Survey explores how radiation oncologists fare in the job market

Private practice radiation oncologists make an average of $303,000 per year, according to data collected from the annual Practice Entry Survey. Academic radiation oncologists, meanwhile, have an average salary of $280,000.

The survey is administered annually to radiation oncology (RO) residents through the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology directory. It queries respondents regarding their workforce placement experiences and gathers information on their individual debt, salary and benefits. Researchers analyzed data from the survey from 2012 to 2017, sharing their findings in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

“The Practice Entry Survey presentation is a highly anticipated session for the RO resident at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting,” wrote lead author Trevor J. Royce, MD, MS, MPH, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine in North Carolina. “Each year the senior author reports the employment outcomes and job market experiences for the most recently graduated RO residents.”

While 51 percent of respondents work in an academic setting, 49 percent work in private practice. Overall, the researchers found private practice radiation oncologists fared better than their academic counterparts.

Besides the average salary information, the survey also found:

  • The average amount of debt among graduates was $100,000—private practice radiation oncologists had an average of $150,000 of debt and academicians had $80,000 in debt.
  • More respondents in private practice received a signing bonus and moving expenses. They were also more likely to report receiving benefits, including disability and life insurance, as well as a retirement plan. Additionally, they had less free time during the week.
  • 22 percent of respondents found their jobs through the online ASTRO Career Center, and those in private practice were more likely to find their jobs this way.
  • 77 percent of respondents found their jobs via other means including direct contact, cold calls and personal connections.
  • Private practice radiation oncologists found that visiting with physics and dosimetry, visiting all sites where one would see patients, having a specific interview schedule, visiting the practice more than once and having one’s spouse visit the area were the most helpful steps during the interview process.
  • Academic radiation oncologists found reviewing the time structure for academic pursuits, the research facilities and the support staff were the most helpful steps during the interview process.

The researchers noted the results should be interpreted within their limitations. Only 30 percent of recently graduated residents were respondents, so there may be selection bias. Additionally, the compensation data are raw numbers and do not adjust for inflation. Also, some of the job benefits and employment characteristics could be underreported because some survey questions are “opt-in.”

“These data can help inform the applicant and employer alike as to what the quantitative standard components are in a job offer and contract,” Royce and colleagues concluded. “They may help gauge the competitiveness of an offer as well as what to expect during the job hunt and interview process.”