Oncologists are the medical doctors who deal with the tumors and are among the best paid physicians. In the USA, the average oncologist salary is $248,000 per year, according to payscale.com. The best paid of these professionals are those with many years of experience and also those trained in many sub-specialties. In the United States, in 2016, the most experienced of these physicians earned over $450,000 per annum, while the annual wage for the entry level was around $100,000. So, it’s pretty easy to enjoy six-figure incomes in this field.
Oncologist Job Description
The oncologists are physicians specialized in diagnosing, treating and preventing the cancer. In other words, these professionals deal with the tumors in the body, which are also called neoplasms and represent new and abnormal growths of tissues caused by uncontrolled and progressive multiplications of cells.
These abnormal growths of tissues don’t have any useful physiological function. These tissues develop faster than the normal tissues. The tumors fall, in general, in two categories:
- benign – they aren’t dangerous for the health and they are non-cancerous, because they don’t spread to other parts of the body;
- malignant – they are dangerous and they are cancerous, as they invade the surrounding tissues and cause similar tumors to appear in other parts of the body.
These professionals treat the cases of cancer occurred in patients of all ages, from new-born babies to teenagers, adults and elderlies. However, some of these medical doctors – the pediatric oncologists – are specialized in dealing with the children affected by this terrible disease.
For discovering the diagnostic, they need to analyze the tissues that are affected. For this, they might send their patients to undergo some diagnostic tests. Some of these doctors use surgical procedures to treat their patients. Others, use radiation therapy for treatment. All the others, for treating, either prescribe medications or send their patients to undergo surgical operations or radiotherapy.
What Does an Oncologist Do?
When the people notice an abnormal bulge on a part of their body, they usually go to their GP (family doctor), who sends them to the cancer physician. The oncologist examines the affected part of the body and might even perform some tests or sends the patients to make some medical tests. Then, the cancer doctor analyzes the results of those tests and tries to establish whether it’s a benign tumor or not.
Other duties of this physician are: taking the medical history of the patients, talking to the patients and their families and explaining the situation, communicating with the other members of their teams (nurses, physician assistants, other physicians), doing the necessary paperwork (completing various forms, etc.), monitoring the patients during their treatments and even performing surgical procedures or radiotherapy on them, when they are trained in these fields (those asking themselves “how much does an oncologist make per year?” should know that every additional specialization increases the earnings of these practitioners).
How to Become an Oncologist
Since the cancer doctors are physicians specialized in dealing with the cancer, the path to becoming an oncologist is very similar to the one of becoming a medical doctor specialized in any field. To be more precise, in most countries, the candidate for this position has to:
- become a physician (medical doctor), and then
- specialize in oncology.
After that, optionally, he or she can:
- specialize in any sub-specialty of the oncology field and (or) also
- specialize in any other field.
In the United States of America, a person becomes a physician by completing the four years of an accredited medical school and earning a medical degree (M.D. or D.O.). As indicated on the website of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls.gov , the admission to the medical school is very competitive and demanding; the candidates must have completed at least four years of undergraduate education (in a college).
In the USA, a physician specializes in a certain specialty by completing a residency program, which usually includes an internship of one year. The residency programs in oncology last around three years. It’s important to know that, at least in the USA, there are actually three types of specialties about cancer:
- medical oncology – treats the cancer using pharmacotherapy, namely specific medications, like:
- cytotoxic chemotherapy
- hormonal therapy
- molecularly targeted therapy
- cancer immunotherapy;
- surgical oncology – uses surgery for treating tumors and various types of cancer (the salaries enjoyed in this field are higher than those in the medical specialty above);
- radiation oncology – uses radiotherapy for managing the tumors, especially the cancerous ones.
After having specialized in a certain type of oncology, the new oncologist can specialize in any sub-specialty of this field, or even in any other specialties. In the United States of America, the supplementary specialization in a sub-specialty is done by undertaking a fellowship in that sub-specialty. Some of the sub-specialties in the oncology field are:
- preventive oncology
- pediatric oncology
- geriatric oncology
- breast oncology
- bone oncology
- thoracic oncology.
In the USA, the specialization in any field is done by completing an accredited residency program in that field.
But, in order to become a successful “cancer doctor”, a person needs not only knowledge – theoretical and practical – and training (which are detailed in the next section of this article), but also a series of skills, such as:
- proficiency – these professionals must be very well prepared in their specialty (and sub-specialties) of practice;
- compassion – they should understand how the patients and their families feel, and they should behave and talk to them with a lot of care;
- good communication skills – they are essential especially when the doctor is self-employed (as it brings a big number of clients, which ensures a huge oncologist income);
- good problem-solving skills – they must identify the correct diagnostic, based on symptoms and results of medical tests;
- eagerness to learn; any physician – especially those dealing with tumors and cancer, which are so researched nowadays – must study continually in his or her specialty (specialties) of practice, in order to find out every new discovery in that (those) field(s).
Oncologist Education, Training and Certifications
As with any other physician, in the United States, the oncologist earns the theoretical knowledge that is necessary for practicing this profession mainly during:
- the undergraduate courses (at the college), when the future medical student ought to study the sciences that are related to medicine: biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics;
- the first two years at the medical school, when the medical student learns, in classrooms and laboratories, about: anatomy, pharmacology, biochemistry, psychology.
