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What Does an Oncologist Do?

What Does an Oncologist Do? Specialist doctors and surgeons who treat cancer patients are known as oncologists. Because they give their patients the essential treatment they require, medical specialists are highly appreciated. You can decide if being an oncologist is the correct path for you by understanding what they perform.

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In this article, we address the query, “What does an oncologist do?” and examine the job’s income, prerequisites, abilities, working environment, and steps to become an oncologist. We also offer an example job description.

What does an oncologist do?

A doctor who evaluates, recognizes, and treats cancer patients is known as an oncologist. Oncologists can be divided into three primary categories based on their preferred method of cancer treatment: medicinal, surgical, and radiation. Oncologists may additionally specialize in treating certain diseases, such blood cancers, or specific patient populations, like young children or the elderly. To provide their patients with the best possible care, oncologists work together with other doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals. Oncologists’ responsibilities include:

  • Examining individuals for cancer symptoms and talking with them about them
    ordering and evaluating the results of medical tests such as blood tests and biopsies
  • Designing individualized cancer treatment plans and discussing disease and available treatments with patients
  • Removing malignant tumors with surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy
  • Following up with patients as they proceed through cancer treatment and recovery, and making any necessary adjustments throughout these times
  • Assisting patients in coping with cancer and its negative effects

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Oncologist salary and outlook

Oncologists’ pay varies depending on their level of experience, with senior oncologists making more money than newly graduated oncologists. Salary can also vary depending on specialization and location. Oncologists make an average national salary of $177,859 per year, according to Indeed wages.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), oncologists will have a 3% increase in employment between 2021 and 2031. This is less quickly than the average for all occupations.

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Oncologist requirements

Before beginning practice, oncologists must finish at least eight years of academic study, five years of training, and obtain their license. To guarantee that cancer patients receive the most empathetic and qualified care, it is also necessary for individuals to possess strong technical and interpersonal abilities. Those needed for oncologists include:


In order to enroll in medical school, oncologists must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Some oncologists obtain a master’s degree in order to distinguish themselves from other job prospects. Aspiring oncologists are best served by degrees in biology and chemistry because these subjects increase students’ medical knowledge and increase their chances of getting into medical school. Additionally, completing specific college courses is necessary to apply to medical school.

When graduates are ready to pursue their doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree, they apply to a medical school that has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). To be admitted to their preferred medical school, candidates must perform well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Throughout their four-year medical school program, students attend classes, participate in laboratory work, and do supervised clinical and hospital rotations.

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Aspiring oncologists begin their training with supervised clinical and hospital rotations during their last years of medical school. Medical residencies and fellowships help graduates of medical schools expand on this training. Fellowships normally last at least two years, whereas residencies typically last three or four. All programs are accredited by the ACGME.

Prior to gaining specific oncology training during their fellowships, recent medical school graduates begin with a more broad medical residency. For instance, pediatric oncologists do pediatric residencies before starting a fellowship in pediatric oncology. Before beginning fellowships in oncology and tumor removal, surgical oncologists finish surgery residencies.

Those who wish to specialize in oncology and have completed their residency training become board certified. The ability to treat patients is granted to oncologists when they complete their fellowship. Oncologists have licenses for every state where they practice since state licensing laws differ. An oncology certificate is awarded to oncologists once they complete their fellowship.

Board recognition

Aspiring oncologists obtain board certification after finishing their residency before beginning their fellowship. Although there are distinct boards for various oncology specializations, the American Board of Internal Medicine certifies the majority of oncologists in internal medicine. Oncologists must always pass their board exams to get certified. Knowledge of cancer biology, pharmacology, clinical research procedures, and ethics is tested on this exam. Every ten years, certified oncologists must participate in continuing education to maintain their certification.

Medical license from the state

Additionally, oncologists receive a state license to practice medicine there. Usually, this happens after the fellowship. Despite regional variations in criteria, candidates often provide documentation of their schooling and successfully complete the USMLE. The exam consists of three sections that examine medical knowledge, principles and concepts, and abilities that are patient-centered. Both the USMLE and the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination are passable by individuals with D.O. degrees.

