Be an Endocrinologist: Career Information and Education Requirements

Learn how to become an endocrinologist. Research the education and career requirements, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in endocrinology. View article »

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  • 0:01 Endocrinologists
  • 1:27 Bachelor's Degree &…
  • 3:04 Licensure
  • 3:41 Residency & Board…
  • 4:30 Fellowship & Board…
  • 5:56 Continuing Education

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Endocrinologist?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree, M.D. or D.O.
Degree Field Biology, chemistry, and medicine
Experience 3 years of residency training plus 2-3 years of fellowship training
Licensure/Certification State-issued license to practice medicine required; board certification in internal medicine and endocrinology required
Key Skills Communication, leadership, organizational, and problem-solving skills; attention to detail; empathy; computer skills with accounting, medical, and office software; physical stamina and dexterity
Salary $181,456 (2016 average for endocrinologists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American College of Physicians, O*Net OnLine, PayScale.com

Endocrinologists diagnose and treat hormone-related disorders and imbalances caused by malfunctioning endocrine glands. Different jobs exist within the field of endocrinology, such as endocrinology basic scientist or endocrine nurse specialist. This video profiles clinical endocrinologists who help patients who have diabetes, obesity, hyperthyroidism, cholesterol problems, and cancers of the endocrine glands.

Physicians, including endocrinologists, work at least full-time, with many working more than 40 hours per week. Endocrinologists might work in a hospital or through a private practice doctor's office with patients. Because clinical endocrinologists have direct contact with patients, there is a small risk of infectious disease associated with this career, though endocrinological diseases are not contagious.

Endocrinologist must exhibit strong communication, leadership, organizational, and problem-solving skills, as well as attention to detail, empathy, physical stamina, and dexterity. They also must be familiar with accounting, medical, and office software. According to Payscale.com, endocrinologists earned an average salary of $181,456 as of January 2016.

Bachelor's Degree & Medical School

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

There is no required field of undergraduate study for aspiring endocrinologists, but students might focus their studies in a science-related discipline, such as biology or chemistry, to best prepare themselves for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam is required for entrance to medical school and is usually taken during one's junior year of study. Courses in math, English, and humanities may also be beneficial.

Admission to medical school tends to be highly competitive, and a bachelor's degree with relevant courses may not be enough to help a student stand out. Aspiring endocrinologists can benefit from participating in volunteer opportunities at local hospitals, clinics, or similar medical facilities.

Step 2: Complete a Medical School Program

Endocrinologists must earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree from an accredited medical college. Medical school programs usually devote the first 2 years of study to classroom and laboratory instruction. Courses might include medical ethics, medical laws, anatomy, biochemistry, and pharmacology. The final 2 years of medical school are usually dedicated to clinical rotations or clerkships in the various specialties within medicine, like pediatrics, surgery, and family medicine. Internal medicine, which encompasses endocrinology, is another typical rotation. These 2 years of study are designed to allow students to explore each specialization and to help them prepare for residency training.

Licensure

Step 3: Obtain State Licensure

All physicians are required to obtain licensure in order to practice medicine in the United States. M.D.s must pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), a 3-part exam that tests a doctor's knowledge of human anatomy and medicine. D.O.s must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). Licensure is not always required prior to beginning residency training, but some residencies require that applicants have completed at least one step toward licensure.

Residency & Board Certification

Step 4: Complete Residency Training

Endocrinologists begin their post-doctoral training by completing a 3-year residency in internal medicine. Residency training will place aspiring endocrinologists in a hospital, clinic, or similar setting to work directly with patients under the supervision of a board-certified physician. Residents might attend advanced clinics, participate in patient assessments, and contribute to research activities.

Step 5: Gain Board Certification in Internal Medicine

After completing residency training, endocrinologists must earn board certification in internal medicine through the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). To earn certification, doctors must demonstrate competency in various procedures and pass the Certification Examination in Internal Medicine.

Fellowship & Board Certification

Step 6: Complete an Endocrinology Fellowship

Once they've earned board certification in internal medicine, endocrinologists complete an additional 2- to 3-year fellowship in endocrinology. During this time, endocrinologists learn more about the tissues surrounding the endocrine system, major endocrine glands, and other organs that secrete hormones. Fellowships may be focused on a certain aspect of endocrinology, like reproduction and infertility, or they may cover various areas of endocrinology, including pediatric endocrinology, diabetes treatment, and endocrine pathology.

Fellows work directly with patients under the supervision of a board-certified endocrinologist. They complete rotations working with patients in endocrine testing centers, diabetes units, and outpatient clinics. They participate in research endeavors and provide education to medical school students.

Step 7: Earn Board Certification in Endocrinology

Endocrinologists earn board certification in endocrinology by taking and passing the Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism Exam administered by the ABIM. Eligibility requirements include completion of a fellowship in endocrinology and board certification in internal medicine. The exam covers topics like female and male reproduction, the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands, obesity, and diabetes.

Continuing Education

Step 8: Continue Your Education

Endocrinologists are required to complete professional development training through approved Continuing Medical Education (CME) opportunities in order to renew licensure and board certification in endocrinology. Endocrinologists do not have to complete maintenance requirements for their internal medicine certification in order to renew their endocrinology certification. CME opportunities may be available through professional organizations, such as the American College of Physicians (ACP) or through university medical departments.

Becoming a member of an endocrinology organization, such as the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), can connect one to resources like medical journal publications, newsletters, and handouts for patients. In addition, members can participate in conferences, webinars, and workshops, as well as receive discounts on medical supplies.

In summary, endocrinologists need a medical degree and state licensure to practice medicine. They must complete a residency and earn board certification in internal medicine and complete a fellowship and earn board certification in endocrinology.

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