Radiologists are physicians specializing in medical imaging techniques, such as reviewing and interpreting X-rays, as well as in administering radiation treatments to patients. To practice at a hospital, a radiologist must satisfy license requirements, both national and state, and be certified by the American Board of Radiology. Before a radiologist receives hospital privileges, the hospital’s credentialing committee will review the radiologist’s general background, including education, work history and references.
Before any physicians with a medical degree, including radiologists, can practice medicine in the U.S., they must pass the United States medical licensing examination. Both the National Board of Medical Examiners and the Federation of State Medical Boards sponsor the USMLE. Passing the USMLE gives the physician an initial license to practice medicine, before applying for a license from the medical board of a particular state. The USMLE includes three separate exams -- referred to as Steps 1, 2 and 3 -- taken over a period of years. Although each state has its own requirements, examinees generally must complete all three steps within seven years.
State Medical License
Each state has its own medical licensing board that sets the licensing requirements for physicians beyond passing the USMLE. Some states are stricter than others regarding how many times an applicant may take the tests. For example, California permits an applicant to pass Step 3 of the USMLE in four attempts. Texas only allows three attempts at any step of the exam. Florida and Tennessee have no limits. In general, states verify the applications for a state license to ensure the accuracy of the claimed medical education and training. They also complete a criminal background check, using the applicant's fingerprints and criminal record information disclosed on the application.
After meeting the general licensing requirements to practice medicine, a radiologist must demonstrate the specialized knowledge and skill needed to practice radiology by obtaining certification from the American Board of Radiology. Certification is available in one of three branches of radiology -- diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology or medical physics -- or in a subspecialty of diagnostic radiology, such as neuroradiology or pediatric radiology. An applicant must complete an initial qualifying exam and final oral exam to obtain initial certification. Maintaining certification requires meeting the periodic requirements of the ABR.
To practice at a hospital, a radiologist must apply for approval -- commonly referred to as “privileges” – from the hospital’s credentialing committee. The radiologist must submit a dossier of credentials to practice radiology, including proof of education, training, licensing and certification. Hospitals may require additional information. When approved, the hospital privileges given to the radiologist set the parameters for the radiologist's activity at the hospital, which may be the same or less than the scope of activity permitted under the radiologist's license.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- American College of Radiology: What Is a Radiologist?
- USMLE.org: United States Medical Licensing Examination
- Federation of State Medical Boards: State-Specific Requirements for Initial Medical Licensure
- American Board of Radiology: Initial Certification
- Codapedia: Earning Hospital Privileges -- The First Step in Medical Credentialing
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