There are two main careers you can choose in the oncology field. For example, you could choose to become a doctor and specialize in oncology or become a nurse who cares for oncology patients. Either way, if you choose to pursue a career in this field, you will work with individuals who have cancer as well as those who have conditions related to cancerous tumors. If you choose to become an oncologist, which is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer patients, you will likely have to complete high school, college, medical school, and residency training; you may also complete a fellowship as part of oncology training. If you choose to become a oncology nurse, however, you may need to complete high school and become a registered nurse before receiving on-the-job oncology training.
Before you can begin oncology training, you’ll need to earn a high school education. While working toward a high school diploma, you may do well to take classes in advanced-level sciences and math. Writing can be important in the medical field as well, so taking composition classes may prove helpful. Likewise, communication skills are often critical in this field, so taking class that build your communication skills may help you in college and throughout your career. If you decide against graduating from high school, however, you’ll typically need to earn a general educational development (GED) diploma to move forward with your training.
Once you’ve graduated from high school or earned a GED, you’ll typically need to enter college and earn a bachelor’s degree to become an oncologist. If you’re planning to become an oncologist, your oncology training will likely continue with four years of medical school. Following medical school, you may go on to complete residency training in general medicine as well as the oncology specialty; you may complete a fellowship as well. In most places, aspiring doctors also have to take a licensing exam in order to begin practicing medicine legally.
If you are planning a career as an oncology nurse, you may prepare by becoming a registered nurse and then applying for a job in the oncology field, such as in a hospital’s oncology department. In most cases, you can enroll in a program that offers an associate’s or bachelor's degree in nursing to become a registered nurse. Depending on where you live, you may also find diploma courses that prepare you for becoming a registered nurse. Once you’ve completed this training, you’ll usually have to pass an exam to earn a nursing license.