Medical Oncology Board Certification Requirements

Jan 02, 2019

Physicians specializing in the treatment of cancer can pursue medical oncology certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine. Learn about the education, training and exam requirements for this professional credential.

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For medical oncology board certification, trained physicians who have finished an internal medicine residency must complete a medical oncology fellowship program, which provides training for work in the field.

Medical Oncology Board Certification Overview

Oncologists are licensed physicians who specialize in diagnosing cancer and developing treatment plans in conjunction with other healthcare professionals, such as radiotherapists and surgeons. Doctors who would like to demonstrate their expertise in this subspecialty can earn voluntary medical oncology certification through the ABIM (American Board of Internal Medicine) after receiving general certification in internal medicine.


The first step to earning medical oncology board certification is to become a licensed physician. Licensure is required to practice medicine in all states and typically requires passing scores on a national licensing exam after completing an accredited Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program and a residency. Prospective oncologists generally complete a 3-year residency in internal medicine, which can prepare them to meet training and exam requirements for ABIM certification in this specialty area.

Training Requirements

The path towards medical oncology certification continues in a medical oncology fellowship program approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This training must last at least 24 months, but there are also 36-month programs. Within these programs, aspiring oncologists gain extensive clinical experience treating patients with cancer. They also conduct oncological research at the basic science, translational or clinical level. Other program features include:

  • Formal coursework
  • Grand rounds
  • Journal clubs
  • Conferences
  • Tumor boards

Over the course of medical oncology programs, certification candidates will need to receive acceptable clinical competency evaluations from their program directors. Prospective oncologists are observed performing such procedures as bone marrow biopsies and chemotherapy administration. Their patient care, communication and interpersonal skills are also assessed.


After completing a fellowship program, certification candidates can sit for the required exam. Once oncologists earn board certification, they must also maintain it by completing Maintenance of Certification (MOC) points every two years, completing a total of 100 MOC points every five years, and passing an MOC exam in medical oncology every ten years.

Career Info

Job opportunities for physicians and surgeons were projected to increase 14% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The best employment prospects should be available to doctors willing to work in rural or underserved areas, and to those doctors specializing in fields that treat health problems prevalent among older adults, such as cancer. Certification could also improve doctors' employment prospects.

PayScale reported that oncologists earned a median salary of $248,650 as of March 2017. With profit sharing and bonuses, physicians specializing in this field earned between $101,448 and $430,664 annually.

In order to work as a medical oncologist, it is necessary to earn board certification, which is available for individuals who have completed medical school, an internal medicine residency and a medical oncology fellowship.

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