For most of human history, healers have relied on observation and educated guesswork to diagnose illnesses. Those are still important skills, but modern physicians can call on a variety of more reliable diagnostic tools. One of those is radiology, the use of X-rays, magnetic fields and other technologies to provide images of living tissues within the body. Salaries in radiology are generous, for both doctors and technologists.
Radiologists are fully trained doctors who specialize in the use of radiologic technologies and interpreting the results. They primarily provide diagnostic support and consulting services to other doctors, rather than treating patients directly. A 2011 special issue of "Modern Healthcare" magazine, reviewing major physician salary surveys, reported average incomes ranging from $400,000 to $562,500 a year for radiologists. Interventional radiologists, who use medical imaging to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures using miniature instruments, tend to earn more than conventional radiologists. A 2012 survey by the American Medical Group Association reported a median salary of $459,186 a year for non-interventional radiologists, but $485,277 a year for interventional radiologists.
Although interpreting medical images is a radiologist's primary task, a variety of skilled technologists usually create those images. A 2010 salary survey performed by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, or ASRT, provided detailed salary figures for many technologists. General radiographers, or X-ray technologists, reported an average salary of $53,953 a year. Radiographers who specialized in mammograms averaged $60,263 per year, and CT scanning technologists earned an average of $60,586 a year. MRI technologists earned more, at $65,099 per year. Sonographers averaged $68,821 a year, while nuclear medicine technologists reported an average salary of $70,822 per year.
Some technologists use radiologic technology to perform diagnostic or therapeutic functions other than imaging. For example, bone densitometrists use X-rays to determine the density of patients' bones, an important test for osteoporosis and osteopenia. Their average salary was $56,521 per year, according to ASRT. Radiation therapists also work with X-rays, but apply them in carefully measured doses as a treatment for cancers and other diseases. Although they're part of the radiology lab, they work more with oncologists than radiologists. Radiation therapists responding to the ASRT study reported an average income of $79,125 per year.
Like other doctors, radiologists begin their careers with four years of undergraduate schooling, then spend four more in a medical or osteopathic college. After graduation, they spend one year in a general internship and four more in a radiological residency. Interventional radiologists and other specialists typically spend one more year in a specialized fellowship, learning more advanced skills. Radiologic technologists typically earn a two-year associate degree, beginning as radiographer, sonographer or nuclear medicine technologist. Through training, experience and professional certification, some specialize further in mammography, CT scanning or other technologies.
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Diagnostic Radiology
- Modern Healthcare: Par For Doc Pay? 2011 Special Issue
- Cejka Search: Physician Salaries Reported By the American Medical Group Association (AMGA)
- American Society of Radiologic Technologists: Radiologic Technologist Wage and Salary Survey 2010
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