Education and Training Requirements

High School

Future scientists and physicians should take college prep courses in high school. Laboratory sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) and mathematics are especially important as the foundation for more advanced work later. English, foreign languages, history, and other humanities and social sciences courses are important as well. Good oral and written communication skills are essential.

Postsecondary Training

A premed program is best if you plan to go to medical school. If there is no premed program at your school, or if you want to pursue a Ph.D. program, then chemistry or biology is an appropriate undergraduate major. Some colleges also offer undergraduate majors in biochemistry, microbiology, or genetics.

You must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before applying to medical school and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) before applying to graduate school. Apply to at least three medical or graduate schools to increase your chances of acceptance.

Medical school and Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences generally take at least four years. A combined M.D./Ph.D. program usually takes six to seven years. The first two years of medical school are usually spent in classrooms and labs. Students learn anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics, and laws governing medicine. They also learn how to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.

After graduating from medical school, students spend at least two years in a hospital residency program. The length of the residency period depends on the specialty chosen. Because hematology is a subspecialty of internal medicine, a three-year residency in general internal medicine followed by two years of training in a hematology or hematology-oncology program is required.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education opportunities are provided by many state and national organizations, including the American Society of Hematology, the American Medical Association, and the American Osteopathic Association. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification is not required but can increase employment opportunities. If you want to be certified in a medical specialty, you need to pass the specialty board examination in your field after completing residency requirements. The American Board of Internal Medicine offers certification in hematology to those who complete training and licensing requirements. The American Board of Pediatrics offers certification in pediatric hematology-oncology. Contact the boards for more information. Some hematologists also choose to become board certified in oncology since this field is so closely related to hematology. 

After graduating from medical school, you need to pass the licensing examination administered through the board of medical examiners in the state where you plan to practice.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

After medical school, three to eight years in a residency program in hematology and passing the standardized national licensure exam are required for employment as a hematologist.

Hematologists who specialize in research must be detail oriented, organized, and keen on solving problems. Those who work with patients must have strong communication skills to deal with a wide range of people as well as health care support staff. Compassion and patience are essential skills for treating patients who may be extremely ill and for sharing information about their health and prognosis with them and their families.

Hematologists should be inquisitive and have an interest in medicine and research, as well as strong academic ability, especially in the sciences. You need the discipline to spend long hours writing lengthy grant proposals and researching articles. You also need the ability to be a team player and have patience to conduct lengthy research projects. If you work directly with patients and their families, you should feel comfortable dealing with seriously ill people.