Summary of occupation
Radiation oncologists are medical specialists who use radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) to treat and manage cancer in patients.
Radiation oncologists work with and assess patients with cancer and plan the course of best treatment for them. Radiation oncologists may remove the cancer, or where that is not possible, alleviate pain to improve the quality of life of a patient. They determine and prescribe the most suitable dose of radiation using high energy X-rays, electron beams or gamma rays to treat their patient.
Provides medical care and management of patients with cancer and other medical conditions through the conduct and supervision of radiation treatment; and advice on the provision of palliative and other supportive care of patients with cancer. Registration or licensing is required.
A radiation oncologist needs:
- the ability to cope with the physical and psychological demands of the job
- to be accurate and have an eye for detail
- problem solving skills
- understanding, patience and empathy
- excellent communication skills to liaise with other physicians and provide clear information to patients
- to be able to work well within a team.
Radiation oncologists work for public and private hospitals. They may supervise and teach medical students and trainees. Radiation oncologists may also perform research and conduct clinical trials. They may be required to be on-call in case of an emergency.
Most radiation oncologists in Western Australia work in the Perth metropolitan area. They must wear personal protective equipment and adhere to strict safety requirements when performing procedures with radiation.
On average, radiation oncologists, classified under other medical practitioners, can expect to earn approximately $2 958 per week ($153 795 per year), depending on their level of experience and the organisation they work for.
Radiation oncologists work with radiation therapists and medical physicists to deliver radiation treatment with a radiation machine called a linear accelerator (linac). Radiation oncologists usually use external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) techniques, but may also use intraoperative radiotherapy, total body irradiation, or brachytherapy, where radiation is delivered inside the patient. They may be required to wear lead aprons or thyroid shields if they are performing a procedure near radiation.
To become a radiation oncologist, you must first become a qualified medical doctor and then specialise in radiation oncology.
In Western Australia, postgraduate courses in medicine are currently 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 (GAMSAT) 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 then specialise in radiation oncology, doctors can apply to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.
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.
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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.