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Last Updated: 04/03/15

Radiology Career Guide

Radiologists are physicians who are specially trained in using a variety of imaging methodologies in order to diagnose patients and come up with treatment plans and therapies. Some of the imaging methodologies radiologists are trained in include: x-ray, ionizing radiation, radionuclides, ultrasound, electromagnetic radiation. As a radiologist you can choose to specialize in diagnostic radiology or radiation oncology. Also, like most other physician specialties, you can choose to complete additional training to sub-specialize in one of the following: neuroradiology, nuclear radiology, pediatric radiology or vascular and interventional radiology.

Radiologists can work in hospitals, clinics, university medical centers, research institutions or private practices. Many radiologists also go on to open their own practices, which is where the highest salaries can be made. The majority of radiologists work anywhere from 30 to 55 hours a week, with a very small percentage working less than 30 hours a week or more than 60 hours per week. Your work hours can vary depending on what kind of facility you work in. For example in a hospital you might be able to work overnight shifts or you might spend a portion of your time on-call. In a clinic or private practice you can typically work normal business hours.

In a 2012 physician lifestyle survey conducted by Medscape, physicians from 26 different specialties were asked to score their happiness out side of work on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the happiest. Radiologists ranked their happiness with an average score of 3.99, which put them ninth among the specialties polled.

Radiology Training Requirements:

In order to become a radiologist you must first complete a four year medical school program. Then you will have to complete a rigorous five year residency training program in radiology. If you choose to sub-specialize you will need to complete an additional one or more years of training. Like any other physician, you will also have to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before you can legally practice. While it is not required to practice radiology, many radiologists also take the certification exam given by the American Board of Radiology or American Osteopathic Board of Radiology to become board certified.

Radiologist Salary:

According to a 2010 physician compensation survey published in Modern Healthcare the annual salary for radiologists ranged from $377,300 to $478,000. A more recent compensation survey published by Medscape in 2012 found that the mean salary for radiologists was $315,000, which is about 10% less than it was in 2010. The report also found that radiologists practicing in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. make the most, with an average salary of $345,000. Those practicing in the northwest made the least, with an average salary of $275,000.

Radiology Career Outlook:

The outlook for radiologists is very good and will continue to get even better in the foreseeable future. In fact, the Bureau of Labor statistics recently forecasted a 22% increase in the career growth for physicians and surgeons from now until 2018. Improvements to imaging techniques and the expansion of the healthcare industry will create even more demand for radiologists.