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Chemotherapy Certification for RNs: Information and Requirements

Chemotherapy certification is an optional credential for registered nurses. Get some quick facts about the education and experience requirements necessary to qualify for oncology nursing jobs.

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Essential Information

Chemotherapy certification for registered nurses (RNs) is available through a non-profit organization called the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. Not all employers require a nurse to be certified to work in an oncology department. Being certified may open up job opportunities and help an oncology nurse to advance in his or her career.

Required Education Candidates must possess a nursing degree and licensure
Required Experience 12 months of RN experience, 1,000 hours of experience in adult oncology nursing and ten contact hours in an approved education program
Exam Requirements Multiple choice examination

Chemotherapy Certification for RNs Information

There are no state or federal standards that require a nurse to hold a chemotherapy certification. Nurses who practice in the area of treating cancer patients are called oncology nurses. Oncology nurses may earn a master's degree in oncology nursing or complete a specialty in oncology as part of their nursing degree. These programs include classes that teach about symptoms, treatments and prevention of cancer.

Some employers may require certification in oncology. The most commonly requested and recognized certification is the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN), which is offered by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).

The ONC test covers 11 subject areas related to oncology nursing. These areas include:

  • Disease prevention and education
  • Screening and diagnosis
  • Research
  • Treatments
  • Symptom care
  • Psychosocial aspects of patient care
  • Emergency situations
  • Sexuality
  • Survivors
  • Hospice care
  • Professionalism

The test is made up of 165 multiple-choice questions. Only 145 questions count towards the final grade. The test is prepared by oncology nurses and approved by the OCN Test Development Committee, staff and testing agency. According to the ONCC as of November 2010, there are 26,369 nurses who hold the OCN certification (

Chemotherapy Certification for RNs Requirements

An initial OCN certification is available to any nurse that doesn't currently hold the OCN. To qualify for the certification a nurse must meet all the following criteria:

  • Have a current RN license with no restrictions
  • Have 12 months of experience as a RN within the previous 36 months
  • Have 1,000 hours of experience within the previous 30 months in adult oncology nursing
  • Have ten contact hours in an approved continuing education program or academic elective within the previous 36 months

The OCN must be recertified every four years to remain valid. Criteria for recertification include meeting practice hour requirements, earning professional development points and passing a recertification test. Two out of the three criteria must be met to be recertified.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to as of November 2014, people working in nurse oncology earned a median salary of $73,429 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that positions for all registered nurses, including specialists, will increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022.

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