Pediatric Oncologist: Job Description, Duties and Outlook

Sep 27, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pediatric oncologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Pediatric oncologists are physicians with a background in pediatrics and further training in oncology. They often teach and conduct research, as well as seeing patients.

Essential Information

Pediatric oncologists, or pediatric hematologist/oncologists, are physicians who treat infant, child and adolescent patients who have been diagnosed with cancer or blood disorders. Their training consists of a 3-year residency in pediatrics after graduation from medical school, followed by a 3-year pediatric hematology-oncology fellowship. Their work usually involves research and teaching in addition to seeing patients. They need leadership skills and the ability to work with others. Counseling families and talking to their young patients are also part of this job.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine degree
Other Requirements Residency and fellowship
License Physician's license
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Mean Salary (2018)* $203,880 (for physicians and surgeons, all others)

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Pediatric Oncologist Job Description

Although surgeons and radiation oncologists may treat cancer in pediatric patients, the term 'pediatric oncologist' usually refers to physicians who have specialized in pediatrics and then received further training in medical oncology and hematology. This means that rather than using surgery or radiation therapy to treat cancer, pediatric oncologists typically use medications and chemotherapy.

Since pediatric oncologists treat children, their focus is somewhat different than that of medical oncologists who treat adults. Pediatric patients are not usually afflicted by the wide variety of cancers that are typically seen in adult patients, so pediatric oncologists may deal with fewer cancer cases and more hematologic disorders. Pediatric hematologist/oncologists primarily treat leukemia, lymphoma, embryonic tumors and genetic blood disorders, such as sickle-cell anemia and hemophilia. They may choose to narrow their practice and treat only cancers or only blood disorders.

Pediatric Oncologist Duties

Pediatric oncologists examine patients, order diagnostic tests, make diagnoses and prescribe treatments. They may also counsel patients and their families on how to deal with their illnesses. Pediatric oncologists often head a treatment team, consisting of other physicians and healthcare workers. Since most conduct research and teach in addition to treating patients, they are usually employed by medical schools or hospitals. However, a minority choose to go into private practice.

Pediatric Oncologist Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for all physicians and surgeons, including pediatric oncologists, will grow 14% over the 2014-2024 decade. This projected growth in employment is faster than the average for all occupations. One reason that new physicians are expected to be in high demand is the expansion of the healthcare industry. However, new technologies may enable physicians to be more productive, thus tempering the demand for new physicians. The increased use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners due to rising healthcare costs may also potentially lessen the need for new physicians.

Pediatric oncologists diagnose and treat children, counsel patients and their families, and usually work within a healthcare team. They must first complete medical school and a residency, and then further pursue training in oncology. A significant growth in job opportunities for all physicians and surgeons, including pediatric oncologists, is predicted for the 2018-2028 decade.

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