What is an oncologist?
This is a physician who specializes in the treatment of any type of cancer. When they receive their license to practice as an oncologist they will have full training in the different types of cancer and what is the best treatment for each one. Some oncologists will specialize in one particular type of cancer. They will be trained to know just what to look for in regards to the symptoms of every type of cancer, what test that must be done to make the correct diagnosis and what is the best treatment plan that will have the best outcome. With the number of different cancer cases on the rise the demand and need for qualified oncologist are increasing also. This is a medical field in which there are many job openings not only for oncologists but others in the field of dealing with different types of cancer like surgical oncologists and pediatric oncologists. According to studies done world-wide from 2007-2030 the number of cancer cases will rise 45% which breaks down to 7.9 million-11.5 million dying from this horrible disease.
Job description of an oncologist
One of the key things that an oncologist will do is to supervise an oncology medical unit. This unit will make sure that the patients that are admitted to the hospital will get the best medical care they possibly can. The oncologist will also participate in ensuring the supervision of the medical staff in their oncology department. They must also show clinical leadership and when dealing with cases of cancer it will be a team approach. Another important part of their job will be to work with the Head of Department in general medicine to plan and make sure that the patient is receiving the best possible option in their treatment.
An oncologist will also have to supervise the practice and training of trainee medical officers and students that are assigned to them. When working in acute oncology medical emergencies they must ensure that the level of competence is high. To do this the oncologist must participate in continuing medical education.
An oncologist must have impeccable bedside manners for their patients in the hospital and be sensitive to what they need. This also applies to the patients that they see in their office. The oncologist must also know how to explain what the best treatment plan would be to both the patient and their family in words that they understand and not in medical jargon that involves words and phrases they probably do not know. If they are having trouble understanding what the oncologist is saying the oncologist must have the patience and understanding to explain it again without getting upset about doing so. If there is bad news then the oncologist needs to be able to deliver the news as gently as possible to both the patient and family and be prepared to answer questions about the news such as how long they have to live, is there any treatment at all, etc.
An oncologist will use a variety of treatments for the cancer that the patient has such as hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. They will also know which diagnostic tests need to be run like biopsy, x-rays, MRI, or CT scan to see what the level and stage of the progression of the tumor or cancerous growth. They are a member of a medical team and often work in conjunction with other nurses, lab technicians, orderlies, and doctors to treat a patient. Oncologists can work in different areas of specialization like pediatric oncology, gynecological oncology, radiation oncology, or surgical oncology.
How to become an oncologist?
Before you can apply to medical school you have to complete a bachelor’s degree program which takes 4 years. When getting their bachelor’s degree they should include course work in the chemical and biological sciences, which is the first step in becoming a practicing oncologist. Once you have gotten your bachelor’s degree you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test with a great passing grade. Medical school will also take 4 years to complete in which the student will do lab work, supervised hospital or clinical rotations, and classroom studies. When they graduate from medical school the student must complete a year of general medical training before they can apply for an internal medicine residency program that will also take 2-4 years.
During the first couple of years of their residency program they will complete clinical rotations and the last part will explore oncology sub-specialties and focus on research. They will study malignancy and carcinogens in the cells, organs, blood, and tissues along with examining the physiology and anatomy of cancer cells and the genetics of cancers. Once they complete their residency in internal medicine they will complete a fellowship in oncology. Most of these fellowship programs are joint programs in oncology and hematology in which they can choose to become certified in oncology, hematology, or both of them. It will usually take 2-3 years to complete this fellowship program.
One important thing to know is that most of these fellowship programs only admit 6 students each year so it is important to finish at the top of their medical school class and do well in their residency program to even be considered for the fellowship program. In the fellowship the oncology portion is divided into clinical sub-disciplines. These can include chemotherapy, palliative care, surgical oncology, and radiation oncology.
In the fellowship program rather than take classes the formal education you receive is based on conferences or seminars. They will also get hands-on experience through clinical rotations that are supervised. Some of the conference topics may include bladder cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, high and low grade lymphoma, prostate cancer, and more. To be certified the students must pass an exam from the American Board of Internal Medicine. Once they become certified oncologists can further specialize in surgical oncology or radiation oncology.
