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Burnout is a significant problem among healthcare professionals working within the oncology setting. This study aimed to investigate predictors of emotional exhaustion (EE) and depersonalisation (DP) in psychosocial oncologists, through the application of the effort–reward imbalance (ERI) model with an additional focus on the role of meaningful work in the burnout process.Psychosocial oncology clinicians (n= 417) in direct patient contact who were proficient in English were recruited from 10 international psychosocial oncology societies. Participants completed an online questionnaire, which included measures of demographic and work characteristics, EE and DP subscales of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey, the Short Version ERI Questionnaire and the Work and Meaning Inventory.Higher effort and lower reward were both significantly associated with greater EE, although not DP. The interaction of higher effort and lower reward did not predict greater EE or DP. Overcommitment predicted both EE and DP but did not moderate the impact of effort and reward on burnout. Overall, the ERI model accounted for 33% of the variance in EE. Meaningful work significantly predicted both EE and DP but accounted for only 2% more of the variance in EE above and beyond the ERI model.The ERI was only partially supported as a useful framework for investigating burnout in psychosocial oncology professionals. Meaningful work may be a viable extension of the ERI model. Burnout among health professionals may be reduced by interventions aimed at increasing self-efficacy and changes to the supportive work environment. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.