An oncologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancers and related illnesses. To become a medical oncologist, one must complete a medical degree and residency program, along with specialized training in oncology, and then pass any exams required for licensure. Though requirements for medical school vary around the world, most medical schools require that students have a four-year degree, usually in pre-medicine or a related science field.
The academic requirements to become a medical oncologist are rigorous. Most medical schools require that incoming students carry a grade point that is above average. In the United States, medical schools normally require that applicants score well on the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®). The MCAT® is cons idered a very difficult exam and students spend many hours studying and taking practice tests while attempting to score well on it.
Once admission to medical school is earned, a student can expect to spend at least four years in the academic program. Most medical programs are considered challenging and students spend a great deal of time studying and completing lab work. Perseverance and commitment are necessary to complete the schooling required to become a medical oncologist.
Upon graduation from medical school, doctors are normally required to spend some time in a residency program. A residency program gives new doctors a chance to practice medicine under the close supervision of more experienced doctors. Most residency programs can take up to four years to complete. After a year or two of residency, doctors are given an opportunity to spend more time working in a specialized field of medicine, such as surgery or pathology.
After completion of a residency program, which may include some specialized study of oncology, most doctors continue to study oncology through a fellowship at a university or hospital. A fellowship is a paid position that allows the doctor to practice medicine while continuing more specialized study in a specific branch of medicine. Most doctors spend another three or four years in a fellowship to become a medical oncologist.
Though not required to become a medical oncologist, most doctors choose to become board-certified in oncology upon completion of their fellowship. To become board-certified, a doctor must pass a set of exams administered by a governing board, such as the American Board of Internal Medicine® (ABIM®). Board certification helps the doctor be more competitive in the market, because many practices and hospitals require certification for doctors of specialized medicine, such as oncology.