By Stacey Ritzen, WCI Contributor
We can argue that all medical professionals are heroes. However, those in oncology—which involves the study, treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of cancer—deserve special recognition. While the altruistic nature of the profession may be attractive to some oncologists, they also deal with long and unpredictable hours and the stress involved with treating high-risk patients. They are also susceptible to burnout. It’s only natural that someone considering entering the oncology field may wonder what the financial compensation for that physician specialty looks like.
Fortunately, Medscape surveyed more than 13,000 physicians across more than 29 specialties for its annual 2022 report and compiled a Compensation Report for Oncologists to break down the stats. Oncologists shared information about their earnings, whether their salaries are on the rise, whether they feel fairly compensated, and other data to get a better understanding of how oncologists fare compared to other medical professionals.
If you’re in medical school thinking about choosing oncology as your medical specialty or even if you’re already in the field wondering how you compare to other oncologists, this data will surely prove to be valuable.
Oncologist Annual Salary
The good news is that oncologists continue to be in high demand. It was estimated by a study conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2007 that the need for physicians who treat cancer would increase by 48% by 2020, and that still holds true. Despite the long hours and stress, there are also other perks to the job, such as developing long-term patient relationships and knowing that you’re making a real difference in their lives. Many oncologists report satisfaction due to the variety of diseases they may diagnose and treat.
According to Medscape, the median salary for an oncologist rose to $411,000 in 2021, up from $403,000 from the previous year’s report.
“Compensation for most physicians is trending back up as the demand for physicians accelerates,” James Taylor, chief operating officer of AMN Healthcare's Leadership Solutions Division, told Medscape. “The market for physicians has done a complete 180 over just seven or eight months.”
Oncology fell just behind dermatology, radiology, and ophthalmology salary-wise—and just above anesthesiology, general surgery, and emergency medicine.
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Are Oncologist Salaries Rising?
Even with the high demand, Medscape found that the average income among oncologists rose just 2% from the 2021 report. That spike was also offset by inflation, which rose approximately 4.7% during this time frame.
In fact, oncology was nearly dead last in physician pay increases, with only critical care reporting a lower pay increase at 1%. Emergency medicine and diabetes and endocrinology tied at 5%. Rheumatology, psychiatry, and neurology clocked in at 4%, while public health and preventative medicine beat out oncology at 3%. For comparison's sake, otolaryngology salaries rose 13%.
Do Oncologists Feel Fairly Compensated?
Although oncologists only received a 2% increase in income, oncologists fared very well when it comes to feeling fairly compensated. Medscape found that 67% of oncologists are happy with their earnings—second only to those who work in public health and preventative medicine, who claimed an impressive 72% in earnings satisfaction.
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There are resources available when it comes to physician compensation other than Medscape—which, at $411,000, came in on the lower end of oncologist salaries. Other surveys conducted around the same time found that an oncologist's average salary ranged anywhere from $385,000-$528,732.
- MGMA: $528,732
- AAMC: $462,644 (this survey only includes academics)
- Doximity: $447,112
- Merritt Hawkins: $385,000
- AMGA: $462,644
If you want to make absolutely sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth, White Coat Investor’s recommended contract review firms will help you get the best deal.
Increasing Your Physician Income
One of the most important things that you can do to earn more for your work is to negotiate your pay and the terms of your contract. Many doctors wind up with bad contracts that leave them improperly compensated, facing high costs and non-compete agreements that restrict their future opportunities.
If you’re negotiating a new contract, The White Coat Investor has a list of vetted attorneys and law firms to work with to make sure you get a good deal.
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