Oncologists work in virtually all health care settings. Because cancer is such a prevalent disease that takes so many different forms, oncologists are in demand in every area of medical practice. A government-funded medical facility, private hospital, university health center, outpatient clinic, government agency, pharmaceutical company, specialty group, or a research laboratory are all possible employers for the oncologist.
There are no shortcuts to entering the medical profession. Requirements are an M.D. or D.O. degree, a licensing examination, a one- or two-year internship, and a period of residency that may extend as long as five years.
Upon completing this program, which may take up to 15 years, oncologists are then ready to enter practice. They may choose to open a solo private practice, enter a partnership practice, enter a group practice, or take a salaried job with a managed-care facility or hospital. Salaried positions are also available with federal and state agencies, the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and private companies. Teaching and research jobs are usually obtained after other experience is acquired.
An oncologist can advance by becoming the head of a research or medical department. Department heads must assume extensive administrative responsibilities in addition to patient care. They can also achieve prominence in the field by publishing articles and medical studies, conducting research, and participating in professional organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Highly respected oncologists are asked to speak to the public and advise government bodies on health issues.
Tips for Entry
Find out how doctors deal with patients who have cancer. Read the series The Art of Oncology from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, https://www.ascopost.com/Departments?D=Art%20of%20Oncology.
Volunteer with an organization like the American Cancer Society (ACS) to find out how you can help cancer patients. One way to check out volunteer opportunities with the ACS is by going to https://www.cancer.org/involved.
Speak with your regular physician. He or she may be able to refer you to an oncologist who is willing to participate in an information interview.