What does someone in interventional radiology (IR) do?
An interventional radiologist is actually quite different from the typical diagnostic radiologist. In IR, the focus is on performing procedures using imaging techniques rather than interpreting studies. An IR specialist can utilize a number of modalities, including ultrasound, CT, and fluoroscopy. Procedures can range from simple line placements to complex procedures involving delivery of therapeutics, long term implantable devices, or embolizations.
What is compensation like in interventional radiology?
Like most radiologists, IR specialists are well compensated. The numbers change from year to year due to radiologist salary trends, but if one presumes the average diagnostic radiologist's salary to be $350,000, then the average interventionalist will make roughly $50,000 more. Bear in mind that many factors impact this differential. First, location and years out of residency will have a significant impact on the actual salary. Second, your practice setting will also matter a great deal. In general, private practice interventionalists can expect to earn double academic interventionalists, but will also likely work more as well as parttake of more of the traditional diagnostic film reading. Even within private practice, one must consider whether the partners are compensated on equal terms or based on revenue generated. Still, compared to other surgical subspecialties, IR is very competitive with basically all of them, expect perhaps neurosurgery / spine surgery.
Is the salary differential worth it?
This is a difficult question to answer. First and foremost, you should pursue a field that you love. However, that's easier said than done. If you have an interest in vascular surgery vs. interventional radiology, or neuroradiology vs. interventional radiology, how does one decide? You should try talking to peers or others within the field, but at some point, compensation does become an issue. One must realize that IR is more demanding than other fields within radiology, and the compensation boost is not necessarily proportional to that difference. However, if it is a field that you find interesting, the incentive itself will not matter so much. The work will be rewarding and that in itself will make it worthwhile. And, hey, it's radiology: the salary will be adequate in any case.
What does the future hold for interventional radiology?
No one can predict the future. However, it seems a pretty safe assumption that IR will continue to compensate well. While this economy has made everyone more cautious, one of the benefits of a career in medicine is relatively good job and salary stability compared to other fields. While no one knows exactly what the future holds, it is hard to envision a future where IR is "outsourced" or compensation declines, especially as new technologies are developed which expand the span and scope of the field.