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Medical oncologist

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Summary of occupation

Oncologists are physicians who manage patients with cancer.

Cancer is a term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

Oncologists diagnose and assess stages of cancer, recommend and implement appropriate treatment plans and continually monitor progress.

There are approximately 25 oncologists in Western Australia all of who are based in Perth.

ANZSCO description: Investigates, diagnoses and treats patients with cancer using chemotherapy and biological therapy. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Clinical Oncologist, Medical Oncology Physician, Oncologist
Specialisations: Gynaecological oncologists, Haematologists, Paediatric oncologists, Radiation oncologists, Surgical oncologists
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

An oncologist needs:

  • high levels of intelligence and self discipline
  • expert knowledge in the areas of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and targeted treatments
  • to be able to make good clinical judgements under difficult and emotional circumstances
  • to be able to effectively counsel and advise patients
  • to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and in some cases, manage that team
  • a willingness to continue to engage in professional development, study and training
  • excellent communication skills
  • to be able to work under pressure
  • sensitivity, understanding and to be trustworthy
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Working conditions

Most oncologists start their careers in hospitals and clinics, eventually moving into private practice.

Oncologists usually work long hours and at times are on call.

Oncology work can be emotionally draining as a lot of time is spent dealing with patients who have a serious disease - frequent time-out is a must.

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Salary details

On average, medical oncologists can expect to earn between $2 692 and $3 461 per week ($140 000 and $180 000 per year), depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As a medical oncologist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.​

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Tools and technologies

Oncologists are expected to be familiar with a variety of medical equipment and instruments associated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other cancer treatment.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a medical oncologist, you must first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in oncology.

In Western Australia, postgraduate courses in medicine are offered by the University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test and attend an interview at your chosen institution. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To specialise in medical oncology, doctors can apply to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians  to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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