Become a Vascular Neurologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 26, 2018

Learn how to become a vascular neurologist. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information, and experience needed for starting a career in vascular neurology. View article »

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  • 0:04 Should I Be a Vascular…
  • 1:03 Career Requirements
  • 1:30 Steps to Be a Vascular…

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Video Transcript

Should I Be a Vascular Neurologist?

Vascular neurologists are doctors and surgeons who work primarily with patients who have had strokes or are at risk of having strokes. Some vascular neurologists work on cerebrovascular (stroke) research. This might include analyzing genetic factors, identifying early warning signs, developing new surgical treatments for stroke patients, and improving rehabilitation therapy. Other vascular neurologists work directly with patients, providing them with treatment options, rehabilitation recommendations and, in some cases, surgery.

Vascular neurologists work in medical settings, which frequently includes hospitals. As such, they may be exposed to infectious diseases and work long, often irregular hours. Those that concentrate their work on research or work in preventative medicine may have more regular schedules during business hours. There is a high income potential in this career.

Career Requirements

Vascular neurologists have doctorate degrees in medicine and are licensed to practice. They are detail-oriented and able to lead others, manage research projects, relate to patients, and solve complex medical problems. According to, the median annual salary for neurologists, which include vascular neurologists, was $197,431 in 2016.

Steps to Be a Vascular Neurologist

What steps to I need to take to become a vascular neurologist?

Step 1: Complete Your Pre-Med Undergraduate Studies

For the most part, students who plan to go to medical school generally need a bachelor's degree. There is no required major, provided students take the prerequisite courses that most medical schools require. To meet these prerequisite requirements, many students enroll in a pre-med program.

In many ways, completing a pre-med program is similar to completing an undergraduate minor in that students take additional classes beyond their major core requirements. Most pre-med programs include courses in physics, general chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, and mathematics. The majority of these classes require students to participate in classroom lectures and laboratory experiments.

To save time, choose a life science major. Many pre-med courses are also core classes in life science majors, so aspiring vascular neurologists who major in the life sciences might be more likely to graduate on time. Students who choose majors outside of the life sciences will have to complete core classes in their majors as well as pre-med prerequisite courses; this might take longer than four years.

Prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is an intensive, multiple-choice exam required by nearly all medical schools in the U.S. and many in Canada. The Association of American Medical Colleges offers preparation tools, including guidebooks and practice exams, that can help students study for the MCAT.

Step 2: Take the MCAT

The MCAT tests a student's medical knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities in three areas: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, and biological sciences. Medical school candidates can take this exam up to three times in a single year.

Step 3: Go to Medical School

It usually takes four years to finish medical school and earn a doctoral degree in medicine. Students spend the first few years in the classroom learning about clinical medicine, neurology, organ systems, lifestyles, nutrition, physiology, and psychiatry. Many programs also include multiple classes in human pathology. During the last few years of medical school, students participate in clinical studies with real patients. They complete sessions in all the major medical fields, including emergency medicine, pediatrics, ambulatory care, family medicine, surgery, neurology, and internal medicine.

Be sure to take elective courses in neurology. Students who want to specialize in a particular field, such as vascular neurology, can focus their elective studies in this field. Taking additional courses related to vascular neurology could help students impress residency program directors and committees.

You'll also want to register with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Medical school students who register with NRMP generally have better luck finding a residency. NRMP is a nonprofit organization that matches graduates with potential residency programs based on each graduate's preferred medical specialty. NRMP only provides graduates with leads to potential residency programs; the organization does not participate in the residency application process.

Step 4: Complete a Residency

After completing medical school, graduates enter a residency program to complete training in their preferred medical specialty. Individuals who want to become vascular neurologists might opt for a neurology residency or a vascular neurology residency, depending on which programs are available. It typically takes 2-4 years to complete a residency program related to neurology.

In these programs, residents learn about treating different neurological conditions, such as dementia, Alzheimer's, strokes, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Residents also receive training in neuropsychology, neuroimaging, neuropathology, and neuroradiology. Most residency programs include clinical training with various patient populations. Many of these programs also offer residents academic opportunities to conduct supervised neurology research.

Step 5: Become a Licensed Physician

Although each state has different licensing procedures, most require applicants to graduate from medical school, complete an approved residency training program, and pass a national exam, such as the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Some states require applicants to pass additional tests pertaining to state-specific laws and ordinances.

Keep your licensure active. All states require medical professionals to renew their licenses periodically. Some states only require physicians to retake exams about state-specific medical laws, while others mandate that professionals complete continuing education courses as part of the license renewal process.

Step 6: Earn Board Certification

Earning board certification is not mandatory, but employers often prefer board-certified medical specialists. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) offers several certification programs. Individuals can be certified in neurology, provided they have at least four years of residency training. To become certified, individuals must pass exams and submit to being reviewed by fellow neurologists. ABMS also offers a certification program for those who specialize in vascular neurology.

Be sure to maintain your board certification. Board-certified medical professionals are required to participate in the maintenance of certification (MOC) program. To complete the MOC program, professionals must periodically participate in continuing education courses and pass exams to show proof of knowledge.

Step 7: Complete a Fellowship

After becoming licensed and certified, many vascular neurologists participate in a fellowship program. Most vascular neurology fellowships are offered through universities, which usually means they are research-based. Several fellowships are also focused on clinical research with patients from specific populations, such as elderly stroke patients. Fellowships may only last a few years, but they can provide vascular neurologists with significant training and experience, which could impress potential employers.

Vascular neurologists work mostly with patients who have had strokes or are at risk of having strokes. They have doctorate degrees and are licensed. They are leaders who can manage research programs and solve complex medical problems. They earn a median annual salary of $197,431.

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