Radiologists are doctors who specialize in using data from X-rays and other technology to diagnose and treat disease. Sometimes, these professionals administer therapeutic doses of radiation, as well. They are not the same as radiologic technicians or technologists, who are medical assistants who gather the images and other data the radiologist uses. As specialized doctors, radiologists can expect salaries that easily exceed six figures, even in entry-level positions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide data solely for radiologists, but it does have data for all specialized physicians, which includes radiologists. The BLS states that, based on 2008 data, the median salary for specialized physicians is approximately $340,000. A starting radiologist should expect a little less than this rate, as he doesn't have as much experience.
Another source, the Salary Wizard website, shows that starting radiologists -- those in the 10th percentile of earners -- make about $274,000 as of 2011. The same website indicates that all radiologists have an average salary of about $403,000, so starting radiologists make only about 68 percent of what most radiologists make. However, Salary Wizard asserts that radiologists in the top 90th percentile can earn approximately $504,000, meaning that a starting radiologist earns only 54 percent of what top industry earners get.
Radiologists may practice general radiology, but they also can specialize in specific areas, such as chest radiology. Radiologists who are trained in a subspecialty may earn 20 to 25 percent more than general radiologists in cities, says the Fayez website. Thus, entry-level radiologists may increase their initial earnings potential by getting more training.
Number of Procedures
A radiologist's earnings are determined in part by how many radiologic procedures he performs in a given year. The busier a radiologist is, the more he can earn, according to Fayez. However, quality of care is an issue. Because a radiologist has an ethical obligation to give each patient the best care possible, his caseload and subsequent earnings are not limitless.
Fayez indicates that starting radiologists may have the best prospects in rural areas, as these regions provide competitive salaries in order to attract qualified applicants away from cities. Additionally, the BLS indicates that the top five regions for physician compensation as of 2009 include Minnesota, Indiana, Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada. These states have wages of about $205,000 to $218,000, or at least 16 percent higher than the average for physicians in the "all other" category.
Academic Versus Clinical Radiologists
Radiologists typically work in hospitals and other medical facilities, but they sometimes opt to share their radiology knowledge to prepare future generations of workers. Academic radiologists make 20 to 50 percent less than clinical radiologists, according to Fayez.
The BLS indicates that medical fields that concentrate on the needs of the elderly will have the best growth, as more people are living longer and the population is increasing. Radiology is one of these fields. The BLS reports that physicians in the "all other" category saw wages rise by a full percent between 2008 and 2009. Additionally, the Job Employment Guide website reports that there is a shortage of radiologists. This has led employers to offer better salaries to entry-level workers to lure them away from competitors.
It is difficult to assess the true range for radiologists because so many sources misuse the term. For instance, the Radiology Technician website uses the terms radiology technician, radiology technologist and radiologist interchangeably despite the fact technicians and technologists are not doctors. If a source indicates a salary below $100,000, they probably are referring to a technician or technologist and not a radiologist.