If you've decided to become a doctor and hope to specialize, pediatric hematology-oncology might be on your list of possibilities. If so, you'll need to know what to expect including the years it takes to reach this goal and the steps required to get there. Although this specialty demands a high level of dedication, the reward lies in working with children who are suffering from complex health issues including cancer, sickle-cell anemia and hemophilia.

Undergraduate Program

This future specialist must first earn a four-year college degree from an accredited college or university with a major in chemistry or biology -- or at the minimum, the required premed courses focusing on science and math. In addition, selecting a school whose graduates have a consistent rate of acceptance to professional schools should be a priority.

Medical or Osteopathic School

The pediatric specialist works with children of all ages.

The primary difference between medical and osteopathic schools is the additional training in manual manipulation of the spine in the osteopathic program. Otherwise, both types of schools require four years focusing on microbiology, genetics and organic chemistry as well as pharmacology, immunology and medical ethics. This is coupled with rotations working with patients under the supervision of seasoned medical doctors. Upon completion of these studies, doctors must pass their respective licensing exams.


During the next step, a three-year residency, residents focus specifically on pediatrics where they receive some exposure to pediatric hematology-oncology. Study includes both required and elective in-patient and out-patient rotations with staff pediatricians. Some residencies also provide doctors with the opportunity to experience clinical and laboratory research projects.

The culmination of residency entails certification in general pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics, which entitles the doctor to practice pediatric medicine following state licensure.


The doctor who chooses to become a specialist in this area must pursue a three-year pediatric hematology-oncology fellowship offered through hospitals and academic medical centers. During this phase, doctors focus on diagnosing and treating children in varying stages of illness and become involved in medical research.

Upon completion, the doctor is eligible to take the examination administered by the Subboard of Hematology-Oncology of the American Board of Pediatrics to become certified in the specialty.

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