Job Description:

An oncologist is a medical doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

Here are the key responsibilities and activities typically associated with the role of an oncologist:

  • oncologists are responsible for diagnosing cancer in patients
  • reviewing medical histories, conducting physical examinations, and ordering various diagnostic tests such as blood tests, imaging scans (e.g., X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans), biopsies, and genetic testing
  • assessing the size of the tumour, its location, and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body
  • develop individualised treatment plans based on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences
  • oversee and administer cancer treatments, which may involve prescribing medications, coordinating radiation therapy sessions, performing surgical procedures, or recommending other therapies
  • closely monitor patients’ progress, adjusting treatment plans as necessary
  • educate patients about their condition, treatment options, potential side effects, and long-term outcomes
  • offer emotional support to both patients and their families


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of medicine
  • science skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software
  • packages competently
  • medical skills

As well as:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (adaptability skills)
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions (leadership skills)
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an oncologist, you will follow an extensive educational path that includes undergraduate studies, medical school, residency training, and fellowship specialisation. While specific qualifications are not required for this profession, certain subjects and skills can be valuable in preparing for your educational journey. Here are some subjects that can be beneficial for aspiring oncologists:

  1. Sciences: Strong grades in biology, chemistry, and physics can provide a solid foundation in the natural sciences, which are essential for understanding human physiology and medical concepts related to cancer.
  2. Mathematics: A good grasp of mathematics, especially in areas like algebra and statistics, is important for medical studies and data analysis in oncology research.
  3. English: Excellent communication skills, including reading and writing, are crucial for medical studies, patient interactions, and documentation. Effective communication is key when discussing cancer diagnoses and treatment options with patients.
  4. Additional Sciences: Subjects like human biology or applied science may be offered at the GCSE level and can provide valuable insights into the human body, diseases, and medical terminology.

Post School

You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or a pre-medical program. Some students choose to complete a bachelor’s degree in medicine (MBBS or MBChB) directly, which combines undergraduate and medical school education.

Medical School
Upon completing your bachelor’s degree, you will attend medical school. Medical school programs typically last for five to six years and include both classroom studies and clinical training.

Foundation Training
After medical school, you will undergo foundation training, which is a period of supervised medical practice that provides exposure to various medical specialties. This typically lasts for a few years.

Residency Training in Internal Medicine
To become an oncologist, you will need to complete a residency program in internal medicine, which typically lasts three years. During this training, you will gain a broad understanding of various medical conditions.

Career Tips
Oncologists are expected to engage in continuing medical education to stay updated with the latest advancements in cancer research and treatment.

Becoming an oncologist is a challenging and rewarding journey that requires dedication, a strong educational background in the sciences, and a genuine commitment to improving the lives of cancer patients through diagnosis, treatment, and research.

Working Hours and Environment:

Typically you could work 42 to 48 hours a week, including evenings, nights, weekends, or holidays.

You could work in a public or private hospital.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

  • Oncologists can choose from various career paths, including working in private practice, academic medical centres, hospitals, cancer centres, or government healthcare agencies.
  • Some oncologists focus primarily on clinical practice, while others combine patient care with research and teaching responsibilities.
  • Some oncologists further specialise in areas such as pediatric oncology, radiation oncology, or gynecologic oncology through additional fellowships or training.