How to Become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse

Pediatric oncology nurses provide medical care for children who have cancer.

Job Description

These nurses have a wide array of job duties including:

  • Preparing and administering chemotherapy under a physician’s supervision
  • Developing each patient’s treatment care plan
  • Explaining the treatment plan to patients and their families
  • Monitoring patients
  • Collaborating with other members of a patient’s healthcare team such as the primary care physician, dietitian, and psychologist

Some practice nurses work in cancer research or run clinical trials. Advanced training is required before working in either area.

How to Become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse

To work in this field, you must first become a registered nurse. Associate degree programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, and technical schools, while bachelor programs are available at four-year colleges and universities. Prerequisites often include being current on vaccinations, cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, and courses such as Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Chemistry, and Microbiology before taking classes devoted to nursing. Those who wish to work as a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner will need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN).

Students are usually required to gain experience in the field, and most begin by working in a pediatric ward to learn how to work closely with children or by participating in an internship in a hospital’s cancer or pediatric ward.

Pediatric Oncology Nurse


All registered nurses need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before starting their career. Those who have a master’s degree in order to specialize as a pediatric oncology nurse will also need to meet additional state requirements to gain employment as a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. This requires passing another exam, and depending on state law, additional licensure may be required to prescribe medications to patients.


Pediatric oncology nurses do not have to be certified, however, it’s best to earn certification in order to demonstrate to an employer and patients’ families that you have the knowledge to work in the field. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) offers five certifications including the Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON) credential and the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) credential. To be eligible for either exam, you need a valid RN license, one year nursing experience, and 1000 hours of oncology nursing experience along with ten hours of continuing nursing education.

Work Experience

Pediatric oncology nurses often start their career by working in cancer treatment centers or private physicians’ offices as most pediatric oncology units will only hire nurses who have a minimum of one to three years of experience, especially when it comes to infusion treatments and chemotherapy. Some employers also prefer nurses who have Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification. This can be obtained by taking a course through the American Heart Association.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment for registered nurses in all fields is expected to increase nineteen percent between the decade of 2012 and 2022.


Pediatric oncology nurses earn between $40,000 and $130,000 annually. The salary depends on location, level of education, certification (those who are certified may make up to $10,000 more per year than nurses who are not), and experience. Nurses who only have a registered nurse license are likely to earn on the lower end of the pay scale with an annual salary between $40,000 and $57,000.  California is one of the best paying states for this profession with an average annual salary of $90,000, while nurses in New York earn approximately $55,000 per year.

Pediatric oncology nurses have rewarding careers, though they often deal with highly stressful situations. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us at Nursing Examiner for additional information.