Demand is up for radiology, but salaries are down 15%

Radiology is now the fourth most requested physician search assignment, according to a new report from Merritt Hawkins. The specialty’s average starting salary, however, is down 15 percent—dropping from $436,000 in 2017 to $371,000 in 2018. 

So why the drop? According to the Merritt Hawkins report, 2018 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, numerous specialties saw year-over-year declines in starting salary, a list that also includes orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology and urology.

“These declines may be one-year aberrations as they were preceded by increases in recent years,” the report read. “The market dynamics referenced above suggest that average salaries in these specialties are likely to increase in subsequent years.”

Radiology’s average starting salary in the Northeast was $375,000. That number was higher in the West ($388,000) Southwest ($390,000), Southeast ($400,000) and Midwest/Great Plains ($405,000).  

The report provides an in-depth look at radiology’s roller coaster-like journey over the years when it comes to demand. For instance, it was the most requested search assignment in 2003, but then plummeted out of the top 20 in 2012. It bounced back in 2016, however, and has climbed all the way back to No. 4. Only family medicine, psychiatry and internal medicine ranked higher among all physician search assignments.

“Renewed demand for radiologists was inevitable because imaging remains central to diagnostic and procedural work in today’s healthcare system, in which very little transpires without a picture,” the report read. “The importance of radiology is enhanced with each technological advance (including artificial intelligence) that makes imaging techniques more varied and effective. Combine this with improvements in the economy allowing for more elective procedures and the effect of population aging on utilization, and demand for radiologists was going to rise at some point.”