make you a happy camper.