Revealed: The truth behind Norway's 'high-earning' radiologists

2020 05 22 22 52 6329 2020 05 26 Parkar 20200522223240

I was mildly bemused last week to see that Norwegian radiologists were on the top of the list for highest-earning radiologists in Europe. I was wondering whether I was working in the wrong department. Yes, the number was given as "before taxes" -- fine, we have more or less 50% income tax. But even then, it was far off.

The researcher in me immediately dug into the information given in the article. I visited all the source websites mentioned, but I was none the wiser.

Dr. Anagha Parkar from Bergen, Norway. Image courtesy of ESR.Dr. Anagha Parkar from Bergen, Norway. Image courtesy of ESR.

The truth of the matter is that statistics about salaries are always problematic. A number never tells the whole truth, and this survey is thoroughly misleading.

In most countries, there are differences between government or state-run hospitals and private hospitals. Also, there are differences between working as an employee or being self-employed, so you never know who is earning what. Luckily Norway is very homogeneous, and this makes it easy to know about the wages for doctors.

So, to explain the Norwegian structure: There are around 40 hospitals in Norway. There are about 1,000 active radiologists in Norway, and most -- I would guess about 70%-75% -- work in hospitals. The rest are employed in one of two major groups providing radiological services outside of hospitals. We tend to call them radiologists working in private practice, even if they are employed. There are a couple of independent radiology practices as well, but these are very small, employing five to 10 radiologists.

Working as I do in a hospital, I have only heard rumors about the pay in private practice. I will explain more about this later in this article.

How salaries are made up

In hospitals, all doctors -- yes, all doctors -- have the same basic pay for a 40-hour week, where the working hours are meant to be between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. I have the same basic pay as our orthopedic surgeon and our cardiologist.

In addition, we all get the hours on duty or on-call pay, depending on how many hours out of those 40 hours we work after 5 p.m. and how often we are on-call during the nights and weekends. As an example, I am on call every sixth weekend, while my university hospital colleague works every 16th weekend. This could lead to varying wages, but in practice, it does not, as I choose to finish my day at 3 p.m. (sometimes 2 p.m.), while my colleague works till 4 p.m. Some radiologists, however, chose to work more hours, and their wages do increase substantially if they work around 50 hours per week on average (for a whole year).

As Dr. Audun Berstad, a board member of the Norwegian Society of Radiology, commented last week in the Forums section, our annual wages vary between 800,000 and 1.2 million Norwegian Krone (about 79,000 and 118,400 euros).

Most radiologists, especially the younger ones, choose to work as few hours as possible, which is normally 40 hours per week on average. I think, however, that radiologists' hourly rate might be the highest among doctors in Norway. But this is speculation, as I do not know how many hours we actually work in Norway, and we have so much overtime as well.

Can anyone earn 3 million Krone a year?

Now back to the rumor about radiologists in private practice.

I was told that there were some radiologists who earned more than 3 million Norwegian Krone (296,000 euros) a few years back, but that they worked from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. This seems plausible, but it is certainly not the norm. Maybe these were the only radiologists who answered the salary surveys, becoming the basis for this misleading result?

For all of you out there who thought Norway is great but now are disappointed that I have deflated salary figures, please do come here anyway. Wages are not everything, we have a great quality of life here, and Norway does need more radiologists.

Dr. Anagha Parkar is a radiologist at Haraldsplass Deaconess Hospital and the University of Bergen in Norway. She has been an active (and unpaid!) editorial advisory board member of since the launch of the site at ECR 2011.

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