Pre Med

How Cancer Education and Science Programs are Changing the Paths of High School Students

Medical glass vials and containers

The term Continuing Education Program (CEP) has been around for a long time. The concept dates all the way back to Benjamin Franklin who started a discussion group in 1743 called the Junto Club. There were 12 original members consisting of artisans, craftspeople, a mathematician, an engineer, and a “Gentleman of fortune.” They discussed politics, the state of the community, and public projects. They founded the first lending library, a fire company, a volunteer militia, a hospital, and the University of Pennsylvania. In other words, they were the first citizens to engage in an early form of continuing education.

Throughout the 1800s, movements like the Junto Club also served to teach illiterate Americans how to read and write. Then in the 1970s, the term “continuing education” became a formal offering from colleges and universities that sought to provide non-credit programs. Within 30 years, the number of people participating in these programs tripled.

Today, CEP has popular sub-branches, such as the computer education program for students who wish to enter the world of technology and the cancer education program, a CEP designed specifically for those who wish to pursue a future in the field of cancer. Cancer education is gaining ground among high school students as all things STEM rise in popularity, and the need for additional medical specialists is acute following the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the Cancer Education Program (CEP)?

Cancer Education Programs (CEP’s) take a number of different forms. For instance, the Mayo Clinic’s Comprehensive Cancer Center established their CEP in 1995. The mission was to educate all those whose lives were impacted by cancer: patients and caregivers, who are often family members. The program also includes patient navigators who help cancer victims and families, by answering their questions and providing referrals. The Mayo CEP provides educational classes, support, and end-of-life care instruction. 

How does this relate to career choices for aspiring future oncologists? Many cancer specialists get their first introduction to cancer when a family member is diagnosed. This can spark an interest that leads to further exploration—even a college major, med school, and a future practice.

How does the Cancer Education Program Impact Students in High School?

Many leading colleges and universities acknowledge that waiting until sophomore year to pick a major can result in adding time onto a student’s education. Here’s what we know: about 80 percent of U.S. college students change majors at least once. And this can be costly in both time and money.

Top U.S. universities now offer online courses to high school students, and medicine is a leading subject. For example, Wake Forest University offers Online Immersion Programs for High School Students. Among the current eight subjects they provide include medicine, sports medicine, women’s medicine, and cancer medicine. This particular course accompanies a patient on their cancer journey. Topics include the role of genetics, how cells go from benign to malignant, how cancer metastasizes among organs, plus the latest diagnostic and treatment options. Students can also explore the many roles in the field, from oncologist (cancer specialist) to nurse, social worker, physician therapist, and other related disciplines.

One university did a research study to better understand the “Impact of the cancer education program on the career paths of students.” The findings are interesting. Students answered a questionnaire after participating in a National Cancer Institute Education Program. Of the 105 surveys returned, 65 named the chance to be involved in cancer research as valuable. 48 respondents expressed the importance of improving their academic credentials, and 20 decided to pursue cancer-related careers.

Although summer pre-college programs have been around for decades, online immersion programs have risen in popularity as a result of sophisticated internet platforms. Due to the high cost of a degree, and the problems associated with switching majors, more and more motivated students are finding the chance to pursue a passion for a subject before college highly appealing.

Thanks to the rise of STEM, many high school students are also participating in online learning in various fields of science.

Science Career Paths names the top 20 career paths for high school students with a keen interest in science. The criteria they used to name the 20 leading science careers are:

  • Job growth percentage, or the number of new jobs available.
  • The number of employers looking to fill roles in these career categories.
  • Science-related businesses with the highest growth potential.

Among the top 20 is “oncologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer.” This job enjoys the highest average salary of nearly $256,000 per year, followed by orthodontist at just over $242,000 and dentist at roughly $236,000 average pay.

In addition to the above, the other science fields on the “Top 20” list include:

  1. Clinical technician
  2. Forensic science technician
  3. Microbiologist
  4. Chemist
  5. Biologist
  6. Researcher
  7. Biomedical engineer
  8. Epidemiologist
  9. R&D engineer
  10. Robotics engineer
  11. Psychologist
  12. Physician assistant
  13. Software developer
  14. Nurse practitioner
  15. Clinical research scientist
  16. Infectious disease physician
  17. Nuclear engineer

US News and World Report has its own similar list. The only key difference is that oncologist did not make their list. You decide what works best for you.

What are the Benefits of Starting a Career in Science? 

According to, science careers often involve innovative technologies, which typically provide job security. Other advantages include highly rewarding work, and skills in areas, such as research and management, that are transferable to careers in a whole range of businesses.

In addition to the many doors science can open for you, science-related jobs come with other benefits. These include:

Job security: As we all know, business sectors rise and fall as a result of recessions and economic downturns. However, the science sector offers a unique track record of job security.

High pay: People in the research and development (R&D) world—in both business and pharmaceutical sectors—are among the highest paid. At the top of the food chain are researchers with knowledge of machine learning (ML), a specialty most valuable as we advance our use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Constant learning: Science moves at a faster and faster pace, thanks in large part to tech innovation. For instance, ML speeds the analysis of data, and new technologies are constantly changing the way business works. As a result, those in the science fields stay on top of the latest platforms and develop new skills. 

Making a difference: Being part of research and development is highly gratifying; particularly when you think about improving the impact of waste on the environment, coming up with a game-changing new drug, or creating new ways to advance the way we work. Science is at the heart of it all.

Precollege Courses to Prepare Students for a Science Career 

As mentioned earlier, when it comes to Continuing Education Programs (CEP), colleges and universities are stepping up. Many like Wake Forest University offer online pre-college programs in areas such as STEM, medicine and specific areas of science. Here are a few other university programs you may want to consider:

Georgetown University Pre-College Online Program

Georgetown has a robust offering for high school students with an interest in medicine and science. These include online courses in medical research, psychology, and surgery.

University of Rochester’s Pre-College Online Program

Biomedical engineering tops the list of popular courses designed for high school students at this prestigious university. Students can also take a course in medicine, orthopedics, and U.S. healthcare.

Rice University’s Pre-College Online Program

With a focus on science, the Rice University Precollege Program offers online courses in subjects such as genome engineering and physiology.

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