Pediatric oncologists treat children who have cancer. Like other doctors, they must complete an undergraduate degree and medical school. Then they must complete training to specialize in the field of pediatric oncology. Altogether, pediatric oncologists could spend 13 years getting their education and training. All that hard work is likely to be rewarded: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs will grow by 24 percent for all physicians and surgeons between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average for other industries.
Students wishing to become pediatric oncologists do not need to have a special major in undergraduate school. Though students can enroll in a premed program, it's not necessary. In fact, it's not even necessary to major in a science or related field. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that most medical schools only expect students to have completed one year of biology, one year of physics, one year of English and two years of chemistry to be admitted to their program. Therefore, students can choose any undergraduate major they like, so long as they complete this required coursework.
Doctors of all specialties are required to attend medical school, which typically takes four years to complete. Most medical school programs include two years of coursework, followed by two years of clinical training, also called an internship. Clinical training gives students hands-on experience in a variety of departments, including surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology and pediatrics. Students who are interested in becoming pediatric oncologists can use this time to learn more about the specialty and determine if they are really committed to it.
Once students graduate from medical school, they must take and pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam. They will then become licensed to practice medicine. These doctors can then enter their residency, which is typically a three-year program within their area of specialization. The first year is often spent doing rotations in a number of departments, similar to the internship, and the last two years are usually spent in the area of specialization, pediatric oncology in this case.
Pediatrician oncologists often confirm their specialization through a fellowship, which usually lasts two years. Some fellowships may be longer or shorter, depending on the program. Once the fellowship is over, additional testing may be required to meet certification by the American Board of Pediatrics. Once certification is attained, that person can become a fully practicing pediatric oncologist.