An oncologist studies, diagnoses, and treats cancer in patients. A college degree, graduation from medical school, and residency are required to become a doctor alone, with additional years of experience and specialty training to become an oncologist. Licensing is mandatory, and oncologists should have certification if they have a subspecialty.
Oncology doctors, or oncologists, are specialists in the treatment of cancer patients, either as clinicians or in research and academic settings. As with all doctors, the pathway to this career is a long and demanding one; after earning an undergraduate degree, aspiring oncology doctors must complete medical school and a residency and earn licensure. Board certification in oncology is available.
|Required Education||M.D. plus residency or fellowship|
|Licensure and Certification||License is required; voluntary board certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||7% for all physicians and surgeons|
|Median Annual Salary (2019)**||$257,605|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Career Information for an Oncology Doctor
A PayScale.com report from September 2019 showed that oncologists in general earned a median annual salary of $257,605 at that time. All types of physicians and surgeons, including oncology doctors, can expect a faster-than-average job growth of 7% from 2018-2028, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Job Duties of an Oncology Doctor
Oncology doctors are involved in the daily care of cancer patients who are hospitalized or outpatients. They may diagnose patients and then oversee treatments including radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Oncologists who work in certain hospitals may also have teaching duties or be responsible for training medical students, residents, and other staff.
In a purely academic capacity, oncology doctors may also research and conduct clinical trials of new cancer treatments and publish their findings in medical journals. Like their clinician counterparts, they may also provide training for students on research studies.
Education Requirements to Become an Oncology Doctor
All oncology doctors must complete an undergraduate degree program, four years of medical school and a residency or fellowship program that usually lasts two to four years, depending on the oncology specialty. Specialty areas include medical oncology, pediatric oncology, radiation oncology, or gynecological oncology. The residency or fellowship period allows prospective doctors to gain clinical and research training that prepares them for their future careers.
Additionally, practicing oncology doctors are often required to be board certified in their specialty area. The American Board of Internal Medicine offers certification in medical oncology (www.abim.org). Certification requirements include previous certification in internal medicine, completing a fellowship program, and passing a certification exam. Other board certifications in oncology specialty areas have similar requirements, for example the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology offers certification for gynecology oncologists and the American Board of Radiology certifies radiology oncologists.
In addition to treating patients, oncologists may research cancer treatments and organize clinical trials. The education path is similar to other physicians, but oncologists complete specialty training, focusing on an area of oncology. With the extensive educational journey oncologists must go through, they're projected to earn a median salary of approximately $257,605 per year.