The practical knowledge, along with the necessary training, are acquired during:
- the first two years of medical school, when the medical student learns how to: examine patients, take the medical history, diagnose diseases and disorders;
- the last two years of medical school, when the medical students work directly with patients, in hospitals and clinics, under the supervision of experienced medical doctors;
- the residency program (which includes, sometimes, an internship), when the new physician works in hospitals or other healthcare settings and trains in the chosen specialty – oncology – being supervised by attending physicians (specialists in that field);
- the fellowship programs, when the new doctor trains in the chosen sub-specialty, under the direct supervision of other physicians who have experience in that sub-specialty; the most common fellowship program that these physicians complete is the hematology-oncology one, because the disorders of the blood are usually connected with the cancerous diseases.
After completing the residency program, as with any other physician in the USA, the cancer doctors must be licensed in the state where they practice and they also need to pass a standardized national licensure exam, as indicated on bls.gov. While the license is mandatory, the certification isn’t obligatory, but it allows to get a better job. For becoming board certified, the residency graduates must pass a certification exam in their specialty.
Pros and Cons of Being an Oncologist
The most important advantages of working as an oncologist are:
- satisfaction offered by patients’ gratitude when helping them to get rid of tumors or of this terrible disease that affects so many people nowadays;
- opportunity to work with some of the most effective medical equipment;
- huge income, as the cancer doctor salaries are among the highest enjoyed in any country.
The main downside of this occupation consists in having to explain to some patients and their families that their health situation is very bad and that science has no solution to their problems, yet – for persons with cancer in advanced stages.
Oncologist Job Growth
The job prospects for this occupation are very good, as cancer affects more and more people nowadays, due to the:
- stress of modern life;
- increased number of chemicals that people use and ingest;
- lack of physical activity;
- tobacco smoke.
Apart from the growing number of persons affected by this disease, the science continually searches for ways of treating all types of cancer. This research involves not only medical professionals, but also chemists, mathematicians, physicists, etc. More and more hospitals and clinics, public and private, are being equipped with high-tech appliances and sophisticated medical equipment for diagnosing and treating tumors. The health reforms in many countries include in the insurance programs more medical tests and treatments for various types of tumors and cancer.
All these facts show that the number of jobs in this profession will continue to grow, not only in 2017, but also in the next decades. They might also indicate that the oncologist wages will increase.
Oncologist Salary – How Much Do Oncologists Make?
The wages enjoyed by oncologists are among the highest in the healthcare system. They can earn six-figure wages after just a few years of practice, at least in the United States and especially in the private sector. But their salary doesn’t depend only on the level of experience, country where they work or sector of employment, but also on:
- the number and types of sub-specialties that they are trained in;
- the region of employment – those working in a non-metropolitan area may earn more than those who work in a metropolitan area; their average incomes differ even from one state or area to another;
- the number of hours that they work in a month; for example, some of them may work in the public sector (in a hospital, for example) and they can also practice several hours each day or each week in a private clinic or even in their own office – those who are self-employed; others may work full time or part time;
- the type of the healthcare setting where they work; sometimes, the salaries of these professionals differ when they work in a hospital, in a clinic or in the offices of physicians;
- the number and types of skills; it’s essential to have good communication skills, especially when self-employed; proficiency, good problem-solving skills, patience and compassion are also important and they can influence the earnings of these practitioners, mainly in the private sector.
Oncologist Salary in the USA
According to payscale.com, in the USA, the average oncologist salary is $248,000 per year, which is equivalent to a mean hourly income of approximately $119, considering a year of full-time work containing 2,080 hours of work. As indicated on the aforementioned website, the median wage of these specialists is, in the United States, $247,494 per annum, which means that half of the cancer doctors who work in the USA earn over $247,494/year and half earn under $247,494/year. The best paid 10% of this occupation take home more than $420,000 each year, while the lowest paid 10% earn at most $100,000 per year.
Compared to the mean wages of other physicians, the cancer doctors earn, in general:
- as much as the dermatologists (whose average annual salary is around $240,000);
- a little better than the cardiologists (who take home about $217,000/year on average);
- over three times better than the chiropractors (who enjoy around $70,000/yr. on avg.), whose education and training requirements are so little (only a postgraduate professionals degree).
The radiation oncologists – physicians specialized in treating the cancer with radiation – earn significantly more than the other cancer physicians: $330,000 per year on average, but lower than neurosurgeons (who are paid with $380,000/year on average) and orthopedic surgeons (who earn $360,000/year on average).
Oncologist Salary in the UK
In the United Kingdom, the average annual pay for the cancer doctors is somewhere in the region of £63,000 (about 77,000 USD), while their median wage is around £44,000 (54,000 USD) per annum.
Oncologist Salary in Canada
Those who wonder “how much does an oncologist make in Canada?” should know that, in this country, the average pay for this occupation ranged between 170,000 CAD and 190,000 CAD, in 2016; expressed in US dollars, this interval is: $127,000 ~ $142,000.
Oncologist Salary in Australia
In Australia, the doctors specialized in diagnosing and treating cancer earn, on average, somewhere around 163,000 AUD (124,000 USD) per year, which is equivalent to a mean monthly income of about 13,583 AUD (10,300 USD).
The cancer doctors are paid very well in all countries, especially in the United States of America, thanks to the huge importance of their job and also to the numerous and expensive years of study and practice that they must complete for earning the right to practice this profession. The salary of the oncologist increases when sub-specializing in other fields, having large experience, working in private sector or being self-employed.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Physicians and Surgeons,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm (visited March 06, 2017).