What is an Oncologist

An oncologist is a physician that inspects, diagnoses, and treats tumors. They use a variety of treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, to reduce or eliminate cancerous cells in the body. There are a number of sub-specialties within the field of oncology, related to the various parts of the body and differences in ages of patients. For more on how to become an oncologist, please visit our oncologist job description page.

Work Environment

Most oncologists work in clean, sterile environments, such as hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers. Some work in their own practice as well, often involving partner work with a local hospital.

Work for oncologists can be particularly stressful. Due to the nature of the condition being treated, it is often emotionally difficult for patients and families to receive a diagnosis. Treatment can be particularly painful, especially in the cases of surgical care or chemotherapy. Furthermore, while the field is developing better treatments, the incidence of mortality can be a challenging emotional stress.

Work Schedule

Most oncologists tend to work long hours, with plenty of overtime. This is primarily due to time spent in surgery and administering other treatments, working with patients in recovery, as well as a growing incidence of cancer coupled with a small number of oncologists. As mentioned, these hours can be long, and emotionally taxing. 

Oncologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for oncologists is quite favorable. While there is no data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics about oncologists specifically, the health care industry as a whole is growing faster than the average for all occupations. Further to this, an aging population will bring a higher incidence of cancer, as will increased pollution from various sources. Add to this the fact that the field, at present, is relatively small, and the field will likely grow by more than 20% between 2012 and 2022.

What Affects Oncologist Salary

Average oncologist salary in the US runs between $100,000 and $250,000, depending on a number of factors. Overall, the mean is approximately $215,650, with some potential minor variances.

Oncologist salary is affected heavily by geographic location and experience. Specialization is another factor, with a wide variety of potential areas for oncologists to specialize in. Education can also have an influence, however regardless of the education received, most oncologists start their career with a very healthy salary.

Education and Specialization 

As mentioned, education has a minor role to play in oncologist salary. All oncologists are required to complete a medical doctorate degree, and a two to four year residency program. The length of the residency, and the prestige of the hospital or clinic in which it occurs, can help later wages, however any differences will be mitigated by the skill of the doctor themselves.

Specialization is an area of particular note. There are number of areas of specialty in oncology, including gynecological oncology (relating to cancer of the female reproductive system), radiation oncology (treatment of cancer through radiation), and pediatric oncology (relating to cancer in children). Unfortunately, data on the differences in salaries that these specialization bring is unavailable, however it is worth noting that any specialized oncologist will earn a higher salary than a general oncologist.

Experience and Position 

Experience is an area of great oncologist salary gains. More time worked leads to higher wages, as the knowledge and expertise gained in the field will make one a more desirable physician for patients to seek.

Further to this, with greater experience comes a greater likelihood of being offered a more senior position. Heading a department, or a position as a university lecturer, will bring commensurate salary increases. 


Generally speaking, the most lucrative industry is working in one’s own private practice. General medical and surgical hospitals have average salaries around $140,060, and working for the Federal Executive Branch has an average wage of $187,560. Working in a private office, however, will result in a wage exceeding $200,000 per annum. 


With oncologist salary at the state level ranging from $133,000 to more than $230,000, it is certainly a topic that bears consideration. Mississippi has the highest average salary, the aforementioned $236,470. It is closely followed by Minnesota, at $235,730, and Maine offers $235,620.

On the Metropolitan level, Wausau, Wisconsin tops the scale, offering $251,020. The next highest, in Texas, is nearly equal, and Madera-Chowchilla, CA, comes in at $247,840.