Medical Oncologist: Job Description, Salary and Career Outlook

Medical oncologists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job description, duties, salary statistics and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

The path to becoming a medical oncologist involves completion of medical school, a residency in internal medicine, and an oncology fellowship. Following these 8-10 years of education, oncologists can expect to earn a lucrative salary in a field with strong predicted job growth. Medical oncologists must be highly competent clinicians, and be able to effectively communicate with patients.

Essential Information

Medical oncologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer. They usually lead a cancer treatment team, composed of a number of different healthcare professionals who work together to provide comprehensive treatment for cancer patients. These workers must complete an extensive education that consists of an undergraduate degree, medical school, residency and fellowship. To work as a medical doctor, they must become licensed in their state.

Required Education An undergraduate degree, an M.D. degree, an internal medicine residency and an oncology fellowship
Licensure Medical license
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% (for physicians and surgeons)
Mean Annual Salary (2016)** $243,317 (for oncology doctors/physicians)

Sources: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Medical Oncologist Job Description

Medical oncologists have typically completed an internal medicine residency after graduating from medical school, followed by an oncology fellowship. They may choose to earn board certification to show that they are professionally competent as oncologists. Medical oncologists coordinate a course of treatment for cancer patients with the rest of their oncology team, which can include nurses, physician assistants, social workers, rehabilitation therapists, dietitians, radiologists, surgeons and pathologists. They prescribe various types of treatment, such as chemotherapy, medications and hormones.

Typical job duties include making cancer diagnoses, keeping records of patients' test results and physical examinations, writing prescriptions, providing specific cancer information to patients, monitoring treatment plans and improving patients' quality of life. Medical oncologists explain cancer development stages to patients, discuss treatment options and assist in pain management. They care for patients throughout the entire course of cancer treatment, from diagnosis to recovery or death.

Medical Oncologist Salary

According to, medical oncologists earned a median salary of $243,317 as of January 2016. The highest-paid ten percent earned $410,325 at that time, while the lowest-paid ten percent earned $109,197.

Medical Oncologist Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for all physicians and surgeons, including medical oncologists, will grow 14% over the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations. Demand for physicians is expected to increase due to a growing aging population. However, the demand may be somewhat tempered by improvements in technology, which allow physicians to be more productive and manage more patients. The demand may also be reduced due to the increasing utilization of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who can perform many of the same duties for a lower price. Physicians and surgeons who are expected to have the greatest job prospects include those who serve rural and other medically under-served areas and those who typically treat elderly patients.

To recap, medical oncologists are physicians who specialize in the treatment of cancer. If you are interested in pursuing this career, you should know that the initial educational requirements can take up to 10 years to complete. However, demand for physicians is high, and it may be a good choice for you if you are interested in healthcare, empathetic, and have excellent communication skills.

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