Work environment and schedule
Oncologists can work in hospitals, clinics, research centers, cancer centers, private practice or as a member of a group practice. Most of the environments they work in are sterile and clean. Their patients will mostly be referrals from their primary care physician. Before the patient comes to their first appointment the oncologist will look over the patients chart and see if there is any blood work or diagnostic tests done. When the patient comes for their appointment the oncologist will take their medical history, ask them about any symptoms they may have, and do a complete physical exam. If necessary the oncologist will order blood tests and diagnostic tests like MRI’s, CT scans, ultrasounds, etc that will be need to be done to find out what the problem is.
Once they have all the tests results back the oncologist will look everything over and have the patient come back for a follow up visit to get the results of the tests. After explaining what the test results to the patient and their family the oncologist will have a plan of treatment.
Depending on what type of cancer it is, how large it is, what stage it is in, etc will help with making a treatment plan. Some ways to treat cancer is to use radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery to remove the cancerous cells if possible. Oncologist can work long hours, as many as 60 hours. Because they treat cancer it is not likely for them to be on call but if they have a cancer patient in the hospital there is a chance they may get a call in the middle of the night or on the weekend if the patient takes a turn for the worse or have any other problems.
An oncologist needs to have steady hands when doing surgery, needs to have good communication skills with the patients and their family, nurses and other doctors that they may have contact with. One of the hardest things that an oncologist will have to do is tell the patient or their family that the cancer is malignant and there is nothing they can do. An oncologist must also make sure that they are keeping the patient’s chart up to date and secure. The oncologist will also need to take continuing educational courses, attend seminars and conferences to be able to keep up with any new medical breakthroughs and new technology.
If they are doing research they may work an odd schedule with no set hours. Some of the daily things an oncologist may do can include:
- Doing physical assessments to find the cancerous cells
- Develop treatment plans for their patients
- Do prostate exams and mammograms to help find cancers, if there are any, in the early stages because this is when they are most curable and treatable.
- Provide support for cancer patients and their families.
Working as an oncologist can be particularly stressful at time. Because they work many hours oncologist can have plenty of overtime. This is due to the time that that they spend in surgery because some of the surgeries can take many hours to complete and working with patients in recovery.
Pros and cons of being an Oncologist
The greatest pro ever in this job is to help those people who struggle between life and death, helping patients who have cancer, are the advantages and disadvantage job at the same time. If you love helping patients, then this is the perfect choice for a career as an oncologist. You’ll be there to assist them throughout this hard times and the seeing that they finally overcome that disease with your help is the greatest achievement that one oncologist can wish.
Fighting with cancer is not an easy thing to do so oncologists have to be realistic and give the right percentage of chances to each of their patients. Your part is to inform them about the diseases and how they can act upon it so you’ll need to have the right amount of knowledge to be able to guide those in need.
You really need to be good since people actually rely on you and need your involvement in their lives and your huge amount of support and attention. With this you’ll be linked much with your job and the patients, so you’ll need great communicational skills.
The cons, which gather up, are linked with the education that can be very costly and expensive. In other words, the tuition costs are very high, and you’ll probably have to pay up the loan that you made during your education before you can actually start gaining a full salary.
Another is linked with the job itself, when you’ll have to be a constant part of a patient life and at one point he or she will not make it. For this you have to be really strong and mentally set to be able to handle this cases as well. The stress factor is also high in the line especially since you get involve all the way up into your patients’ lives.
Studying some genes can take you many years until you’ll finally understand the part that those play in the cancer and for many people that are confronting with various type of cancer that might be too late.
Oncologist Job Growth
According to some of the reports, the job growth that is projected across the United States has a percentage that for the next ten years or so is estimated somewhere at 17% or a little bit higher. The healthcare environment will constantly renew this always leading towards an adaptation from these professional and many other specialists that are working in this particular field.
The job growth for oncologists will also be impacted by the factors reminded earlier and by the health insurance exchanges. Since this job is seen to be very important in the treating of many tumors such as cancerous tumors, bone tumors, or brain tumors and many other linked with the field of oncology, the number of cases that are counted have a huge impact when it comes to the job opportunities.
There is a huge demand when it comes to cancer doctors, but the hospital system is also increasing the utilization of other specialties such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners, this leading to the fact that the oncologists may not be required to meet the total demand. However, the field of oncology can be seen as a very satisfactory career field.
