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Oncology Nurse Training Programs and Courses

Explore the education and licensure required to become an oncology nurse, which is a nurse who works with cancer patients. Check out specialty certifications for oncology nurses, as well as the salary and outlook for these nurses.

What You Need to Know

Oncology nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in helping to treat patients with cancer, aid in administering radiation and chemotherapies, and provide follow-up monitoring. While bachelor's degree programs are the most preferred training programs for oncology nurses, associate's degree and diploma programs may be acceptable for entry-level positions. As an oncology nurse in training, you might study psychology, nursing skills, social sciences, nutrition, and more.

Training Oncology nurses can choose a sub-specialty and gain on-the-job training in radiation, hospice care, pain management, etc.
Programs Associate's degree or diploma programs may suffice for entry-level positions, but bachelor's degree programs are preferred
Courses Nursing skills, anatomy, psychology, social and behavioral sciences, natural sciences, assessment, leadership skills, nutrition

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much Education Do I Need?

To become a nurse, you can earn a diploma, an associate's degree, or a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited school. A bachelor's degree should provide you with general education in addition to nursing training and can lead to better job opportunities after college. You also need a bachelor's degree if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree program in nursing. After you graduate from an approved school, you need to take the National Council Licensure Examination, known as the NCLEX-RN, from your state nursing board in order to obtain your nursing license.

The types of courses offered in a nursing program include:

  • Social and behavioral science
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry and microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Liberal arts

Where Can I Get Specialized Training as an Oncology Nurse?

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation offers five certifications: the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN), the Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON), the Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN), the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP), and the Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS). Each of these programs is recognized by the American Board of Nursing Specialties.

Advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners and other nursing specialists, are a more highly educated group of nurses who have at least a master's degree in nursing. The AOCNP and AOCNS certifications require either a master's degree or higher from an accredited institution and 500 hours of experience as an advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner in adult oncology. The OCN, CPHON, and CBCN certifications require a year of nursing experience, 1,000 hours of clinical adult oncology nursing experience, and 10 contact hours of continuing education in nursing. All five of these certifications require you to have your nursing license.

What Is the Salary and Career Outlook for an Oncology Nurse?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 2,955,200 registered nurses were working in 2016, and this number is expected to grow 15 percent in the 2016-2026 decade (www.bls.gov). It also estimated that registered nurses made a median annual wage of $70,000 in 2017.