Monday, June 4, 2012

Radiologist Salary Trends In 2012

Many factors play into the ultimate salary that a radiologist earns. As we have discussed before, location, changes to Medicare, and specialization such as interventional radiology can have a significant impact on a radiologist's compensation. No two radiologists will face the same situation. Still, it is instructive to look at the overall trend in radiologist salaries to see where the field as a whole is headed.

To this end, Medscape has put together its Radiologist Compensation Report for 2012 (login required) after surveying over 20,000 practicing physicians in the U.S.. And frankly, the news is not good. Overall, physicians report a decrease of 26% in overall income! 26%! The number seems excessive, but the first paragraph of the report shows the gritty truth:
In 2011, radiologists were the highest-compensated of all specialties surveyed, tied with Orthopedists. Respondents earned a mean income of $315,000 – about 10% less than in Medscape's 2011 survey. Fully one third of radiologists earned $400,000 or more, although this proportion was down from the 2011 survey. Almost one half (48%) earned from $300,000 to about $500,000. About 16% of radiologists earned $100,000 or less -- typically, those working part-time -- up slightly from 1 year ago.
While a 10% drop is better than a 26% drop, that is still a huge drop. If the average radiologist is earning $315,000 this year, that implies a loss of thirty five thousand dollars in just one year. In general, wages show price stickiness, meaning that while they may go up slowly, they rarely go down (this is why in general, people discuss inflation in the economy, but not deflation). For radiologist salaries to be worse than merely 'flat' but to have actually decreased by a large amount is a significant adverse trend. So, what can a radiologist do about this?

Move to a different area of the country
There is significant variation in radiologist salary levels across the U.S. Regionally, the highest compensated area (Great Lakes - $345,000) makes nearly 25% more than the lowest compensated area (Northwest - $275,000). Additionally, within a given area, a radiologist in an underserved area who owns his or her own practice can make significantly more than the average value for the region. As Medscape notes:
For the second year in a row, radiologists in the Great Lakes region (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) earned the most, at a mean income of $345,000; however, this represents a decrease since last year. The next-highest earners were physicians in the Southeast, who earned $340,000, followed by physicians in the South Central region, at $337,000. Radiologists in the Northwest earned the least, at $275,000. In the overall physician survey, physicians in the North Central region earned the most.
Clearly though, such a move must factor in one's own preference for an urban vs. rural environment, climate tolerance, and family situation.

Get more training
The statistics cited here are for all radiologists. However, there is significant variation between subspecialties within radiology. An interventional radiologist stands to make 10-20% more than a body imager on average. Also, in general, the more years of experience one has, the more compensation they will receive, especially if they stay in one practice setting and become a partner within the practice.

Why not move here? Your higher salary will cover it.

Change your practice setting
It is a well-known fact that private practice radiologists make significantly more than academic or outpatient center radiologists. While there are some offsetting benefits of being in a practice setting with lower compensation (such as more flexible scheduling, or more vacation), if a radiologist's salary is your main concern, this is an area where you can make a huge impact. Medscape gives you the hard data:
Radiologists in office-based, single-specialty group practices earned the most, with a mean income of $373,000; this value has declined since Medscape's 2011 survey. Radiologists employed by healthcare organizations came in second, at $332,000, followed by those in solo practice, at $331,000. Radiologists working for outpatient clinics and in academic settings earned considerably less.
Overall, while the trend for radiologists and their salaries is adverse in 2012, radiologists still are quite well compensated and can make changes to their careers to help protect their income.