What Does a Veterinary Radiologist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Melissa Ling © The Balance 2019 

Veterinary radiologists are veterinarians with advanced training in the interpretation of diagnostic images. The primary duty of a radiologist in private practice is to evaluate medical diagnostic images to detect sites of injury or disease. Those acting as radiation oncologists utilize these scans to develop a course of treatment specifically for cancer patients.

Veterinary Radiologist Duties & Responsibilities

Being a veterinary radiologist requires expert skill with all forms of medical imaging, including:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scans
  • CT scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • Nuclear medicine scans
  • Radiographs
  • Diagnosis and treatment based on images

Radiologists write detailed case reports, oversee the activities of veterinary technicians or veterinarians who take the scans, use various software applications to interpret image results, and provide specialty consultations on cases that are referrals from general practitioners. Teleradiology—transmitting images via email or other networks—allows radiologists to consult on cases around the globe.

Veterinary Radiologist Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate out salary data for the individual veterinary specialties, but board-certified specialists can earn top dollar due to their extensive training.

  • Median Annual Salary: $90,420
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $159,320
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $53,980

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Education, Training, & Certification

Veterinary radiologists are veterinarians and must first be accepted into veterinary school so that they can complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree.

  • Certification: After successfully becoming a licensed practitioner, a vet can begin to fulfill the requirements that lead to board certification in the specialty field of radiology. A candidate must complete a one- to two-year internship and a multiyear residency in the field under the supervision of a board-certified radiologist. Residencies generally cover several clinical service areas, including small animal radiology, large animal radiology, MRI, nuclear medicine/computerized tomography (CT), small animal ultrasound, and large animal ultrasound. The board certification exam for radiology is administered by the American College of Veterinary Radiologists (ACVR). A vet who has passed this exam is granted diplomate status in the veterinary specialty of radiology or radiation oncology.
  • Continuing Education: Veterinary specialists must complete continuing education credits each year to maintain their board-certified status and to keep current with new techniques in the field. These credits usually are earned by attending lectures and participating in labs.

Veterinary Radiologist Skills & Competencies

Skill with medical imaging and reading images is the primary function of being a veterinary radiologist, but other skills are important as well.

  • Technology: Radiologists typically are supervising technicians who operate the machines used for imaging, so they must have expert-level knowledge of how to operate them.
  • Communication: Veterinary radiologists typically are part of a team. Whether they work in a veterinary clinic or a radiology clinic that contracts with multiple vets, they need to be able to discuss results and treatment options with other veterinarians.
  • Critical and analytical thinking: Animals cannot communicate on the same level as human patients, so often there is no more information to go on than what veterinary radiologists might see in images. In addition to diagnosing the problem, they have to consider how their actions are impacting the animal.
  • Problem-solving: Diagnoses are not always obvious and straightforward. Symptoms may be vague, so radiologists need to figure out from the information they have the best way to get images and the best way to use that information.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the entire veterinary profession to grow at a rate of approximately 19 percent over the decade ending 2026, nearly three times the 7 percent rate projected for all professions.

Work Environment

Veterinary radiologists often work in veterinary clinics, consulting with other veterinarians on staff. They might also work in laboratory settings or for zoos where research is being done and care for animals is necessary. Some professionals may work in veterinary radiological clinics that partner with multiple veterinary offices.

Work Schedule

Work generally takes place during standard business hours. Veterinary radiologists need to be available to consult with veterinarians about scans and images, many of which are taken during scheduled appointments.

How to Get the Job


Veterinary radiologists first must get their doctor of veterinary medicine degrees.


Before becoming certified as a radiologist, vets must complete an internship and a residency.


Study for and take the board certification exam.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Veterinary radiologists have skills that translate to other professions within veterinary medicine as well as other fields in medicine. Some of those professions, along with their median annual salaries, are:

  • Veterinarian Technologist and Technician: $33,400
  • Radiation Therapist: $80,570
  • Diagnostic Medical Technologist and Technician: $65,620

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017