Neurology PhD Program Overviews

Those who want advanced training in neurology can consider earning a PhD in neuroscience. Programs generally require applicants to have a master's degree in a related field, and training emphasizes clinical and lab work, dissertation research and teaching.

Essential Information

Graduates from this degree program typically become neuroscience professors or researchers, or science writers specializing in neuroscience. Residency programs in neurology are another option for those pursuing advanced education in this field. Residency programs usually last 3-4 years and are intended as the final step for physicians attending medical school. Training focuses on neurological diseases and injuries as they relate to various types of medical care.

  • Program Fields in Neurology: Doctorate; Residency program
  • Prerequisites: Master's degree in neuroscience or related; Letter(s) of recommendation; GRE scores; Resume; Medical school graduate (residency)
  • Program Specializations: Synapses; Cells and circuits; Learning and memory; Neural development; Neurogenetics; Neuroimaging
  • Program Length: Three to four years (residency)
  • Other Requirements: One year medical internship (residency)

PhD in Neuroscience

Although no doctoral programs in neurology exist, students can earn a PhD in Neuroscience, which involves the study of the human brain from a biological, physiological, and neurological standpoint. Some programs allow students to choose an area of specialization, such as synapses, cells and circuits, learning and memory, neural development, neurogenetics, or neuroimaging. The goal of a PhD program is to prepare students for careers in neurological scientific research.

Programs stress clinical practice, as well as the application of theories and principles in a laboratory setting. Students may have the opportunity to gain teaching experience. In addition to completing a dissertation project, students engage in advanced coursework, lab rotations, and seminars covering the following topics:

  • Molecular neurobiology
  • Neurophysiology
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurology and genetics

Residency Program in Neurology

Neurology residency programs cover the study of neurological diseases and disorders, as well as theories and principles in ambulatory, consultative and rehabilitative patient care. Students explore the fundamentals of brain function on a chemical, neurological, and physical level. Programs typically last 3-4 years.

Residencies are often organized into rotations that expose students to essential related topics, such as neuroradiology, neuropathology, neuro oncology, pediatric neurology, inpatient service, and neuromuscular disorders. During a residency, students have the opportunity to attend conferences, teach neurology to medical students, and attend seminars that cover topics such as the following:

  • Serotonin
  • Synaptic transmission
  • Cell adhesion
  • Nutrition and brain function
  • Biochemistry of aging

Popular Career Options

Students with a PhD in neuroscience often gravitate toward careers in academia or research. Popular options include:

  • Professor
  • Neurological scientist
  • Technical writer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean salary for physicians, including neurologists, was $189,760. The BLS projected 18% growth in employment for physicians and surgeons in general from 2012-2022, largely due to advancing technology, retirements, career transfers, and the aging baby boomer generation (

Continuing Education

Although a PhD is the highest degree awarded in this particular field, students can obtain master's or doctoral degrees in other areas of science, such as biology or chemistry. Some students may apply to medical school.

Although not absolutely essential for employment, neurologists can apply for board certification. To become certified by the American Board of Psychologists and Neurologists (ABPN), which is a part of the American Board of Medical Specialists (AMMS), doctors must pass a nationally standardized exam, as well as be evaluated in terms of professional standing, self-assessment evaluations, cognitive expertise, and clinical practice performance.

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