Neurology PhD Program Overviews

Read about the options for studying neurology at the doctoral level and beyond, including residency programs for physicians. Learn about prerequisites, curricula and specialization areas, in addition to career outlooks, salary information and optional board certification for neurology physicians.

Essential Information

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. Training emphasizes clinical and lab work, dissertation research and teaching. Graduates 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.

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.

Education Prerequisites

Neuroscience PhD applicants are expected to hold a master's degree in neuroscience or a closely related area. Potential candidates provide letters of recommendation, transcripts, resumes of professional experience and GRE scores.

Program Coursework

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 coving the following topics:

  • Molecular neurobiology
  • Neurophysiology
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurology and genetics

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

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.

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.

Education Prerequisites

Almost all students applying to residency programs are doctors with medical degrees. Obtaining a medical degree requires four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school. Graduates must then pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Some programs require the completion of a 1-year medical internship.

Program Coursework

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean salary for physicians, including neurologists, was $184,820. The BLS projected 24% growth in employment for physicians and surgeons in general from 2010-2020, largely due to advancing technology, retirements, career transfers and the aging baby boomer generation (

Board Certification

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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