Background image

Medical Education
Medical Student Education

Career Information: Interventional Radiology (IR)

Specialty:  Interventional Radiology (IR)
Completed by: Evan Lehrman, MD
Date completed: May 2016

  1. What can students do in the 1st and 2nd years to explore and/or prepare for this career?
  • Step 1 scores are important, particularly at top programs! Study hard!
  • Take the IR elective course (winter quarter)
  • Join the Interventional Radiology Interest Group (IRIG)
  • Join the Society of Interventional Radiology – there is a Resident/Fellow/Student section
  • Attend the annual SIR meeting – there is a scholarship for 1st and 2nd year medical students (deadline typically October)
  • Get involved in a research project early
  • Shadow an interventional radiologist in the angiographic suite
  1. What common variations exist in the length/content of residency programs for this career?
  • The training pathway algorithm is currently in flux
  • Previously, a career in IR was achieved by doing a 1 year internship, then a 4 year diagnostic radiology (DR) residency, then a 1 year IR fellowship
  • As of 2016, a direct pathway IR residency has been established
  • Once this change has been instituted, there will be 3 routes to a career in IR
    • Integrated IR residency
      • This option represents the direct pathway – NRMP match during 4th year of med school
      • 1 internship year, then 5 year residency (3 years of diagnostic imaging training followed by 2 years of procedural/clinical service training)
    • Independent IR residency
      • Similar to old training pathway – apply at end of diagnostic radiology residency
      • 1 internship year, 4 year DR residency, 2 year Independent IR residency
    • Early specialization in IR (ESIR)
      • Some programs will allow transfer from a diagnostic radiology residency into IR residency
      • Specific IR dominant curriculum in the fourth year of the DR residency
      • Shortens the Independent IR residency to 1 additional year instead of 2
  1. What common variations exist in this career after training?

There are many options for types of jobs for Interventional Radiologists. The main decision is between an academic job and private practice job. Academic jobs in IR are usually 100% IR based out a tertiary care hospital and involve components of teaching, research and institutional service. Private practice jobs are more variable in terms of the ratio of IR to DR. A typical private practice job might involve 2 or 3 days per week of performing IR procedures and 2 or 3 days per week of interpreting diagnostic scans.

  1. What is a typical workday for someone in this field?

The workday begins with rounding on patients that we are following or that had procedures the day before. Next, images and clinical information on patients that are scheduled to have procedures that day are reviewed. Procedures are performed in angiography suites, on the CT scanner or in an ultrasound room. Consults are fielded throughout the day. There is typically a mix of scheduled outpatient procedures and inpatient add-ons with emergent cases usually related to active bleeding.  

  1. What is the culture of this career?

IR is similar to surgical sub-specialties with a tilt toward diagnostic radiology imaging guidance. Work hours are typically longer compared to diagnostic radiology colleagues.

  1. How compatible is this career with raising a family? How is this different for men and women?

Raising a family is not a problem. Several faculty members in our section have young children. One potential issue to consider is radiation exposure to women that become pregnant.

  1. What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in this field?

IRs tend to be hard working, conscientious, thoughtful and need to have a grasp on every field in medicine. Creativity and innovation are essential as it is not unusual to come across a problem not seen before.

  1. How competitive are the residency programs in this field?

We expect the new integrated programs to be very competitive.

  1. How competitive is the job market after residency?

The job market for all types of radiologists has picked up in the last couple years after about 4 or 5 years of relative job scarcity.


  1. What programs have been popular among UCSF applicants, or how should applicants go about considering programs?

Since this is a new residency, we do not have data to answer this question yet.

  1. What resources (eg, websites, books, professional groups) would you recommend for students interested in learning more about this field?

Society of Interventional Radiology

  1. How important is each the following for admission to a competitive program (please indicate with “X”)?



Very important

Somewhat important

Not important


Extracurriculars/ volunteer work




Can be useful for discussion point during interviews

Research/ publications




This is the main way to really distinguish yourself from other applicants

Honors in third year




Surgery honors is most important















Doing an IR elective month where you want to match can either help or hurt you depending on how you represent yourself

Boards scores





Letters of rec




Choose carefully – a wishy washy letter can hurt you