Serving as an expert on disorders of the blood, a hematologist diagnoses and treats illnesses and conditions like hemophilia, leukemia, myeloma, blood clots and other blood cancers. In addition to patient care, hematologists engage in research to discover new blood conditions and groundbreaking treatments.
Since blood interacts with all of the organs in the body, a hematologist must understand the complexity of multisystem interactions and issues like heart conditions, genetic abnormalities, cancers and vascular issues. You can expect to spend 13 to 15 years in education and training to become a hematologist.
Begin by Earning an Undergraduate Degree
Consider your undergraduate degree as an opportunity to prepare for the rigor of medical school. A degree in the hard sciences or a pre-medical degree that combines math and science courses will serve as a strong foundation.
Look at the common prerequisite courses for medical school and load your schedule with classes that will bolster your learning. A degree that is heavy in science classes will also help when you take the Medical College Admissions Test.
Demonstrate Your Initiative and Leadership Skills
In addition to a strong academic background, it’s vital to become involved on campus and in the community. As you progress through the educational journey of a hematologist, a strong record of cocurricular involvement will enhance your medical school application. Consider volunteering in a nursing home or clinic and interview hematologists to learn more about their recommendations for success.
Earn a Medical Degree
Finishing a medical degree is the next step in meeting hematologist education requirements. In medical school, you’ll study subjects like anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, behavioral sciences, clinical medicine and immunology.
As you progress in the program, you’ll have the opportunity to attend clinical rotations to learn more about the practical application of your classroom learning. These clinical rotations will expose you to various specialties and subspecialties that you can pursue during your residency and fellowship.
During medical school, you’ll take the first two parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination, also known as the USMLE. After you graduate from medical school, you’ll continue hands-on learning in a medical residency program.
Learn More in a Hematology Residency Program
A hematology residency program is a general residency focused on oncology, pediatrics or pathology. The main thrust of a residency is to provide practical experience with patient care. If you know that you want to specialize in pediatric hematology, a pediatric residency is the ideal choice. A pathology residency provides the foundation for a job working in hematopathology.
Following your residency, you’ll take the final part of your USMLE. After passing the final part of your USMLE, you’ll be licensed to practice medicine, and you can pursue a fellowship to further specialize.
Become Immersed in a Fellowship
Hematologist education and training culminates with a two- to four-year fellowship. This hands-on training will allow you to choose a subspecialty like pediatrics, pathology, oncology or adult hematology. Hematologist oncologist schooling is rooted in a fellowship, and many programs automatically combine hematology and oncology in one experience.
Consider Your Career Options
A hematologist can work in a clinic or hospital involved in direct patient care. There are job options for hematology in research, academic teaching and pharmaceutical development.
Hematology is closely aligned with oncology, and many jobs have dual roles in both specialties. Research advances in hematology are often linked with direct patient care. This offers hematologists the opportunity to have a multidiscipline approach to their career path.
Review Hematologist Salary Expectations
In 2017, the average salary for physicians and surgeons was $208,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hematologists with a subspecialty may earn substantially more. The need for physicians and surgeons is projected to grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.