How Do Oncologist Salaries Compare With Other Specialties?

Zosia Chustecka

April 24, 2019

Last year, oncologists' earnings were above the middle range for all physicians, according to the latest compensation report from Medscape.

Oncologists who took part in the salary survey reported earning an average of $359,000 in 2018, which is slightly down from earnings of $363,000l in 2017.

This 2018 salary puts oncologists at position 12 out of 29 specialties. At the very top were orthopedic specialists, earning $482,000, and at the bottom were public health and preventive medicine doctors, who earned less than half of that, at $209,000.

Between these two extremes, but still earning more than oncologists, were dermatologists, at $419,000; urologists, at $408,000; and general surgeons, at $362,000.

Earning less were neurologists, at $267,000; rheumatologists, at $259,000; and family medicine practitioners, at $231,000.

Happy to Be Oncologists

The Medscape Oncologist Compensation Report 2019 also found that just more than half (53%) of the oncologists who participated responded that they feel that they are fairly compensated, which puts them again in about the middle of all physicians (in position 14 of 29).

Surprisingly, for this question, the top specialists were those working in public health and preventive medicine, of whom 72% felt that they were fairly compensated, even though their salaries were the lowest amongt all specialties.

The survey results suggest that oncologists are happy to be oncologists. Of those surveyed, 83% said they would choose medicine again, and 90% said they would choose the specialty of oncology once again.

These data come from the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2019, which was based on 19,328 respondents across 30+ specialities. Physicians who completed the survey were entered into a sweepstakes for a $150 Amazon gift voucher.

Oncologists constituted 1% of the respondents (n = 193). Orthopedic specialists constituted 4%, pediatricians and internal medicine constituted 10% each, and family medicine practitioners accounted for 13% of all the respondents.

Frustrations and Rewards at Work

Oncologists who took part in the survey worked in office-based single-specialty group practices (29%), in hospitals (17%), in office-based multiple-specialty group practices (14%), in academia (14%), in healthcare organizations (12%), in outpatient clinics (8%), or in office-based solo practices (6%).

Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) were used more by oncologists than all the other specialties considered together — 61% of oncologists reported using an NP, and 40% used a PA (more than one response was permitted). These percentages were higher than reported by physicians overall, of whom 50% indicated using an NP and 36% reported using a PA.

The survey also posed the question, "What is the most challenging aspect of your job?"

Oncologists chose in first place the answer, "Having so many rules and regulations" (29%), followed by "Difficulties getting fair reimbursement" (20%) and "Having to work with electronic health record (EHR) systems" (16%).

In answer to the question, "What is the most rewarding part of your job?" oncologists responded, "Gratitude/relationships with patients" (38%), "Being very good at what I do/finding answers/diagnoses" (21%), and also "Knowing that I am making the world a better place" (19%).

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