The Job and What's Involved

A radiologist is a doctor who specialises in interpreting images of the body, such as x-rays and ultrasound scans. The images are used to diagnose diseases and to help other healthcare professionals decide which course of treatment to follow. Advances in technology mean that images of the body can be used early in the diagnostic process, and also to monitor treatment.

Many radiological images are obtained by radiographers, but radiologists supervise the more complex examinations and perform many of the investigations themselves. The work involves a substantial amount of contact with patients who may be suffering from a wide range of conditions.

Radiologists are usually also involved in the management of the radiology department.

Hours of work vary and may include evenings and weekends, to cover a 24-hour service. Radiologists work in hospitals and use a range of highly sophisticated equipment.

Once they begin specialist training, radiologists can earn a basic salary of between £29,000 and £44,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most radiologists are employed by the National Health Service (NHS). There are also opportunities in the Armed Forces and in private practice. Advances in technology mean that the demand for radiologists is increasing rapidly.

Education and Training

To become a radiologist, it is first necessary to study for a degree in medicine.

Medical degrees normally take five years, although there are accelerated courses available for graduate entrants.

All entrants to medical training need to take an undergraduate course leading to a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, usually referred to as a 'first MB'. The course normally lasts five years. Medical degree courses are offered by a number of medical schools throughout the UK. See the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website for the full list of courses at

Entry is highly competitive. Most candidates have three A levels/five H grades, with high grades, plus supporting GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent. Most university medical schools require A level/H grade chemistry, although some accept chemistry at AS level. Some medical schools also require A level/H grade biology.

For candidates without science A levels/H grades, a number of universities offer 'pre-medical courses' in sciences, lasting 30 weeks.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

After completing the medical degree, all doctors now undertake a two-year Foundation programme of general training. Towards the end of the Foundation programme doctors decide whether to train in radiology or another specialty.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A radiologist should:

  • Be a good team worker.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Be able to relate well to patients.
  • Have management skills.
  • Have technical expertise and possess manual dexterity.
  • Be interested in the care and well-being of people.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is a worldwide shortage of radiologists, so promotion prospects are excellent.

There may be opportunities to work overseas.

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Get Further Information

British Medical Association (BMA),
BMA House, Tavistock Square,
London WC1H 9JP
Tel: 020 7387 4499

General Medical Council (GMC),
Regent's Place, 350 Euston Road,
London NW1 3JN
Tel: 0845 357 3456

UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)

Working in the NHS:

England: NHS Careers. PO Box 2311,
Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655

Scotland: Careers and Opportunities in the NHS Scotland
Tel: 0845 601 4647

NHS Wales:

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