Oncology Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Oncology?

Oncology is the study of tumors and cancers. An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in and treats cancer and provides medical care for a person diagnosed with cancer. 

The field of oncology has three major areas: medical, surgical, and radiation. A medical oncologist treats cancer using chemotherapy or other medications, such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy.

Medical oncologists treat cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, biological therapies, and other targeted treatments. People often think of the medical oncologist as their primary cancer doctor but they will consult other specialists such as radiologists, surgeons, and pathologists, and decide on the course of treatment. Medical oncologists help their patients manage side effects, and they help monitor and maintain well-being

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Oncology courses in the following subject areas:

  • Translational Oncology – The study of theoretical and practical aspects of the causes and treatment of cancer with a major focus on the cellular and molecular basis of cancer.
  • GradDip Cancer Nursing – A course for those who wish to broaden their knowledge and expertise in cancer care to provide safe, effective, and holistic care to people with cancer.
  • Nursing Oncology – Develop the knowledge, skills, and competencies in oncology nursing practice.
  • Specialist Practice (Cancer Care & Haematology) – Gain the skills, knowledge, and clinical expertise in specialist care practice.

Studying Oncology in college

Oncologists typically need a bachelor’s degree, a degree from a medical school, which takes 4 years to complete, and, 3 to 7 years in internship and residency programs. To become an oncology nurse, a student must finish an undergraduate degree or diploma program in nursing and obtain licensure as a registered nurse (RN). Diploma and associate degree programs take 2-3 years to complete, while bachelor’s degree programs are four years in length.

There are also many other Oncology courses available that take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or volunteering work experience within a research facility or trial which will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Oncology you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of Oncology and Cancer treatments and therapies. A career in oncology provides the opportunity to be part of a group of exciting specialties that continue to produce discoveries and enhanced treatment for cancer patients. Oncology blends important health care advances in a setting of committed care involving a team approach.

Medical oncologists aim to provide the best possible outcome for cancer patients, whether that is cure or palliation and prolongation of good quality life. They also provide counseling for patients and their families and as such working hours will vary based on the facility they work at and their patient’s needs. The hours are usually full time, Monday to Friday when in the office seeing patients but you should expect to work some evenings and over weekends.

Clinical care, clinical trials, laboratory and translational cancer research form an integral part of the training in oncology. You will be trained to work as part of a multidisciplinary team, able to advise on all aspects of treatment including surgery and radiotherapy as well as having the skills to administer systemic therapies.

Medical and clinical oncologists often work in partnership together, and clinical oncology covers both the therapeutic administration of ionizing radiation (radiotherapy) and cytotoxic chemotherapy. However, only clinical oncologists administer radiotherapy.

Related jobs include:

  • Medical oncologist
  • Surgical oncologist
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Gynecologic oncologist
  • Pediatric oncologist
  • Haematologist-oncologist
  • Oncology Nurse
  • Palliative Care Doctor
  • Palliative Care Nurse
  • Oncology Social Worker
  • Counselor
  • Diagnostic Radiologist
  • Rehabilitation Therapist

Further study

After completing a course in Oncology you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as Palliative Care or Rehabilitation Therapies.


Are there any skills that would be beneficial when going into Oncology?

To go into a career in Oncology you should have emotional strength and maturity as you will often be dealing with very sad stories and outcomes and you will need to show strength to patients and their families and instill confidence. 

You should have excellent communication skills, get along well with people and have compassion.

You will need to have the stamina required to work long hours and be able to make sound decisions in an emergency.

Why is the study and treatment of cancer called Oncology?

The term oncology means a branch of science that deals with tumors and cancers. The word “onco” means bulk, mass, or tumor while “-logy” means study.

What is the difference between medical oncology and radiation oncology?

Radiation oncologists focus on destroying cancerous cells in specific target areas of the body, mostly using radiation therapy. Medical oncologists, on the other hand, work at treating the entire body using whatever medicines are best deemed for that type of cancer depending on the stage.

Where can I study Oncology?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

· The word ‘cancer’ comes from the Latin for ‘crab’ just like the zodiac sign. Early doctors, when describing certain tumors which had veins or extensions from the main body, called them crab-like, or ‘cancerous’.

· The earliest description of cancer was found in the Edwin Smith Papyrus dating back to 1600 B.C. The document describes breast tumors removed by a tool called the fire drill. However, it states that “there is no treatment”.

· Researchers believe that over half of all cancer cases – and up to half of all cancer deaths – are preventable. This means there are between 2.4 million and 3.7 million avoidable deaths per year

· There are more than 200 types and subtypes of cancer. Cancer is not one disease. In the last 10 years, we have realized that there are more than 200 different types and subtypes of cancer. This has triggered a shift away from a one-size-fits-all approach and toward “tailored therapy”.

· Only 5-10% of all cancers are entirely hereditary. Most cancers develop through a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, including smoking, alcohol, obesity, and diet.

Mariza Halliday

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