Cancer is considered as one of the deadliest diseases. Due to the increasing number of patients suffering from this illness, the career as an oncologist is becoming in demand. As a physician, this is a very challenging specialty since you won’t only deal with clinical procedures and plans but also with worried patients and significant others. Having the responsibility to deliver one of the saddest news a person could get makes this profession tough. If you are considering taking the first step towards this profession, take time to read this article and get a grasp of how to become an oncologist.
How to become an oncologist
1 Finish a four-year undergraduate degree.
Having a pre-med major is not compulsory, as any Bachelor’s Degree would be allowed as long as important subjects and courses in medicine would be taken up. This includes: chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology and etc. Online courses would also be acknowledged as long as it has a good, reputable and accredited medical program.
2 Take and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
This is usually suggested during your junior year in your undergraduate college course. The examination is going to last for a day; therefore you should be ready emotionally and mentally before filing an application. Once you achieve a passing rate, you will then be considered for enrollment in medical schools. This is a computer-based test which would assess your critical thinking, problem solving, analysis and writing skills. Emphasis on chemistry, physics, biology and other science subjects would also be included. To take the examination, you would be charged $200.00.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is divided into four sections, namely:
- Biological Sciences
- Physical Sciences
- Verbal Reasoning
In order to pass the examination, you must have at least the following scores: 9.5 for Verbal Reasoning, 9.9 for Physical Sciences and 10.2 for Biological Sciences.
3 Apply for medical school.
Once accepted, it would add four years more from your undergraduate course. Courses in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology and the like would be required. The program is usually divided into two parts wherein 2 years would be spent for laboratory and classroom instructions while the other 2 years would be allotted for your hospital and clinical exposures. Requirements to be qualified for application are listed below:
- Bachelor’s Degree granted by an accredited educational institution.
- Coursework in undergraduate studies (as recommended by the Committee on Admission): one year in General Biology/Zoology, Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry. One semester in Physics, Math and English.
- Passing rate in Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
4 Complete a residency program lasting two to four years.
Once you graduate from a medical school, you can search for potential hospitals or clinics to render your service as a resident physician. This is one of the best parts in your profession since you get to know the experience of practicing in the actual setting. Once you’ve done this, you are now prepared to take up the medical licensure examination. Be reminded that before you can continue with Medical Oncology, it is required that you become a pediatrician, surgeon or internist first.
5 Undergo an Oncology Fellowship Program.
This is expected to provide a fundamental and great influence in your future clinical practice and educational activities. During the course of this program, you will be mentored and supervised by licensed and experienced practitioners in order to develop your skills and decision-making abilities.
6 Pick a specialty.
According to studies, there are over 100 types of cancer. This is what makes the job challenging and interesting. However, it is important that you choose the subspecialty of oncology you wish to practice. The training would usually last for 2 to 3 years. By the end of the program, you will earn a certification in order for you to practice in your chosen field of specialization.
Some examples of Oncology Specialties are the following:
- Surgical Oncology - focused on removal of tumors.
- Radiologic Oncology - uses radiotherapy for treatment.
- Medical Oncology - uses drugs in treating cancer.
- Pediatric Oncology - treats and diagnose cancer in children
- Interventional Oncology specialized in image guided tumor therapies
- Gynecologic Oncology - deals with the female reproductive system.
7 Continuing education is important.
In the field of health and medicine, there are developments and advancements every now and then. Do not forget to update your knowledge and skills in order to provide the quality patient care and efficient diagnosis your patients need.
As expected, there is an increase of 14% in the demand and job opportunities for oncologist until the year 2016. The average annual salary for these physicians is $290,000 to $410,000. Great money isn’t it? But remember, it takes a lot of time and effort to get into this position. Patience, good study habits and diligence are the most important recipes in order to succeed in this profession. For aspiring oncologists looking for information on how to become an oncologist, the above information should give you a summary of the steps involved before you can start your new career.
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