Choosing a Radiology Career: Private Practice vs. Academic

Both options offer pros and cons that require careful consideration

Heba Albasha, MD
Ivan DeQuesada, MD
Rend Al-Khalili, MD

This is the second article exploring how radiology trainees choose between careers in academia or private practice.  Read the second story.   

Early career radiologists face a decision: Should they pursue private practice or go the academic route? For many, it’s not an easy question to answer, noted Heba Albasha, MD, a breast imaging fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston and chair of the RSNA Resident and Fellows Committee.

“The decision of academic vs. private practice seems to be on every trainee’s mind from the moment they start residency,” she said. “It certainly was for me, and it continued to be on my mind as I journeyed through residency and determined what my own interests are.”

The benefits and drawbacks of different practice settings may look different from one radiologist to another, based on their interests and what they value in a job position, she said.

“It is more likely for a radiologist to be able to entirely focus on their subspecialty in an academic setting, while private practice jobs often require some amount of general reading,” Dr. Albasha said. “Generally, private practice jobs are busier and faster paced than academic jobs, and private practice positions may have higher compensation and benefits.”

However, it is important to keep in mind that these are generalizations, and residents should evaluate a position based on their personal interests and needs, she said, noting that support and guidance from mentors can be crucial.


"I am extremely grateful to the wonderful mentors I have, both within and outside of my specialty,” she said. “They have been invaluable in helping me realize my needs and wants, which has ultimately helped me make my decision. At this time in my career, I have chosen to enter private practice with a great group that values delivering quality patient care, which is at the core of my responsibilities. The wonderful thing is, though I will be in private practice, I will continue to engage in organized radiology to fulfill my academic interests."
line of residents generic

“If it turns out you made the wrong decision, you can switch paths. The job market is really great for radiologists right now. There are needs in both academics and private practice. This works in favor of the applicant, as you can likely find a job that suits your needs in either sector.”


The Advantages of Choosing Private Practice Radiology

Ivan DeQuesada, MD, completed a radiology residency and neuroradiology fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta in 2016. He then joined Radiology Associates of North Texas, P.A., a large private radiology practice in Fort Worth, TX.

In Dr. DeQuesada’s experience, geography is the number one factor that determines where a radiologist will accept a position.

“Proximity to friends and family is very important,” he said. “But given the increasing use of remote coverage, geography is becoming less of a limitation and instead radiologists are able to focus more on the other determinants of practice, such as subspecialty, shift hours, etc.” 

Choosing a career pathway is a trade-off, Dr. DeQuesada said.

“Entering private practice was a relatively easy decision for me because it offered a lot of the career opportunities I valued the most,” he said. “I wanted the freedom to pursue many non-clinical skills in medicine such as practice development, leadership, and entrepreneurship. I also desired the ability to have a varied practice including both my subspecialty and general radiology.”

Because Dr. DeQuesada isn’t required to devote time to doing research or training residents or fellows, he is able to use his non-clinical time to pursue other professional interests that benefit the practice.

“I enjoy the unique challenges of running the business side of the practice,” he said. “I think there are also fewer barriers to projects that might involve cost or require support staff.”

Why Choose an Academic Radiology Career?

For Rend Al-Khalili, MD, pursuing an academic career was a natural choice.

“I always knew I wanted to be an academic radiologist,” said Dr. Al-Khalili, an assistant professor of radiology in the Division of Breast Imaging at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.

“There are opportunities to teach and mentor students and trainees, contribute to research, participate in developing new technologies and provide state-of-the-art clinical practice,” she said. “For me, a known disadvantage for private practice radiologists is the higher volume of studies and longer work hours compared to that of academics.”

No matter how much thought an early career radiologist gives their decision about pursuing a private practice vs. academic setting, they will likely find there is no substitute for real-life experience.

“One might not know what kind of practice setting they would fit into until they start their first job,” Dr. Al-Khalili said.    

If you decide you made the wrong choice for you, changing paths is an option, Dr. Albasha added.

“If it turns out you made the wrong decision, you can switch paths,” she said. “The job market is really great for radiologists right now. There are needs in both academic and private practice. This works in favor of the applicant, as you can likely find a job that suits your needs in either sector.”

For More Information

Access career and professionalism resources from RSNA

Read previous RSNA News articles about trainees: