One of the most common questions we receive in the ONS’s clinical email box, clinical@ons.org, is from people who want to know how to become an oncology nurse. Although each nurse’s career path is different, here are some frequent ways nurses enter our specialty.

It’s common for nurses to enter oncology through on-the-job training. Many hospitals, particularly larger cancer centers, will hire nurses without oncology experience and provide a thorough orientation. If you or someone you know is interested, consider contacting employers in your area to express interest and ask about their hiring requirements. Also, building knowledge in cancer-related issues through conferences, online resources, and journal articles will reinforce your interest in the field.

Student nurses seeking a position in oncology may want to think about volunteering or becoming a nursing assistant on an oncology unit. This can provide an opportunity to learn oncology nursing in practice. Some centers offer internships or externships that provide opportunities to work in different cancer settings during and after graduation from nursing school. Don’t forget to use ONS resources for student nurses

New oncology nurses can gain experience in the specialty by taking advantage of some of the opportunities offered to ONS members on our website and in our educational offerings. At ONS, there are a number of communities that are available based on your specific oncology interests. As a member of ONS, you will join a local chapter where you can network about open jobs, mentorship opportunities, educational offerings, and other needs of oncology nurses.

Oncology certification is encouraged after a nurse has gained experience in the specialty. Visit the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation to learn about the types of certifications available and the requirements to become an oncology certified nurse. 

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