May the Match Be Ever In Your Favor

May 7, 2015

A new radiology resident reflects on the Match.

The main residency match for radiology this year had 680 U.S. applicants and 1141 total applicants apply for 999 advanced radiology residency positions. Fifty-five out of 166 radiology residency programs went unfilled. Of the matched residents, only 67.2% were U.S. grads. This is the lowest number of applicants for radiology in the last 15 years.

When choosing a specialty, studies have shown that students take into account personal loan debt, length of training, potential salary of the specialty, and work hours. Traditionally, radiology has been favorable in these categories and regarded as a specialty with good life-work balance, one of the “ROAD” specialties. Radiology has a medium length of training of four years, and the average salary is $351,000, as reported by the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2015. So if the work is good and the pay is good, what’s the problem?

Throughout the application process, I have heard comments from other medical students such as: “It’ll be too hard to find a job in the future. The salary of radiologists is on the chopping block. Radiology is becoming a purely informatics field. Patient care is going to decrease and machines are going to take over. Radiology is losing turf.” These were mostly generalizations and speculations; however, they did seem to make a large impact in the minds of potential applicants, and were cited as reasons not to choose radiology.

Overall, factors related to the decrease in applicants to radiology residency include current job market stagnancy, decreased future job security, and the specialty’s projected future. Decreased imaging utilization and increased applications of teleradiology in the last few years have changed the game. In the Medscape survey, 49% of radiologists said they would choose medicine again, and 52% would choose radiology again. The factors that lead to decreased satisfaction by professionals in the field are most likely also related to decreased number of applicants. The recession and stagnant growth since the 2009 recession have made new jobs hard to find and the struggle for turf more prominent. If we consider that overall unemployment rates were high as of December 2012 and that relative attractiveness of the field lags behind market strength by approximately two years, it makes sense that the 2014-2015 cycle of the Match coincided with the nadir of applicant interest.

As a student who just recently went through the Match process, I believe that applicants are influenced by three main factors: exposure to the field through shadowing and research, influence from upper level role models, and the projected future of the field. Promoting our specialty to more medical students and increasing the student exposure to the field are good ways to dispel unfavorable stereotypes and gloomy doomsday predictions.

I think radiology is the future of medicine. It is with enthusiasm that I join the field in order to tackle rising challenges and protect our role as an important entity in the chain of patient care. I look forward to sharing my love for radiology with other medical students. Instead of being bogged down by pessimistic projections, I would like future applicants to see radiology as a promising specialty, full of potential. After all, the best way to predict the future is to help create it.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"34963","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","id":"media_crop_2068659763450","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3717","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

 

Year

Positions

U.S. applicants

Total applicants

Unfilled programs

% Filled, U.S. seniors

% Filled, total

% US grads of matched

2015

999

680

1141

55

58.0

86.3

67.2

2014

1008

803

1288

34

68.9

94.2

73.1

2013

979

865

1307

30

74.0

94.8

78.1

2012

976

875

1219

39

75.9

92.3

82.2

2011

980

940

1299

17

78.9

96.6

81.7

2010

949

1027

1431

2

84.2

99.6

84.5

2009

944

1117

1543

3

86.4

99.3

87.0

2008

928

954

1364

12

81.7

98.0

83.4

2007

902

844

1149

7

79.7

98.1

81.2

2006

882

787

1102

16

80.3

96.6

83.1

2005

884

757

1035

22

77.0

95.6

80.5

2004

855

874

1197

3

80.8

99.4

81.3

2003

843

967

1428

2

82.1

99.8

82.3

2002

788

938

1380

6

83.0

98.5

84.3

2001

738

999

1503

5

82.4

99.2

83.1