Job Market for Radiologists Very Strong, Yale Study Shows

The job market for radiologists, the physicians who interpret X-ray, ultrasound and other types of imaging tests, is stronger than ever, a Yale study shows.

The job market for radiologists, the physicians who interpret X-ray, ultrasound and other types of imaging tests, is stronger than ever, a Yale study shows.

“Radiology has continued to increase as a total percent of the health care economy with the introduction of newer, faster, better imaging technology,” said Howard Forman, M.D., vice chair of finance and administration in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at the Yale School of Medicine. “Despite decreased reimbursement for exams, there is a substantial increase in total volume, so there is a need to hire more radiologists.”

Forman said the study, published this month in the American Journal of Radiology, contradicts the conventional view that physicians’ salaries do not fluctuate with the economy.

“We found that radiologists’ salaries actually varied with the job market, decreasing when the job market got weak and increasing when the job market strengthened again,” he said. “Many economists have said that medicine is not a competitive market, but what we’re indicating here is that salaries do vary with supply and demand, just like other service industries.”

Forman and his co-researchers tracked the 13,701 radiology positions advertised in two professional journals – Radiology and the American Journal of Roentgenology – from January 1991 through December 1998. They looked at academic vs private practice, geographic region, and radiologic specialty.

The researchers found a dramatic decrease in jobs advertised after December 1991.

“During our study, the last peak was reached in December 1991 with 295 advertised positions,” Forman said. “The nadir was 37 advertised positions in July 1995.”

Since 1995, however, job prospects for radiologists have increased substantially and actually have surpassed peak hiring in 1991, he said.

The explanation is that although managed health care has resulted in lower reimbursements, there has been a significant increase in volume, particularly in tests such as vascular and interventional radiology, mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, computer tomography scans, and ultrasound.

The job market for radiologists is strongest in private practice and in areas of the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast. There is lesser demand in California, the Southwest and Northwest. “Our supposition is that managed care was increasingly present in Calfornia and the Southwest relative to the rest of the country,” Forman said. “The Midwest reflected demographic shifts of people and a relative lack of managed care there at the time.”

The advantage to planners, policy makers, medical students, and employers of tracking the help wanted index in medical specialties is that the index can be compiled monthly. Also, it is current, unlike surveys, which tend to be retrospective.

Forman said medical students, residents and physicians are eager for information about the job market as they select or change their specialties and subspecialties.

“There is this big vacuum in terms of guidance,” he said. “I have people asking me all the time for advice on the job market. This does not take away from wanting to do what is right for patients. This answers the question of where is the greatest need.”

Anne Covey, M.D., an Interventional Radiology Fellow at Yale School of Medicine, was the chief collaborator and co-author of the study. Also involved with the research were Daniel Kamin, M.D., a graduate of Yale School of Medicine and resident in the Department of Pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and Jonathan Sunshine, research director in the American College of Radiology Research Department in Reston, Va.

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