In 2020, over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many physicians reported declines in income, including 35% of oncologists. Overall, however, average compensation for oncologists increased by almost $30,000 between 2019 and 2020, with close to 80% of oncologists reporting feeling fairly compensated, according to a recent physician compensation survey. Below are 7 key findings from the survey:

  1. The average income for oncologists grew from $377,000 in 2019 to $403,000 in 2020. Among the relatively small percentage who reported declines in overall compensation, 88% attributed the declines to factors related to the pandemic.
  1. Most oncologists (83%) surmised their income will return to pre-COVID-19 levels in the next few years, with 51% expecting it to happen in 2021 and 42% expecting it to happen by 2023. Only 6% felt their income levels will never return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
  1. Oncologist’s average work hours nearly stayed the same, only seeing a single hour increase from 50 hours per week in 2019 to 51 hours per week in 2020. Despite similar working hours, the number of patients seen increased from 58 in 2019 to 61 in 2020. This was an atypical finding, as physicians in most other specialties reported declines in patient volumes due to safety concerns amidst the pandemic.
  1. Oncologists continued to top the list when it came to feeling fairly compensated, outranking all specialties, even the most compensated specialty – plastic surgeons, who reported incomes of $526,000 in 2020. With 79% of oncologists surveyed reporting feeling fairly compensated in 2020, there was a 12% increase from 2019, when they also ranked at the top of the list, and a 10% lead over the next most satisfied specialty in 2020 — psychiatry, at 69%.
  1. Most oncologists found their work rewarding, with 40% pointing to gratitude from and relationships with their patients as the most rewarding part of their job. Only 12% reported “making good money at a job that I like” as being most rewarding to them.
  2. The largest challenge oncologists faced is an overabundance of rules and regulations, which was reported by 23%. Other key challenges included having to work long hours (17%), working with an electronic health record (EHR) system (17%), dealing with difficult patients (12%), difficulties getting fair reimbursement from or dealing with Medicare and/or other insurers (9%), danger/risk associated with treating COVID-19 patients (6%), and worry about being sued (4%). The remaining respondents selected “Other” (8%) or “Nothing” (5%).
  3. Most oncologists were satisfied with their career choice, with 88% saying they would choose the field of medicine again and 96% saying they would choose oncology again.

The survey was conducted by Medscape and MDedge and included 17,903 participants across 29 specialties. Among these respondents, 3% were oncologists.