What an oncologist makes in the United States depends on many different factors like their work setting, how much experience they have, the geographical location, age of the oncologist, and type of facility they are working in. It pays so well that it is one of the most sought after medical jobs in the United States. On average a yearly salary for an oncologist can range from $56,000-$220,0 00. Working as an oncologist you will be making a high salary. The two states with the highest average yearly salary would be Minnesota at $235,724 followed by Mississippi at $230,000. There are places like Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Florida where an oncologist who have many years of experience can have more than $200,000 average yearly salary.
In addition to the lucrative salary there is also the benefit package which can include health insurance, life insurance, malpractice insurance, social security, pension, 401K, and so much more. What is actually included in the benefit package would depend on where you are working as each company, hospital, research center, etc can offer different benefits. Another factor that can weigh in on what your salary would be your educational qualifications. If you have specialized in any areas of oncology this can also be a factor in getting a higher salary.
The average yearly oncologist salary may not be that high but over the first 5-10 years of working in this field they can see their salary increasing steeply. Any years worked after 10 years does not have a great influence on the average yearly salary.
Salary of an oncologist in 2015
Speaking about a salary, an oncologist has a very good wage and in the US, the average annual salary is estimated to range between $56,023 up to $223,000 per year. This salary will vary according to specific factors such as the working place and the experience that one has gathered across the years. Other factors are the facility and the setting in which one of these professionals is working, the geographical location and the state in which one is working.
The highest payment for an oncologist salary is estimated to reach $685,010 per year. For the year 2015 the average annual salary is still influenced based on the same factors that were mentioned earlier, the work experience is a strong point in influencing an oncologist salary.
Those that have one or two years in this field and have gained experience will receive a salary that reaches about $181,349 per year. The experts with more years of experience will gain a salary that is estimated at $245,010 per year.
Oncologist Salary in 2016
The oncologist incomes in the year 2016 are influenced and tend to vary according to numerous circumstances such as the geographical location, the experience that one has earned across the years of work, the setting in which one has found a job, the specialization and other.
Another part of the salary system for these professionals is played by the local factors as well as by the cost of living that are found in that region or location. According to some of the surveys, the median average in this profession tends to be estimated at around $267,610 per year. In some positions, you can also expect at an hourly compensation. The median hourly income is estimated at around $128, with a range that is comprised between $104 per hour and up to $168 per hour.
The incomes are different according to the regions in which one is working. For instance in the Southwest were reported higher incomes leading in average to an annual income of around $358,010 and also in the Southeast regions with incomes established at around $353,040 per year. The lowest earnings were to be found in regions of the West with incomes that get around $268,010 per year and Northeast where the incomes were established at around $237,010 per year.
In the United States, in 2016 the salaries of oncologists also vary according to their type of work. For instance, those that are employed will make around $278,010 per year while those that are self-employed will take home more reaching an average that goes around $354,010 per year.
The leading salary in this group according to the gender of those employed as oncologists tend toward the male. Like in the previous years of some of the surveys that were recorded male earn a lot more than their female counterparts. This is likewise due to the reality that women tend to work on a short schedule of hours and fewer weeks than men tend to work.
Oncologist salary in Canada, Australia and UK
In areas outside the United States the oncologist may or may not make more than they would in the United States. Here are the average yearly oncologist salaries for three different locations.
- UK—if they are in their 20’s when they start their practice the average yearly salary would be 43.594, in their 30’s it would be 56,963, and in their 40’s and 50’s it would be 67,425,
- Australia—the average yearly salary would be AU $40,268-AU S309,907
- Canada—the average yearly salary would be C $40,725-C $235,072.
Conclusion on oncologist salary
Although there are many years of school, residency program and a fellowship to complete the average yearly salary in the United States can be as much as $256,723 but can also be under $60,000 yearly. A top notch oncologist who has many years of experience can make as much as $685,000 on average a year. Being self employed or working in a private hospital the salary can be much higher. This is also true if you have specialized in a field that is related to oncology. The benefit packages can also be very lucrative and there may also be profit sharing and bonuses for some oncologist who works in a group practice. On average for oncologists who have work experience of 1-2 years can make $181,348 a year and with another year work experience it can rise to $245,000. If they want to make a large yearly salary then they need to make sure that they do their research to see where in the United States oncologists are making large salaries and start applying for a job there during the last few months of completing their fellowship.
- First Published Date: 15 May, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 11 June, 2016