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Become an Oncology Director: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become an oncology director. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in health care management.

Should I Become an Oncology Director?

A director of oncology serves as an intermediary among patient care departments that offer oncology services to cancer patients. The oncology director also must efficiently manage the staffing, budget and operations of the oncology department itself. For oncology directors who are employed by hospitals, where round-the-clock care is provided, a combination of daytime, evening, weekend, holiday and on-call shifts may be required. Employment in this field is typically full-time and offers higher-than-average compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is usually required; most employers prefer a master's degree
Degree Field Nursing
Experience 3-5 years of nursing experience; experience in oncology may be required
Licensure RN license
Key Skills Leadership and decision-making skills, monitoring and listening skills, social perception; medical software like Misys Healthcare Systems Software as well as Microsoft Office Suite, spreadsheet software, database software
Salary $103,680 (mean annual salary as of May 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Job postings from January 2013, O*Net OnLine.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

In general, the minimum requirement for this position is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN); however, candidates in active pursuit of a BSN who already have an RN license and experience might be eligible for some oncology director jobs. Individuals who are seeking a bachelor's degree can opt to first earn an associate's degree and an RN license and then complete an RN-to-BSN program, or they can complete a 4-year BSN program. BSN students learn techniques in patient care and take courses in pharmacology, microbiology and anatomy. Required classes typically cover an array of nursing specialties, including pediatric, gerontological and psychosocial nursing.

Step 2: Earn an RN License

Although requirements vary by state, all prospective registered nurses are required to complete an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. Additional requirements might include completion of a preceptorship or a set number of clinical hours.

Step 3: Gain Experience

In addition to having a bachelor's degree and an RN license, oncology directors often need between three and five years of nursing experience. It's important for prospective oncology directors to gain administrative acumen as well as clinical nursing skills. They should look to build experience managing projects and staff.

Success Tip:

  • Get job experience in an oncology department. Some oncology director positions call for candidates who have previous experience in an oncology setting, so it can be beneficial for individuals to secure a nursing position in an oncology department at a hospital or clinic.

Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree in Nursing

Many employers of oncology directors prefer candidates with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Nurses with an RN license might pursue an RN-to-MSN program. Candidates with a bachelor's degree also can find master's programs. In some MSN programs, students can choose to focus on a specific clinical area, such as pediatrics or geriatrics. This could prove beneficial if an individual's goal is to become an oncology director in one of these specialties. Prospective oncology directors also might opt for an MSN track in leadership or administration.


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