Oncology Nurse Salary and Career Opportunities
Oncology nurses are very specialized. Although their work involves individuals with various types of malignancy, all these patients suffer from cancer. These nurses deal both with critically ill patients and those recovering from treatment. They not only administer care such as chemotherapy, they also furnish information to patients and their families and offer support and guidance. Some provide services for patients at risk for developing cancer.
Individuals enter the oncology field after working as registered nurses (RNs). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the demand for RNs is robust. The agency expects job growth between 2012 and 2022 to jump 19 percent, faster than average for U.S. jobs. In 2012, median RN pay was $65,470 annually, or $31.48 per hour. PayScale reports that oncology nurses can earn hourly pay of up to $42.25 for regular shifts and $72.88 for overtime. Compensation can reach $89,510 for experienced oncology nurses.
Paths to Increase Oncology Nurse Salary
Earning an RN credential requires completing a hospital nursing program, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. According to the Campaign for Nursing’s Future , to become licensed in states where they want to work, graduates must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Nurses with oncology experience can increase their compensation with certification from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation . Among the certifications available are Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN®), Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN®), Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON®), Advanced Oncology Nurse Practitioner (AOCP®), and Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN™).
Nurses in this specialty sometimes opt to advance to positions as nurse managers or charge nurses. Those interested in furthering their careers through additional education can become advanced practice nurses after earning a master’s degree in nursing. The University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that oncology nurse practitioners have concentrated their advanced education on cancer care and are experts in managing symptoms, educating and counseling patients, and making referrals for the appropriate hospital and community services. Some specialize in pediatric oncology.
Another path for boosting income is becoming a nursing educator. These professionals hold a master’s degree and sometimes also a doctoral degree in nursing.
Some oncology nurses choose to increase their salaries by taking assignments as per diem or travel nurses. They often receive financial assistance from employers for housing and relocation.
Oncology nurses might also have an interest in these specialties:
- Hospice nurses provide care for individuals nearing the end of life. Due to oncology nurses’ experience with pain management and support for families and caregivers, as well as their level of comfort with death, they have important skills to offer hospice patients. See which employers are looking for hospice nurses now .
- Geriatric nurses usually work with individuals who are at least 50. Many of these patients have or will develop cancer. Geriatric nurses relieve pain, assist with hygiene, and complete routine assessments of care necessary after a certain age. Geriatric nurse job opportunities near you .
- Research nurses typically work at colleges, universities, private organizations, or corporations. Some combine a knowledge of cancer with the scientific methods they learned in nursing education and practice to collect and analyze data. Many are involved in conducting clinical trials. Research nurse job openings can be found here .
Further Your Career
Oncology nursing could be the right career choice for professionals who enjoy change. No two days are the same, and technology upgrades are constant. When caring for the terminally or seriously ill has a special place in a nurse’s heart, this is an ideal choice. Demand for these nurses will continue to rise with the graying of the baby boomer generation. All of these factors make this a great time to consider becoming an oncology nurse.
Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn's disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript, womansday.com, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.