Neurologist: Job Requirements and Description

A neurologist requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties, certification and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Neurologists are licensed physicians who specialize in nervous system disorders. Requiring extensive medical training, this career may be a good fit for individuals with a passion for learning about and treating diseases that affect the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system. Training includes medical school and a clinical residency in neurology. Some neurologists see patients in hospitals and clinics or work in research or as university professors. Many neurologists earn board certification by passing an examination in the field.

Required EducationDoctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree; clinical residency, often followed by a fellowship in a specialized area
Other Requirements Medical licensure; board certification in neurology available
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 18% for physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (2014) $182,410**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com.

Job Requirements of a Neurologist

Similar to other physicians, neurologists must begin their careers by going to college and then attending medical school. As an undergraduate, aspiring doctors who major in a science, such as biology, chemistry or physics, will be better prepared for a medical school curriculum. Although most colleges do not have a pre-med major because medical schools do not require any specific major, some schools do offer a pre-med concentration that may include the biology, chemistry, physics and math courses required by medical schools.

After college, aspiring neurologists must attend a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and then pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). At that point, a doctor enters a residency in neurology that usually lasts three or four years. This residency may include rotations in related specialties and subspecialties like behavioral neurology, multiple sclerosis and child neurology. After the residency is complete, clinical fellowship programs in neurology are also available for doctors who wish to specialize further in such areas as epilepsy, movement disorders and neuroscience.

Because the majority of employers prefer that neurologists be board certified, neurologist candidates should consider certification by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). The ABPN offers board certification to eligible neurologists who have passed a written, multiple-choice exam.

Neurologist Job Description

Neurologists may work in hospitals, clinics or universities treating patients, conducting research or teaching students. They are experts at the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders, including stroke, dementia and neuromuscular diseases. As clinicians, neurologists examine patients and may order and interpret diagnostic tests in order to determine the best course of treatment. As researchers, they may participate in clinical studies and other research, write articles for medical journals and give presentations at professional meetings.

Employment opportunities for physicians and surgeons, including neurologists, are expected to increase by 18% from 2012 to 2022, adding 123,300 jobs over that period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As reported by the BLS, physicians and surgeons with a variety of specializations, such as neurology, were paid a mean annual wage of $143,600 when working at hospitals in 2013, and those who worked for colleges and universities averaged $114,350 that year. In September 2014, PayScale.com noted that neurologists earned a median salary of $182,410.

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