How Difficult Is a Radiology Residency?

April 25, 2024


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/24

Are you thinking of applying for a radiology residency? Here’s everything you need to know about radiology residency program difficulty.

If you’ve been considering a career in radiology, you may be wondering: how difficult is a radiology residency? All residencies provide a set of unique challenges, and none of them are easy. However, it could be argued that some residencies are easier than others.

Unfortunately, radiology is not an easy program by any standard. In fact, radiology residencies are notoriously challenging but not impossible! Here we’ll go over what makes radiology residencies challenging, radiology residency length, statistics, FAQs, and more. Let’s get started!

image of dots background

Radiology Match Statistics

According to the 2023 NRMP Residency Data Report, 143 of the 1,235 diagnostic radiology applicants were matched into PGY-1 positions. Radiology programs have a fill rate of 100%, which is indicative of their competitive nature. 

Number of DO Senior Applicants Positions Filled By DO Seniors Number of
MD Senior Applicants
Positions Filled By MD Seniors Total % of positions filled
199 28 765 90 100

Both DO and MD seniors can apply to radiology residencies and become radiologists. Although there are typically fewer DO applicants, they still make up a healthy portion of the positions filled.

Radiology Compared to Other Residencies

When it comes to choosing a residency, the more prepared you are for the challenges each specialty presents - the better! Here we’ll compare radiology residency programs to other residencies in terms of length, level of difficulty, salary, and competitiveness. 


In terms of length, radiology residency programs are not the shortest option nor the longest. Residency programs range from three to seven years, depending on the complexity of the specialty. Diagnostic radiology residency programs are typically five years in length, with some variation between programs. If you choose to sub-specialize through a fellowship program after your residency, your total training will take about seven years to complete. 

It takes 13 years to become a radiologist from the time you begin your bachelor’s degree. You can begin taking specific radiology courses in your third and fourth years of medical school.

Level of Difficulty 

Radiology residency is known for being especially challenging due to its high volume of reading materials. In fact, many radiology residents have reported experiencing burnout throughout their program. Although all residencies are physically and mentally challenging, radiology is often considered especially draining. 

A heavy amount of reading materials are given to radiology residents for after-work study, meaning that your daily and nightly routine will revolve around your program. To prepare for long hours, be sure to make time for sleep, keep yourself hydrated, and prepare meals ahead of time for your week. An emphasis on self-care is necessary to maintain a healthy work-life balance during your time in residency.


To make up for the heavy workload, radiology residents are quite well-paid compared to other residencies. While a typical starting wage for a PGY-1 resident is around $51,200, some radiology residents have reported making over $60,000 in their first years of radiology residency. 

As a senior radiologist, you can also expect an above-average salary. On average, radiologists in the U.S. make between $373,390 and $496,690 annually. Radiologist salary can vary depending on geography, certifications, work experience, and their individual workplace.


Compared to other residencies, radiology is slightly higher than averagely competitive. If we use fill rates to measure how competitive residencies are, radiology has a 100% fill rate. Radiology is considered especially competitive for first-choice applicants.

During residency, it may be challenging to stand out from other residents for fellowship opportunities due to the intense amount of work you’ll be expected to complete. Try your best to demonstrate your passion for your patients, and your ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Maintaining your own health should always be your top priority to make sure you are mentally and physically fit to care for your patients.

FAQs: Radiology Residency

Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions about the difficulty of radiology residencies. 

1. Is Radiology Residency a Good Choice? 

Radiology residency is a great choice if you are truly passionate about the specialty. Diagnostic radiology residency is challenging but worth the hard work in the end. A career in radiology can be lucrative and rewarding. 

2. How Long Is a Radiology Residency?

Radiology residencies are typically five years in length. 

3. Is Radiology a Good Choice for Older Applicants?

Radiology may not be the best choice for older applicants looking to practice medicine in the shortest amount of time. While some other residency programs can take as little as three years (ex: family medicine), radiology programs typically take around five years to complete. 

4. Is Radiology More Competitive Than Other Residencies?

Radiology is considered more competitive than the average residency program. The NRMP reports that the fill rate of radiology residency programs is 100%

5. What Is the Hardest Part of Radiology Residency?

Radiology residencies are considered particularly challenging due to the large amounts of reading materials. Residents are expected to keep up with their reading after long workdays in order to preserve work-time for their patients. 

6. Are Radiology Residents Well-Paid? 

Compared to other residents, radiology residents are quite well paid. Some radiologists report making over $60,000 annually throughout their residency programs, about $8,000 above the median U.S. average. 

Final Thoughts

Radiology residency is considerably challenging and competitive compared to other residencies. The heavy workload and long hours might deter some students from applying, but keep in mind that it will absolutely pay off. The U.S. is experiencing a shortage of radiologists, meaning plenty of top-tier jobs will be available to you after your residency.

Ultimately, you should only apply to a radiology residency if you are passionate about the field. A keen interest will help guide you through your program and motivate you on the hard days. The only person who can decide your residency program is you, so make sure to follow your intuition.

Good luck! 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like