Doctors of Medicine Certificate

After obtaining state license and finishing a recognized two-year fellowship that includes work in hospitals and community clinics, candidates can submit an application for this certification. This course encompasses a year of practical clinical training, which includes performing bone marrow aspirations and administering chemotherapy. To obtain this certification, candidates must pass the American Board of Internal Medicine examination. Oncologists must pass a medical oncology exam every ten years after becoming certified and accrue 100 Maintenance of Certification points every two years to keep their position.

A degree in hematology-oncology

After completing a three-year hematology and oncology fellowship recognized by the ACGME, oncologists who specialize in this kind of care often have this license. Candidates must ace a four-part multiple-choice test measuring their understanding of malignancies and blood problems. Oncologists must routinely retake knowledge exams and engage in educational and self-improvement activities to keep their licenses.

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Oncologist key skills

Oncologists work for hospitals, cancer centers, and other businesses, and they look for applicants with the following qualifications:

Oncologists that are compassionate rely on this quality to make cancer patients and their families feel supported during treatment.


Oncologists are better able to treat patients effectively and without being swayed by their emotions when they maintain objectivity.

Medical expertise

Oncologists use their medical expertise to properly diagnose patients, create the best treatment plans, and carry them out.

Talking out loud

Oncologists who are proficient in verbal communication can better explain to patients the various types of cancer and the available treatments. In addition, oncologists use their communication abilities to communicate with other medical professionals regarding their patients and assign work to nurses.

To provide patients with the best diagnosis and treatment, analytical oncologists use analysis. If their patients don’t respond well to initial treatment, they also employ their analytical talents to find suitable therapeutic options.


To provide patients with the greatest care, oncologists can collaborate effectively with other medical professionals like as pathologists, oncology nurses, diagnostic radiologists, and mental health professionals.

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Oncologist work environment

Oncologists typically work for hospitals, cancer clinics, and outpatient cancer treatment facilities among other types of healthcare facilities. Oncologists who operate in these situations spend a lot of time on their feet since they are fast-paced and demanding. Some oncologists work for federal government agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, oncologists may impart their knowledge by giving lectures at colleges and universities.

Oncologists frequently put in long hours of work because cancer patients need therapy at all hours of the day and night. There is also a chance for weekend and evening employment. Oncologists are frequently on call when they are not at work in case one of their patients needs emergency care.

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How to become an oncologist

Before being hired, oncologists must first obtain the necessary credentials and licenses, then complete general medical and speciality training. To pursue a career as an oncologist, take the following steps:

1. Obtain a state license for medicine

To obtain your state medical license, you must demonstrate your schooling and succeed on a test. You are now able to practice medicine legally in your state.

2. Obtain certification in oncology

You can submit an application for your oncology certification once your fellowship is over. The majority of oncologists have credentials demonstrating their expertise in the oncology subfield of their choice.

3. Create a resume.

Your greatest degree of education, your training, your licenses and certificates, as well as the skills and experiences that make you a qualified candidate for an oncology position, are all listed on your resume. Make sure your resume is clear and comprehensive.

4. Submit an application to hospitals, cancer treatment facilities, and other institutions.

You’re prepared to become an oncologist once you’ve obtained your schooling, licenses, and certificates, as well as finished any necessary training programs. Send in your CV together with a personalized cover letter that explains why the hospitals and other places of business might be a good fit for you.

FAQs on What Does an Oncologist Do

Why would you see an oncologist?

An oncologist is a physician who is highly trained to investigate, diagnose and treat an individual with cancer or suspected cancer. These doctors can treat many different types of cancer in various parts of the patient's body. If you have cancer, an oncologist can make the treatment plan based on pathology reports.

Does oncology mean cancer?

Oncology is the study of cancer. An oncologist is a doctor who treats cancer and provides medical care for a person diagnosed with cancer. An oncologist may also be called a cancer specialist. The field of oncology has 3 major areas based on treatments: medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology.

How does an oncologist diagnose cancer?

Imaging tests used in diagnosing cancer may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, ultrasound and X-ray, among others. Biopsy.

What is the difference between an oncologist and a medical oncologist?

A medical oncologist will treat your cancer with chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. A radiation oncologist will treat your cancer with radiation therapy. A surgical oncologist uses surgery to remove tumors.

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