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Medical Education
Medical Student Education

Career Information: Diagnostic Radiology

Specialty: Diagnostic Radiology
Completed by: Emily Webb, MD, and David Naeger, MD
Date completed/updated: June 2014

  1. What can students do in the 1st and 2nd years to explore and/or prepare for this career?
    • Step 1 scores are important! Study hard!
    • Get involved in a research project early
    • Join the Radiology Interest Group
    • Consider joining some professional radiology societies such as the RSNA, ARRS, or AUR
    • Shadow a radiologist in the reading room to get a feel for the specialty
  2. What common variations exist in the length/content of residency programs for this career?
    Categorical residency programs are almost universally 4 years and require a preceding internship. Some residency programs may offer research tracks or allow clinical focus in a specific subspecialty
  3. What common variations exist in this career after training?
    Trainees typically complete a fellowship after residency in a radiologic subspecialty of their choice. Fellowships last one to two years (most are one).  Examples include: cardiopulmonary, abdominal, neuro, pediatrics, nuclear medicine, interventional radiology, musculoskeletal. After fellowship, the three most common practice settings are: academics, private practice, or night hawk (remote reading from a centralized locale, which is less common than the other two).  Some people focus on only a small subfield of radiology, some remain generalists, and some focus on procedures. There are a variety of ways to practice depending on what niche you find most appealing.
  4. What is a typical work day for someone in this field?
    Typical work hours are 8am to 5pm. However, radiology services are offered 24 hours a day in many centers. Call schedules vary widely based on the type of practice environment one chooses.
  5. What is the culture of this career?
    Radiologists are often calm and relaxed, given the relatively controlled practice setting. Particularly in busier subfields and in many private practice settings, the work load does require a great deal of attention and intensity. Radiologists tend to be respectful towards one another, and there is an overall acknowledgement of the importance of a work life balance.
  6. How compatible is this career with raising a family? How is this different for men and women?
    A career in radiology is very compatible with raising a family. One benefit is that the job is essentially shift work, so hours are predictable and regular.
  7. What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in this field?
    Academic curiosity, problem solving ability, ability to focus when multiple distractions may be present
  8. How competitive are the residency programs in this field?
    Very competitive
  9. How competitive is the job market after residency?
    This is geographically dependent and can change dramatically every few years
  10. What programs have been popular among UCSF applicants, or how should applicants go about considering programs?
    There are a huge number and range of programs across the country. Come see us to discuss your best options when it is time to formulate an application list.
  11. What resources (eg, websites, books, professional groups) would you recommend for students interested in learning more about this field?
    AUR: (medical student forums are available, but take the information you read here with a grain of salt!)
  12. How important are each of the following for admission to a competitive program?

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Not Important


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Other: USMLE Step 1

Other: Radiology electives/interestx