Demand in Radiology: Job Market Trends in 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the field of radiology was booming, and Staff Care reported a 235 percent increase in requests for locum radiologists over a five year period. But things changed in 2020 due to the emergency declarations and many hospitals and practices delaying non-urgent procedures. Even when schedules opened up, many patients were hesitant to come in for normal screenings.

Now, as the healthcare industry rebounds from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, radiologist jobs are once again plentiful, including specialty positions in mammography, interventional radiology and diagnostic radiology.

“Demand in radiology has picked up,” said Patrick Fort, senior principal consultant at Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company that specializes in locum tenens assignments for physicians and advanced practitioners. “There’s a backlog of patients who did not go in for their normal routine [healthcare] through COVID-19.”
 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in June 2021 that mammography screenings decreased 87 percent during April 2020 as compared to the previous five-year averages for that month, which has led to “delayed diagnoses and poor health consequences.”

Tracking demand in radiology

“Women did not get their annual screenings, which turns into diagnostics, which turns into procedures,” Fort said. “Our clients do not have the resources to meet that demand.” 

Group practices re-evaluated staffing during the pandemic, and some let part-time radiologists go or cut shifts, Fort said. Some radiologists retired early. 

These trends, combined with an established shortage of physicians, have led to more locum tenens radiologist jobs in regions across the country.

The permanent radiology jobs market also remains strong. The Merritt Hawkins
2021 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives reported that radiology remains one of the top five requested specialties from their healthcare clients, coming in third this year. Some radiologist jobs are offering healthy signing bonuses, with income for full-time positions averaging just over $400,000 in 2020-2021. 

“A lot of doctors who are looking for a change now have options,” Fort said.

Radiologists between permanent positions are likely to travel as a locum tenens, so they can check out different locations and practices without making a commitment. “Some of them work locums to find that right next job,” Fort said.

Others are simply looking for a temporary work solution and a change of perspective while they consider their long-term options. “Many are in transition from one job to another,” he added. “They may like to travel between positions.”

Another factor in the strong demand for radiologists is due to medical students opting to go into other fields, Fort said.  

Since many people put off elective procedures, the current demand for radiologists is especially strong in mammography and breast imaging, and in interventional radiology. More reimbursement is earned on procedures than on chest scans to assess for COVID-19 in the emergency department. With electives on hold during COVID-19, radiologists’ incomes declined. Locum tenens positions offer an opportunity to regain those earnings.

Thinking of a locum tenens radiologist job?

Locum tenens radiologists practice in hospitals, group practices and outpatient imaging centers. The bulk of locum radiology jobs are used to cover vacations or other short-term leaves of absence, while some assignments may last longer as a practice or hospital continues to search for a permanent physician. 

In addition to those who work as a locum between permanent jobs, many radiologists choose locum work after retiring from a full-time position. They like to keep their skills up but enjoy the freedom and flexibility to work when and how often they want.

Some locum radiologists accept part-time assignments on their days off from a permanent position. Other physicians will work locum tenens assignments full time, floating among a number of clients.  

“We can keep you as busy as you want,” Fort said.

The client determines the pay rate, but with the strong demand right now, locum radiologists can earn more than $200 per hour, depending on the skill set, location and the work performed.

Experience with PACS and voice recognition systems is expected for locum radiologists. Teleradiology opportunities also exist, with many clients using such services.

Staff Care’s team will help radiologists secure a medical license in the state where the locum opportunity is located, and assist with credentialing, housing and more. Licensure can take 8–10 weeks. States that participate in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) can streamline the licensure process.

With demand for radiologists high, now is a great time to try locum tenens and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the locum lifestyle.

Radiology Supply, Demand and Locum Tenens Staffing Trends – 2020 White Paper

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