Doctors enjoy some of the highest earnings outside of corporate boardrooms, but getting to that income level requires a whole lot of hard work. Not only does it take well over a decade to become a doctor; the workload and working conditions can be grueling once you get there. Some specialties, such as radiology, are popular choices for medical school graduates because they show the potential for a more balanced lifestyle. That's based on better working conditions and more stable hours, among other things.
What Radiologists Do
If you want to be a radiologist, you're going to spend a lot of your time looking at screens and printouts. Radiologists are experts in medical imaging, the use of X-rays and other technologies to detect and diagnose medical conditions. You'll have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the major imaging technologies and understand how to get the best possible images of each area of the body. More important, you must also understand how to accurately interpret those images. Other doctors will rely on you to verify their diagnoses or suggest alternative diagnoses based on your skills and experience.
Radiology is one of the few branches of medicine that involves minimal direct contact with patients, so if you're an introvert, that's an immediate advantage. Hospital radiology labs and standalone radiology laboratories are clean, well-lighted and pleasant workplaces, and radiologic technologists do most of the actual imaging procedures. As the radiologist, you'll supervise the technologists, help them with especially complicated procedures and review the resulting images. Radiologists in clinics and private practice typically work office hours. Hospital radiologists mostly work days as well, with residents covering most of the night shifts and on-call time.
Radiology offers above-average incomes, even by doctors' high standards. A 2012 review of physician salary surveys by Modern Healthcare magazine reported average salaries for radiologists that ranged from $358,000 to $560,000 a year. Most employers offer other perks, such as paid time off for professional development or free malpractice insurance. In 2013, the medical staffing firm Jackson & Coker reported that those benefits averaged $86,743 a year for radiologists.
You're not going to become a radiologist overnight. You'll have to start with a four-year premedical degree, like any other aspiring doctor, then four years in medical or osteopathic college. After you graduate, you'll need to spend one year practicing in a general internship, then four more in a radiological residency. Then you'll be eligible for the Board of Radiology's certification exams. If you want to train in a subspecialty, such as neuroradiology or interventional radiology, that takes another year or more in a training fellowship. You'd also have to pass a second set of board exams in your specialty.
- Radiology Info: Diagnostic Radiology
- Radiology Info: Understanding Radiology
- American Medical Association Virtual Mentor: The Influence of Controllable Lifestyle on Medical Student Specialty Choice; Jack S. Resneck Jr., MD
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Defining and Responding to “Lifestyle” as a Factor in Medical Student Career Choice
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Diagnostic Radiology
- Modern Healthcare: Market Value (2012 Physician Salary Review)
- Jackson & Coker: 2013 Provider "Contribution To Operations" Percentage Calculator
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images