School students

Clinical oncology as a career 

Clinical oncology is an exciting and rewarding field of medicine which specialises in the treatment of cancer with drugs, including the commonly known chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This is a rapidly evolving specialty and there have been tremendous advances in treatment and techniques over the past decade. Cancer is an incredibly interesting disease to manage, involving various forms of treatment and vitally important team working with other key individuals in the hospital, including specialist nurses, radiographers, physicists, and chemotherapy nurses. Working closely alongside other medical professionals is stimulating and rewarding. The job incorporates a mix of ward work and clinics, allowing exposure to serious clinical problems as well as continuity of care and the opportunity to really get to know your patients and their families. Does this sound like the specialty for you? See if you have some of the skills and qualities required by oncologists that are listed below. 

Skills and qualities of a clinical oncologist:  

  • Good practical skills
  • An enquiring mind
  • A commitment to patient care
  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to be a good team-player
  • Resilience
  • Good decision-making skills 

This sounds like me! What next?


Medical school

What does medical school entail? 

Before becoming a specialist doctor you will have to undertake five to six years at medical school learning about all aspects of medicine. There are approximately 34 medical schools all over the UK, each with their own entry requirements and a slightly different curriculum that incorporates varying elements of all the medical specialties. 

Is it right for me? 

Before committing to applying for medical school it is important that you reflect on all the factors involved in your decision-making process and consider each aspect thoroughly. 

  • Where do I want to study? 
  • How will I finance my degree?
  • What kind of course is most appealing to me? 
  • What are the entry requirements
  • What A levels (or equivalent) do I need to have? 

How do I get into medical school? 

More information about how to apply for medical school and details on the process can be found at the Undergraduate Courses at University and College (UCAS) website and on the General Medical Council's dedicated pages.  

Will I learn about clinical oncology during my time at medical school? 

Each medical school has its own curriculum that contains different options and modules for the medical specialties. You will inevitably be taught about cancer during your time at medical school, however, you may not necessarily gain exposure to the individual strands of oncology. If you would like to learn more you can access the RCR's non-surgical undergraduate curriculum here. There are also some medical schools with an active clinical oncology society where you can meet like-minded students and learn more about the specialty. The RCR has also established a link with The British Oncology Network of Undergraduate societies (BONUS) which holds details of oncology societies across the UK as well as news and updates of what is going on in the specialty, and support and guidance on what to do if you'd like to set up your own society. 

Want to know more?

  • Watch this video to hear clinical oncology trainees talking about their experience of training in the specialty.
  • Click here to find out what a day in the life of a clinical oncologist is like and hear from some real medical students and trainees. 
  • Watch this video from the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre to learn more about radiotherapy.