How Many Years of Training to Become an Oncologist?

Oncologists frequently work with the most seriously ill patients.
Oncologists frequently work with the most seriously ill patients. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Oncologists are doctors who specialize in treating people with cancer. As an oncologist, you will need to complete specialized training in residency after medical school. There are several different subspecialties in oncology, and you can choose to emphasize in medical, surgical, or radiation oncology. Training and continuing education programs for oncologists are available throughout the country. Once your training is complete, you can work in private practice, at a hospital or in a research capacity developing treatments for cancer.

Medical School

To become an oncologist, you must first graduate from an accredited medical school. Accredited medical schools prepare you for additional training in oncology and the subspecialty of oncology that you choose. Most medical schools are four-year programs; however, there are some schools, like the University of Missouri at Kansas City, that offer an accelerated program, allowing you to complete medical school and residency in six years instead of eight.


The next step in your training as an oncologist is a two- to four-year residency in internal medicine, according to Health Care Training While completing your residency in internal medicine, you will develop a specialty in oncology, which may also be combined with hematology. Once your residency is completed, you are certified and can begin your advanced training.


After completing a residency program, you then have a two- to three-year fellowship program to complete. Fellowships are usually a combination of specialized training and supervised research in a chosen specialty and subspecialty. After completing your fellowship, you sit for exams to be board-certified as an oncologist. Oncologists are required to be certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Continuing Education

In order to maintain an active license, oncologists are required to complete ongoing continuing education. The American Board of Internal Medicine oversees continuing education that must be completed once every 10 years.

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