Blood is the fuel that illuminates life. Virtually every living organ in the human body is impacted in some way, shape or form by blood or the circulation of blood. And thanks to advancements in the study of hematology, our abilities to fight off disease, rehabilitate injuries and simply sustain life have greatly improved in recent years. And it's the job of Hematologists to provide solutions to solving blood related medical conditions, diseases and disorders.
What is a Hematologist?
According to the American Society of Hematology, “Hematology is the study of blood, blood forming tissues and organs, and blood disorders. Hematologists specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood disorders.”A hematologist may perform the following:
Hematologists can work in nearly any setting and the specialty has opportunities in patient care, research and academia. As such, aspiring hematologists can structure their educational track to support their desired work environment and focus.
Educational Requirements for Becoming a Hematologist
The minimum educational requirement for becoming a hematologist is a doctoral degree.
Step-by-Step Educational Path to Becoming a Hematologist
While there is no specific degree that students need to obtain in order to get into medical school, there are undergraduate study requirements that will give them a strong foundation for the rest of their medical education.
Students who are pursuing medical school should be focused on obtaining the necessary pre-requisite courses required for admission during their undergraduate studies. These pre-requisites include physical science courses and lab credits. In addition to helping a student get accepted into medical school, they will also prepare the student to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
It is important that students maintain a high GPA and testing scores if they desire to have their choice of schools and specialties. Medical school is very competitive and it is important that students stay focused at all levels of their education if they are to reach their goals of becoming a hematologist.
Take the MCAT
Most students take the MCAT their junior years of college. The MCAT tests a student’s problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, written analysis, and their knowledge of scientific principles. The score that a student receives on their MCAT is vital to their entrance into medical school.
In order to succeed on the test, many students do study sessions and enroll in preparation courses with online sample tests. There are also books and curriculums dedicated to helping students prepare both by subject matter and with test taking tips. It is recommended that students utilize all the resources at their disposable so they know what is covered, the format of the test, and the pace at which they must complete the work. Success on the MCAT is one of the best ways to ensure future success through the rest of the education that must be completed on the way to becoming a hematologist.
In order to be admitted into medical school an aspiring student will need to provide their school of choice with information about their education and experience. This includes: cumulative undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, extra-curricular and volunteer activities, proof of leadership skills, MCAT scores and any experiences that show a dedication to the field and medical work.
Once a student is accepted into medical school they will complete four years of training and rotations. During this time students will study biochemistry, anatomy, psychology, pharmacology, medical law, ethics and more. After the first two years of classroom and lab work, students take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) which is designed to “[assess] whether you understand and can apply important concepts of the sciences to the practice of medicine, with special emphasis on principles and mechanisms underlying health, disease and modes of therapy.”
The second two years of medical school will offer students a chance to practice examinations, diagnoses, and treating patients under supervision. During this time they will also be introduced to a variety of medical specialties. This introduction to medical specialties will help show the student what environments and practices they are most drawn to as well as where their own skills and characteristics fit into medical practice.
During the fourth year of medical school students will take the second part of the USMLE which, “Assesses whether you can apply medical knowledge, skills and understanding of clinical science essential for the provision of patient care under supervision and includes an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention.”
Residency in Internal Medicine and Oncology
After graduation from medical school, aspiring hematologists will begin their residency. The typical hematology residency lasts three to five years and is often focused on pediatrics, internal medicine or pathology. During the second year of this residency students will take the third part of the USMLE.
After residency and passing the final USMLE exam, residents will be granted license to practice general medicine and can continue on to further learn their sub-specialty.
Fellowship in Hematology/Oncology
Doctors who desire to become hematologists will train further with a two to three year fellowship. This fellowship is where doctors will learn more in depth practices of hematology including:
Understanding the Career Path
Hematologists have a variety of work environments to choose from. Academia, research and patient care settings all offer promising careers and steady salary.
The median salary for a hematology/oncology physician is $272,985 annually. The highest reported annual income of a hematologist is $422,596 with a small portion (10%) making less than $169,058 annually.
The journey of learning how to become a hematologist is among the more simple and structured of human anatomy specialties. This profession is best suited for candidates that have a high disposition for science and laboratory studies – as opposed to interpersonal skills that are required for more patient-centric professions. However, in order to accelerate the learning curve and to become a more attractive candidate for Hematologists positions; a smart candidate will find a way to incorporate laboratory work with interpersonal skills.