Surgical oncologists are board-certified in surgery but have additional, extensive training in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of cancer patients. Most surgical oncologists devote a majority of their practice to working with cancer patients, often working in multidisciplinary cancer treatment centers and treating specific types of cancer. Because there is no specific board certification in surgical oncology, major studies that compare physicians' earnings don't include the specialty. The best way to get a sense of surgical oncologists' average compensation is by considering average earnings for surgeons and oncologists.
Medical oncologists oversee the entire treatment program of their cancer patients, including the administration of chemotherapy, radiation and surgical treatments. They often complete fellowship programs in hematology and medical ontology as part of their training and are board-certified in both fields. Average earnings for medical oncologists in 2006 were $198,000 for physicians in their first two years of practice, $257,000 for those with three or more years of practice and $455,000 for those at the top of their fields, putting them squarely in the middle range of compensation for all physicians, according to the Allied Physicians Salary Survey. Because physicians who perform surgery tend to earn more money than those who don't, salaries for surgical oncologists would be higher than those for medical oncologists.
Because surgical oncologists are board-certified in surgery, their earnings are generally in line with those of general surgeons, which are generally higher than those of medical oncologists. General surgeons with three or more years of experience earned, on average, $291,000 in 2006, with maximum salaries of $520,000, according to the Allied Physicians Survey. Those who specialized in specific areas of treatment earned more, with vascular surgeons earning average compensation of $329,000 and those specializing in cardiology and neurology earning among the highest compensation in the medical profession -- $515,000 and $541,000, respectively.
Published salaries for surgical oncologists in 2011 measured up with those in the higher ranges of salaries for other surgeons, according to Salaryexpert.com. Salaries for 10 randomly selected surgical oncology jobs aggregated by the website ranged from $217,000 in Houston to $450,000 in Dallas.
As the population ages, demand and workloads for surgical oncologists is expected to increase, according to a study published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology which projected the number of patients undergoing oncological procedures would increase from 24 percent in 2003 to 51 percent by 2020. Rising demand isn't necessarily a guarantee that earnings will also increase -- physicians' compensation is mostly determined by insurance reimbursement rates that don't always respond to the laws of supply and demand. But it does indicate that physicians who enter the field will have no shortage of paid procedures to perform.