No one likes the thought of children or teenagers suffering with cancer, and pediatric oncologists do everything they can to help patients and family deal with the disease. A subspecialty of pediatrics and internal medicine, oncology -- often called hematology-oncology -- is the specialty devoted to the diagnosis, management and treatment of cancer in all forms. Becoming a pediatric oncologist is a long journey.
Preparation for a career in medicine often begins in high school. Courses such as biology, chemistry, math and physics can help the aspiring physician prepare for the more intensive learning she will face in college. Some high school students also volunteer in health-care settings such as a clinic or hospital. Medical education is extremely expensive and highly competitive. A high school student must also consider how she will finance her education. Working might not be an option, especially in medical school, where the hours are long and stressful.
College to Medical School
Medical schools require a baccalaureate degree. Although certain prerequisite classes may be required, the degree could be in any subject. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that college-level biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and English are typical prerequisite courses, and most students also complete humanities and social science courses. An aspiring physician must complete the Medical College Admission Test, submit transcripts and letters of recommendation and interview with the medical school admissions committee. The first two years of medical school focus on laboratory and classroom work, while the last two are devoted to patient care and learning the actual practice of medicine.
Residency For The Basics
Once a physician graduates from medical school, she is eligible to apply for a license, which she needs to practice. Next, she spends three years in a pediatric residency. During residency, she will learn how to diagnose, manage and treat a wide variety of pediatric conditions. Some schools offer special training pathways designed to allow a shorter training period, increased research opportunities or dual certification, according to the Council or Pediatric Subspecialties. Special training pathways are very rigorous, but may decrease total training time by a year.
After residency, the pediatrician will spend at least three more years in a fellowship. In this venue, she learns the details of hematology-oncology. She will administer chemotherapy, provide medical care to children and teenagers, provide emotional support to parents and children and learn to deal with patient deaths. After she finishes her fellowship, she will take board certification exams, which are often required by employers. Nationwide recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins notes that the specialty of hematology-oncology is in strong demand. Profiles Database, a physician employment service, reports pediatric oncologists have a median starting salary of $175,000 and can expect to earn $215,000 annually after six years of practice.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- American Association of Pediatrics: A Career in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology?
- Council of Pediatric Subspecialties: Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
- Council of Pediatric Subspecialties: Descriptions of Pediatric Subspecialties
- Merritt Hawkins: 2012 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives
- Profiles Database: 2013-1014 Physician Salary Survey
- Photo Credit monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
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