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Oncology Specialist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an oncology specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties, and licensure information to find out if this is the career for you.

Becoming an oncologist, a physician who specializes in cancer, requires more than a decade of classes and clinical training. In addition to a medical license, an oncologist must earn board certification, which is available in several specializations.

Essential Information

Oncology specialists are physicians trained in a variety of cancer diagnostic and treatment procedures, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Typical oncology specialists may have as much as 15 years of advanced education and training, which includes undergraduate studies, medical school, and one or more residency training programs. Additionally, licensure is required to practice as a physician. The American Board of Medical Specialties certifies oncology physicians in five different specialized areas, including radiation, medical, surgical and pediatric oncology.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree
Other Requirements Fulfill state licensure requirements; complete residency training programs and subspecialty training programs
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% (all physicians and surgeons)*
Median Salary (2016) $243,317 (oncologist)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ,**PayScale.com

Duties of an Oncology Specialist

Oncology specialists collect medical histories and perform physical evaluations in addition to basic administrative duties, such as maintaining records, coordinating with other medical personnel, and managing the work of staff. They also perform a wide variety of diagnostic procedures to ascertain the condition of tissues and to detect cancer. Diagnostic procedures include scanning techniques, such as x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging, as well as surgical operations and biopsies.

Treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and the surgical removal of cancer. Oncology professionals may also perform procedures to treat regions of the body affected by cancer treatment. For instance, a gynecologic oncologist may perform surgery to a patient's gastrointestinal tract that has been adversely affected by treatment.

Requirements to Become an Oncology Specialist

As physicians, oncology specialists must complete up to eight years of undergraduate and medical school education. They then train in a medical residency that can last 3-5 years depending on the specialty. Those pursuing subspecialty training may also be required to complete an additional residency or fellowship of up to three years.

Following training, all physicians must pass a licensing exam before they are able to practice. Completion of training often qualifies oncology specialists for voluntary certification, which typically involves a set of written and oral exams and a performance review.

Career Info for an Oncology Specialist

The BLS predicted an 14% increase in employment throughout the 2014-2024 decade for physicians and surgeons over all, due to expansion in healthcare-related industries and the aging baby boomer population. The median annual salary of oncologists in 2016 was $243,317, according to PayScale.com.

An oncology specialist is a doctor who specializes in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Oncologists must complete medical school, a residency and, often, a subspecialty training period in oncology. Job growth and salary is high for this profession.

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