The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Radiologist
Radiologists, often know as radiologic technologists and technicians, are an important part of the medical world. With the need for the career expected to outgrow the number of individuals qualified to perform the task, those who have completed a legitimate education in radiology will have the best employment opportunities. This often involves the earning of a college level degree at the associate’s level or higher.
Even high school students who plan to go into radiology can have options. There are many vocational high schools that offer specialized diplomas in a variety of fields, including healthcare and radiology. Contacting your own high school counselor or district is one of the easiest ways to learn about all the options available to you. Even if there is no radiology high school diploma offered, students can still qualify for advanced placement credits that can help decrease time and money spent studying in a college, university, or vocational school.
Choosing a Radiology Degree
Once a high school diploma is earned, vocational or otherwise, the most common path to becoming a radiologist is a degree. This often includes an associate’s, or two year degree. However, there are bachelor’s degrees, or four year degrees, to choose from in radiology, along with many allied health and nursing options for those who may be interested in other areas or already be part of the healthcare workforce. Below are just some of the things to look for in a radiology school.
- Accreditation – Just about every employer in the field looks for a job candidate with an accredited degree. By definition accreditation is the official process which has approved a school and its programs, ensuring that students are being educated properly in exchange for tuition dollars.
- JRCERT – The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology is such an accrediting agency and approves programs in radiography, radiation therapy, magnetic resonance, and medical dosimetry. Simply click on Accredited Programs, to begin searching for degree by field, level, and even in your location.
- Financial Aid – Because paying for a radiology degree can be expensive, research what financial aid options a school has before enrolling. Common forms of financial aid include grants, scholarships, work for study, and student loans. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, and once accepted into a school, they are required to disclose how much financial aid you qualify for, which can help students choose between schools.
- Certification/License Option – Although there is no national license for radiologists, each state has its own requirements. Certifications are similar in that they may not be necessary, but certain employers can prefer one. If you need a license or would like to qualify for certification, check with the school to see if earning a degree meets eligibility requirements.
And the above are just some of what students should look for in a radiology school. Other factors such as locations, class size, transfer credits, schedule flexibility, career placement, etc. can all have varying levels of importance to each student. A good idea is to narrow down the field to a few schools, apply to them all, and see which you are accepted into and which offer the best deals before deciding which one to study in.
Building a Radiology Career
Once a radiology degree is earned or is in the process of being earned, there are more options for those looking to start or build a career, a few of which are listed below.
- License – Depending on which state you hope to become a radiologist in, there can be varying license requirements. This often involves completing an approved radiology education and the passing of a licensing exam. Click here to get links to each state and the medical board that regulates radiology licenses.
- Certification – This is a completely voluntary process to becoming a radiologist. One of the most common certifications is given through The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Many employers ask for certification, and it can even double as a license requirement for certain states.
- Continuing Education – Even if you are already a radiologist, technology is always advancing and those working in the field need to keep up. Continuing education can be both a voluntary process as well as a requirement by employers. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists is just one of the many providers of continuing education for radiologic technologists and technicians.
- Radiology Residency – Usually reserved for those interested in the more advanced practices of radiology, a residency is often a requirement for those looking to work in research, teaching, public service, and clinical care. However, with the dozens of programs available in radiology residency, there can be options for technicians who want to move up the ladder or have an impressive item on their resume.
And the above are just some of the options to pursue when pursuing a career as a radiologist. As with any job, experience is key when getting hired, promoted, negotiating pay increase, etc. For example, if your school offers a work for study program, be sure to take advantage of it to gain both valuable experience and decreased tuition. Many healthcare facilities will hire students in administrative or assistant positions which can also be a valuable source of experience. Those who are becoming radiologists and have some extra time on their hands can even search for volunteer opportunities in their area.
If you need a little radiology learning online, there are many options. Sumer’s Radiology Site is an excellent blog that has been discussing the topic since 2004 and includes news, tools, and more from Dr. Sumer Sethi. If looking for actual images and case studies, check out MedPix’s huge database with over 11,700 teaching file cases. Those who want to connect to others becoming a radiologist or who already are will enjoy Rad Rounds, an online community just for the radiology professional.
Top Radiology Schools
Below are some of the schools offering degrees in radiology. Many have options for contacting both over the web and phone where prospective students can learn all they need to know before applying.