Cancer Registrar: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 25, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cancer registrar. Explore the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties, and career and salary information to find out if this career is for you.

A cancer registrar inputs cancer information into a special medical database. They can complete their training through an associate's degree or certification program, as well as gaining experience on the job. Employers strongly prefer certification.

Essential Information

Cancer registrars maintain databases of cancer information that health care professionals in turn use to research cancer prevention and treatment methods. Most cancer registrars are trained through certificate or associate's degree programs in cancer information management. Certification is available through the National Cancer Registrars Association. They may find employment in cancer care facilities, clinical trial research and government health agencies.

Required Education Associate's degree or certificate in cancer information management
Other Requirements Voluntary certification available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% for medical records and health information technicians
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $40,350 for medical records and health information technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cancer Registrar Job Duties

Cancer registry is a specialty of the health information technology field. Cancer registrars manage cancer patient databases, recording information that may be used to help detect cancer earlier, improve treatments and increase survival rates. They examine medical and pathology records to determine patient eligibility for the cancer registry. They make abstracts of medical records by translating the medical terminology into standardized codes that record the patient's diagnosis and treatment information. Cancer registrars are responsible for compiling and reporting data from all the medical facilities that treat a patient. Other duties typically include following up with registry patients to track progress, protecting patient information and assisting with special projects.

Job Requirements for Cancer Registrars

Health information technicians must have good communication skills, computer proficiency and an eagerness to learn. Cancer registrars in particular need in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, medical terminology and statistics. Database management skills are also important.


The BLS stated that most employers want health information technicians to be certified. The National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) offers a Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) credential. Candidates must meet the education and experience prerequisites in order to sit for the 250-question, multiple choice exam. This includes an NCRA-accredited associate's degree--or an NCRA-accredited certificate with an associate's degree--and completion of a 160-hour practicum at a cancer registry. Alternatively, candidates may have a minimum of an associate's degree with two semesters of coursework in human anatomy, plus 1,950 hours or more of cancer registry work experience.

Educational Requirements for Cancer Registrars

Most people working in the health information technology field have an associate's degree, according to the BLS. Several 2-year colleges offer associate's degrees in cancer information management for aspiring cancer registrars. Certificate programs are available for those with associate's or bachelor's degrees in health information technology who seek specialized training in cancer registry. Coursework typically includes medical terminology, registry organization, cancer statistics, coding, human anatomy, abstracting and pharmacology. Some programs require a practicum, which allows students to gain experience working in a cancer registry.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

Jobs for medical records and health information technicians, including cancer registrars, are expected to be in demand during the coming years; positions in the field are predicted to rise 11% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS. In 2018, the BLS listed the median annual salary of medical records and health information technicians, including cancer registrars, at $40,350.

Cancer registrars typically need some relevant work experience and post-secondary training in cancer information management. Certification is optional; it can be achieved after meeting the established requirements and passing an exam. Computers skills and accuracy are essential for this occupation.

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