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Oncologist Job Description, Career as a Oncologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training:— Advanced degree, specialized training

Salary: Median— $257,000 annually

Employment Outlook:— Good

Physicians who inspect, diagnose, and treat cancerous tumors are known as oncologists. They may be specialists in the field of medical oncology, gynecological oncology, pediatric oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, or hematology. Medical oncologists use chemotherapeutic or medical methods to treat cancer. Gynecological oncologists treat cancer that affects female reproductive organs. Pediatric oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer in children. Radiation oncologists use radiation treatment to treat cancer. Surgical oncologists treat cancer through surgical methods, while hematologists deal with malignancies of blood-forming tissues and blood like leukemia.

Education and Training Requirements

Candidates who wish to become oncologists must first obtain their Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from an accredited 4-year medical school and then undertake specialized training. One can opt for a pre-med course or study subjects like biology, organic chemistry, and advanced math at the college level. Medical schools are very selective when it comes to accepting students and good scores are required in the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Once they are accepted by medical schools, candidates have to pass the first 2 stages of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before they start their residencies.

After getting the MD degree, doctors must complete a residency program approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and pass the third stage of the USMLE. Residency programs generally last for 2 to 4 years. After this, they must complete graduate education in a specialty. Following completion of the fellowship, oncologists can apply for board certification or undertake further training in sub-specialties like pediatric oncology and hematology. Separate licenses are required for those who wish to practice in these sub-specialties.

Getting the Job

Qualified doctors do not find it difficult to get a job after completing their courses. Studies reveal that beginners are more likely to start their careers by working at hospitals, clinics, or networks of healthcare facilities rather than setting up a private practice. Later in the careers, oncologists may establish their own clinics.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Doctors who display superior communication and leadership qualities advance to supervisory or managerial positions in hospitals and health networks. Those who start their own practices take on entrepreneurial roles and employ staff according to their needs. Some doctors join medical schools as faculty, and can gradually move into administrative roles.

Job opportunities for oncologists are expected to increase by 14% in the next ten years. This rate is higher than the average growth rate of all occupations. The development of medical technologies will increase the demand for oncologists who are familiar with the latest developments. In addition, the growth in population will augment the need for trained oncologists.

Working Conditions

Most oncologists work in clean and sterilized environments like clinics, hospitals, or healthcare centers. They often have to work for long hours. Oncologists who are part of a health network may enjoy more structured work hours than private practitioners. However, the internship period for doctors is particularly strenuous and interns have to work in rotating shifts.

Where to Go for More Information

Association for International Cancer Research

American Society for Clinical Oncology
2318 Mill Road, Suite 800
Alexandria, VA 22314

Association of American Medical Colleges
2450 N St. NW., Washington, DC

National Cancer Institute
6116 Executive Boulevard
Room 3036A
Bethesda, MD 20892-8322

American Cancer Society
1599 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA

Association of Oncology Social Work
100 North 20th St., 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Oncologist Journal

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

According to data published in April 2009, the median annual salary of oncologists in the United States is $263,282. Entry level salaries are likely to be around $198,000 in the first two years of practice. Oncologists with over 3 years of experience report average annual salaries of $257,000. The highest paid oncologists earn around $455,000 every year.

Oncologists in salaried jobs enjoy benefits like health and life insurance, retirement plans, sick leaves, and paid vacations. Private practitioners, on the other hand, do not have access to such benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine