Oncology social workers have a master’s degree in social work, and they work with cancer patients and their families to help them understand their diagnoses, treatment plans, emotions, resources and other concerns related to living with cancer. They help patients work through life after cancer treatments, and they serve as a liaison between patients’ doctors and nurses and the patients and their families. Oncology social workers are a sub-field of medical social workers and some of the salary information relates more broadly to the field of medical social work.
Medical Social Workers
Medical social workers earn a median annual salary of $46,300 in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2009. Those in the 25th percentile for salary (75 percent earn more) earn $36,090, while those in the 75th percentile earn $58,490 per year. Medical social workers in the 90th percentile can earn over $71,000.
Oncology Social Workers
Oncology social workers earn within the salary range of medical social workers published by BLS. According to CB Salary, a salary survey website, oncology social workers in the 25th salary percentile can earn about $48,975, and those in the 75th percentile can earn just over $108,000 per year as of January 2011. The average annual salary for an oncology social worker in the U.S. is about $67,960.
CBSalary reports that the average annual wage for an oncology social worker in Houston, Texas is about $77,365 as of January 2011. In Seattle, an oncology social worker can earn an average salary of $81,370. In Hartford, Connecticut, the average salary is $84,433 per year and in Chicago about $72,380.
The Association of Oncology Social Work predicts a severe shortage of oncology social workers in the coming years due to the retirement of Baby Boomer social workers and the decrease of oncology social worker staff. Many healthcare facilities are restructuring their social work departments due to the recent recession. Oncology social work faces a rather uncertain future as the economy struggles to regain its footing. In the meantime, the need for social workers to work with cancer patients continues.