Becoming a Neuropathologist
So you think you might like to become a neuropathologist? Neuropathologists are physicians who study, diagnose, and treat diseases related to the brain, nerves, and spine. They can interact with patients and conduct research to learn more about these parts of the human body.
Like other physicians, neuropathologists work in hospitals as well as other medical settings, like doctors' offices. While there is a small risk of illness associated with working in any medical setting, those who are employed by hospitals may be slightly more at risk. There is great potential for high income as a physician, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the job can bring great stress and emotional toil, as well. Physicians work at least full-time, with irregular hours and overtime common.
|Degree Field||Any bachelor's degree (science sometimes preferred); medical graduate degree required|
|Experience||3-5 years of residency|
|Licensure and Certification||Must be licensed by the state; certification is optional|
|Key Skills||Strong verbal and written communication skills, empathy, problem-solving skills, ability to work long hours|
|Salary (May 2014)||$189,760 per year (Mean annual salary for all physicians and surgeons)|
So what are the career requirements? Getting the right education is important; starting with a bachelor's degree in any field is the first step. Next a medical doctorate is required, a 3-5 year residency period, and a neuropathology area of specialty is required. All doctors must be licensed by the state. The requirements to become licensed or certified can vary by state. Most employers look for someone with experience, which can sometimes be obtained through on the job training or through internships.
Key skills include verbal and written communication skills, empathy and compassion, problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and physical stamina.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for physicians and surgeons is $187,200.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Although students can enter medical school with any undergraduate major, it is important that applicants have a strong foundation in science. Students are expected to take coursework in chemistry, biology and physics. Schools often require that applicants take laboratory classes in the science field. In addition to math and science classes, students often must take courses in English and social sciences to round out their coursework.
Here's a tip for success:
- Start preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Students also may wish to take the MCAT while they're enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. The MCAT must typically be taken to enter medical school and consists of multiple-choice questions related to science and verbal reasoning.
Step 2: Earn a Medical Degree
All physicians, regardless of their specialty, must earn a medical degree. The first two years of the program explores the body systems and neurological disorders. During the second two years of the program, students have the opportunity to apply their instruction to real patients as they complete clerkships in various areas of the hospital. Students will likely be required to complete a neurology clerkship.
Here is a tip for success:
- Prepare for a residency. Students can ready themselves for their residencies while they are still in medical school. They may be required to apply for a resident's license, which may involve taking parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) exam. Students can use a national matching program to find a residency in their specialty.
Step 3: Complete a Residency
Once individuals have earned a medical degree, they are still required to complete a residency before they can obtain a license. During a residency, physicians are allowed to practice under the supervision of a licensed physician. A residency in anatomic pathology can give students the opportunity to learn and apply principles of neuropathology on live and post-mortem brains. These types of residencies take four years to complete.
Here is a tip for success:
- Complete a fellowship. A fellowship in neuropathology is optional, although physicians should keep in mind that the fellowship is required to become certified in the subspecialty of neuropathology. During a 2-year fellowship, physicians have the chance to build diagnostic skills, as well as participate in research assignments. They may also have the opportunity to build their leadership skills by providing guidance for medical students and residents.
Step 4: Obtain a Medical License
Each state requires physicians to obtain a license in order to practice medicine. The minimum requirement includes a medical degree, completion of a residency and passage of the USMLE. The USMLE is made up of three parts; students can take the first part in medical school and the final part after completing their residency. In addition, states may require additional tests, coursework and/or background checks.
Here is a tip for success:
- Earn Continuing Education Credits. Physicians are required to renew their licenses regularly, depending on the state in which they practice. In addition, certified neuropathologists must renew their certification. Physicians can earn continuing education credits by attending online and in-person events on topics related to medicine, health and health care administration.
Step 5: Become Board Certified
Neuropathologists can choose to become board certified in pathology and the subspecialty of neuropathology. To become certified in pathology by the American Board of Pathology, individuals must submit proof of education and experience. In addition, candidates will have to pass an exam. Certification in the subspecialty of neuropathology requires a separate process and requires proof of training in the neuropathology.
Step 6: Gain Experience
Neuropathologists can earn higher pay through experience and advancement. Neuropathology is a fairly specialized field, but with advanced education in business and leadership acumen, the neuropathologist is a strong candidate for managerial or high-level administrative positions at a hospital or other medical facility.
Earning a bachelor's degree, earning a medical degree, completing a residency program, obtaining a license, obtaining board certification, and gaining experience are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as a neuropathologist.