If you're planning on becoming a hematologist, you'd better clear your calendar for the next decade and a half. Hematologists are highly specialized physicians who study, diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the blood. There's a considerable amount of education required, including four years of college and four years of med school, followed by a three- to five-year residency and a two- to three-year fellowship. The hard work is highly rewarding; as of 2011, hematologists earned $300,000 to $400,000 annually, according to the Medical Group Management Association.
Aspiring hematologists must complete the education required of all physicians, including a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university. Pre-med students typically major in a science-related field, such as biology or anatomy, although no specific major is required. Students do however, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), have to take chemistry, biology, physics, English and mathematics during undergraduate studies to be considered for medical school. Other med school requirements include a competitive GPA, glowing letters of recommendation, participation in extracurricular and volunteer activities, leadership and teamwork skills, working or volunteering in a medical or scientific facility and high MCAT scores.
Hematologists are required to complete four years of medical school. Students spend the first two years immersed in classroom and laboratory courses, including biochemistry, anatomy, psychology, pharmacology, medical laws and ethics. Students are also taught how to examine and diagnose patients, and record their medical histories. After the first two years of med school, students must pass Part 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE, to continue to the third and fourth years. Part 1 of the exam tests the students’ grasp of theories and concepts governing medicine. During the second two years, students gain supervised hands-on practice examining, diagnosing and treating patients by rotating through various medical specialties including family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and psychiatry. During their fourth year, students take Part 2 of the USMLE, which tests their ability to put medical theories into practice. Upon graduation, doctors receive their MD or DO degree.
Aspiring hematologists are required to complete a three- to five-year hospital residency. Doctors typically complete a residency in pediatrics, internal medicine or pathology before specializing in hematology. Around the second year of residency, doctors take Part 3 of the USMLE; upon passing, physicians are granted a license to practice general medicine.
Fellowship and Certification
Hematologists can pursue a sub-specialty in their field during a two- to three-year fellowship following their residency. Sub-specialties in hematology include coagulation, adult hematology, hematology/oncology, pediatric hematology/oncology and pathology. Though fellows have more leeway in examining, diagnosing and treating patients than residents, fellows are nonetheless supervised by attending physicians. After completing their residency, hematologists are eligible to take the certification examination administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
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