How Do You Become a Radiologist?

According to College Board, becoming a radiologist requires math, technical and communication skills. Below explains the formal qualifications to become a board certified radiologist.

Pre-Med Coursework

High school or new college students should focus on pre-medical classes that will fulfill admission prerequisites. Advanced math and science courses will prepare students for med school. Most colleges require similar pre-medical curriculum requirements for radiology degrees. This will likely include math classes, such as calculus and trigonometry, and science classes, such as microbiology and organic chemistry. All programs will require students to take advanced physics, especially those related to radiation. Health science classes, such as anatomy and physiology, as well as communication classes, such as business composition, are recommended.

Undergraduate School

The official road to a career as a radiologist begins with a bachelor’s degree program. The goals of these programs are to develop competent medical imaging professionals and promote the skills needed to effectively practice in intense health care environments. The curriculum and teaching methods of radiology programs encourage students to develop the integrative and critical thinking skills needed to excel as a health care professional. Radiology students are expected to obtain the basic clinical competence needed for an entry-level medical imaging provider. Thus, they must demonstrate professionalism through consistent ethical behavior and clinical based decisions.

Med School

The admission process to medical schools are very competitive, so most radiologists simultaneously apply for two to three. The most highly sought after programs are affiliated with hospitals or medical universities. The four-year doctoral program for radiology students starts with two years of classroom instruction that is followed by clinical rotations during the third and fourth years. Radiology classroom subjects include genetics, medical law, biochemistry, microbiology and pharmacology. During the final two years of clinical rotations, students will be exposed to specialty areas such as surgery, pediatrics and internal medicine. Students may have opportunities to learn unique fields of radiologic science.

Residency Program

After graduating from med school, radiology doctors enter their field of medicine through a residency program. Radiologists typically spend their first year in an internship practicing general medicine. Afterwards, they spend four more years working and learning under the supervision of veteran radiologists. After the residency is complete, all medical doctors must pass the national licensing examination, but every state will have additional requirements. The American Board of Radiology mandates that all doctors pass their board exam within six years of completing residency. Once successful, the new physician will become a board-certified radiologist.


Besides maintaining board certification, many radiologists elect to obtain industry standard certifications or pursue specialized training. The American Board of Radiology (ABR) offers certification in the areas of diagnostic radiology, such as neuroradiology and pediatric radiology, as well as specializations in radiation oncology and palliative medicine. The diagnostic radiology (DR) accreditation is the standard certification that encompasses a wide range of diagnostic and image-guided therapeutic techniques, such as diagnostic ultrasounds, interventional procedures and magnetic resonance imaging. The medical physics (MP) specialty deals with the exclusive field of diagnostic and therapeutic medical physics.

The well-defined path to becoming a radiologist progresses through academic programs that lead to becoming a board certified professional.