Last updated January 26, 2021. 

Radiology is the medical specialty that diagnoses diseases and injuries through the use of medical imaging technology. Medical professionals who specialize in radiology are called radiologists. Radiologists may choose to specialize in either diagnostic radiology or interventional radiology. Diagnostic radiology focuses on detecting health issues through medical imaging, while interventional radiology uses these images to complete minimally invasive surgery.

No matter which route a radiologist pursues, they will need to be proficient in taking and reading x-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs, among other, more advanced imaging techniques. Many times, radiologists will need to draw conclusions from these images and share them with medical professionals in other areas. Collaboration is a crucial component for these healthcare professionals.

Do you like working on a team? Do you have an eye for detail? The specialty of radiology could be the perfect fit. Continue reading below to find out more about postgraduate education in this area and what to expect should you become a practicing radiologist.



To become a radiologist, a medical graduate must complete a four-year residency program. Getting into radiology residencies can be difficult as many programs are small and offer few seats. During the 2020 Main Residency Match, 123 first-year post-graduate radiology seats were offered—116 of which were filled. International medical graduates filled 34—just over 29%—of these seats.

According to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, there were 4,551 diagnostic radiology and 424 interventional radiology residents in the U.S during 2020. Of these populations, 683 diagnostic radiology and 22 interventional radiology residents obtained their medical education from schools located outside of the U.S. Right now, about 14% of radiology residents are IMGs.

Once individuals complete a radiology residency, they may choose to further specialize by pursuing and completing a fellowship. Most radiology subspecialty fellowships last between 1 and 2 years.

Diagnostic radiology subspecialties include hospice and palliative medicine, neurology, nuclear radiology, pain medicine, pediatric radiology, and vascular and interventional radiology. Interventional radiology subspecialties include hospice and palliative medicine, neuroradiology, pain medicine, and pediatric radiology.  For complete descriptions of each of these subspecialties, visit the American Board of Radiology’s website.

According to recent data, more and more radiologists are choosing to pursue subspecialty certifications. This is a positive for those in urban areas seeking specialized care—it may be a negative for those in rural areas where general radiologists are hard to come by.


Practicing as a Physician

At present, roughly 48,464 radiologists are practicing in the U.S. The number of radiology positions available each year is strikingly similar to the number of radiology residents graduating, meaning there is no shortage of radiologists just yet!

Between 2018 and 2019, the average radiologist made around $420,000. In just one year, the average salary for radiologists has increased by $7,000, taking it to a total of $427,000. This figure places radiology as the fifth highest-earning medical specialty, just below orthopedics, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, and cardiology. This may also explain why most radiologists feel they earn an appropriate amount for the job they do. This generous income comes at a price, however. The drawbacks of specializing in radiology include working long hours and filling out a significant amount of paperwork.

One thing to remember about radiology is that it is a tech-heavy job. Radiologists must be handy with technology and willing to learn as best practices within the specialty change frequently. The best radiologists share common characteristics—they are analytical, good communicators, and organized. Written reports are commonplace in radiology; for this reason, radiologists must hold their own when it comes to writing and editing.


Interested in a radiology clinical experience? AMO has you covered!

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