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What is it like to be an Oncologist?

Primarily, I am curious to know what the working hours, the flexibility of work hours, the levels of stress, and the job salaries are. Also, are there any location restrictions to this career? #oncologist #oncology


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Estelle’s Answer

The road to becoming an Oncologist is certainly not easy, but thousands of people do it every year. To become a physician, you need four years of college education, and four years of medical school. Admission to these institutions can be pretty tough based on where you want to go. Complete your premed requirements, get good grades, and score well on your MCAT. Additionally, a residency is 3 years with a 3-year fellowship afterward. It’s a hard and long road and it requires a lot of discipline and passion. I wish you the best on your journey to becoming a physician. Once you are an oncologist, you'll be able to choose where you want to work, which will set the number of hours you work.

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Rachel’s Answer

Hi Jacob, I am a colorectal surgeon and work for Texas Oncology performing surgeries on patients with abdominal cancers. While I work more on the surgical side, rather than the medical side (medical oncologists treat with chemotherapy rather than surgery), I can tell you that work hours are very reasonable once you complete training. I work from 9-5 pm Monday through Friday. Work hours are flexible in most clinics. At my location, they schedule clinic when I am available and not in the operating room. I do take emergency calls on nights and weekends, but these are relatively infrequent. This job can be very stressful when patients get sick and are dying, but it is also very rewarding. I am glad that I went through 10 + years of training to provide this service to my community. The location restrictions to this career are more pertinent if you only want to pursue a career in academic medicine. If you are happy doing private practice, any medium to large city will be looking for both oncologists and surgeons who work with cancer patients.

Thank you very much for your response! It was very helpful. Jacob W.

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Joanie’s Answer

Generally there are three types of oncologists - surgical, radiation, and medical.
After 4 years of medical school, the training requirement for these 3 varies;
- Surgical: 5 years of general surgery residency, and 1-2 fellowship
- Radiation: 5 years of Rad Onc residency
- Medical: 3 years of family care residency, and 3 years of fellowship

Careers
- you can stay in either academic or private practice. up to you
- academic normally only spend a percentage of time effort (anywhere from 20% for physician scientist to 100 for full time clinicians) on patient facing roles and the other times on research
- private is 100% patient facing, and depends on how the partnership / revenue sharing is structured

Salaries
- varies greatly by location, and you are very flexible on location, as long as there are enough population to support a cancer center
- in general the more expensive / desirable the city is, the less they pay. For example, you might get paid less in Los Angeles compared to a small town in North Dakota. It is a supply / demand issue.
- but again, in general, you are expecting the high 200s to low 300s as starting salary.

Work hours
- generally pretty good because little to none emergencies. most of the procedures are pre-scheduled
- depends on what you want to do, know people who work on weekends due to research, but also people who only work 3.5 days a week and have 10 weeks of vacations

Level of stress
- the biggest stress you will deal with is probably the number of deaths you have to face, especially depends on the disease site you treat.
- but the bright side is that cancer patients have one of the best patient doctor relationship, because, well, they are most likely dying and you are their best hope.

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