How Do I Become an Oncologist?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 May 2019
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Oncologists go through years of specialty training in order to become skilled enough to handle the vast and complex medical field of cancer. In addition to an undergraduate degree and medical school, a doctor must complete residencies and fellowships in order to become an oncologist. Though quite busy enough with technical training, a doctor must also gain considerable business skills in order to properly manage his or her career. Finally, developing efficient personal and stress management skills, for the benefit of both the patients and the doctor, can help a person become an oncologist who attracts clients and can manage the daily trials of this difficult job.

Though not all oncologists start college intending to become doctors, many come from a background in the sciences or public health. Getting an undergraduate degree in biology, chemistry, or public health care can help a person prepare to apply for medical schools and take entrance examinations. Since competition for med school placement is intense, students must work hard to maintain good grades, and study extensively before sitting medical examinations. Some universities offer a pre-med concentration, which does not provide a medical degree, but gives students an excellent background in the subjects necessary for medical school.


After graduating from an undergraduate school and successfully completing entrance tests, aspiring doctors must complete a four-year medical school program in order to become an oncologist. Though this level of education will result in a general medical degree, a student who wants to become an oncologist may be able to tailor courses and internships toward their area of interest. Near the end of medical school, a student will need to pass medical certification tests in order to legally practice as a doctor.

Following medical school, a doctor will begin the final stage of training that will allow him or her to become an oncologist. Known as a residency, this program may take several additional years, and involve numerous courses of study under professional oncologists and other doctors in related fields. During his or her residency, a newly qualified doctor will finally get the opportunity to gain practical experience working with patients, learning diagnostic and treatment techniques, and gaining insight about the management of a hospital or oncology practice. Many oncologists follow a basic residency with fellowships in internal medicine, and either surgical, medical, or radiation oncology.

When all training is completed, a doctor is finally prepared to become an oncologist on a fully professional level. He or she may choose to set up a private practice, join an oncology group of doctors, or find a job as an oncologist at a hospital. Understanding basic business principles through books or continued education can be very useful to an oncologist, especially if he or she plans to run a private business.

Oncology is a field of medicine that sees tremendous recoveries and tragic deaths. Along the road of training, a doctor who wants to become an oncologist must work on developing the mental strength and fortitude to handle the incredible stress inherent in this type of job. In addition, since oncologists often deal with patients who are frightened, angry, or upset about their condition, it can also be important to develop personal skills that allow the doctor to perform his work without causing undue stress or strain on the patient.



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