Become an Epileptologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an epileptologist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as an epileptologist.

Should I Become an Epileptologist?

Epileptologists are neurologists who focus on patients with epilepsy, as well as conducting research related to the condition. Epilepsy is a condition of the brain where patients experience recurring seizures. Epileptologists, like other kinds of physicians, will meet with patients, diagnose their specific condition through tests, scans, and observations, and make recommendations as to the type of treatment that will be the most effective in minimizing or eliminating their seizures.

Epileptologists who focus on research will likely spend much of their time in the office and the laboratory, collecting information and collaborating with other such physicians to make progress in medicine. Those who work directly with patients on a daily basis will do so in a medical setting such as a hospital or a private doctor's office. There is a small risk of being exposed to infectious diseases in this career. Physicians who have a private practice will have more control over their schedules and hours than do doctors who work in hospitals.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Professional
Degree Field Any undergraduate degree; medical degree required
Experience 3-7 years of residency; fellowship is optional
Licensure and Certification Must be licensed by the state; certification is optional
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, empathy, problem-solving skills, familiarity with medical software required to manage patients' charts
Salary (2014) $189,760 yearly (average for all physicians and surgeons)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Medical Association, New England Journal of Medicine, O*NET OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although it is not required that aspiring epileptologists earn an undergraduate degree in a particular area, it is important for students to take math and science courses such as chemistry, physics and biology; this will prepare them for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Additionally, students will be tested on verbal reasoning skills and writing, so they are expected to round out their math and science studies with courses in English and social science.

Step 2: Earn a Medical Degree

To become an epileptologist, individuals must earn a medical degree. The first two years of medical school will consist of courses in anatomy and physiology, genetics, cells and tissues and organ systems. The final two years will provide students with the chance to apply those skills in various clinical rotations, including neurology.

Success Tip:

  • Take the USMLE. The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a 3-part exam prospective medical doctors must pass in order to earn a license. It is common for individuals to take part one between their second and third years of medical school and take part two after completing their clerkships. The third part is taken during residency.

Step 3: Complete a Residency

A residency is where epileptologists have a chance to explore topics in neurology. Residents will see patients and assist them in treatment of neurological conditions, including epilepsy. Opportunities are also available to participate in lectures and group discussions. Residents choose electives that will give them additional training in the areas of epilepsy and electroencephalography (EEG).

Success Tip:

  • Complete a fellowship. A fellowship is an opportunity for epileptologists to receive additional specialized instruction in the area of epilepsy. Fellows will analyze case studies and learn about additional techniques in the treatment of epilepsy. A fellowship can last from 1-2 years and should be approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Epileptologists can find programs that focus on epilepsy in adults or children.

Step 4: Become Board Certified

Epileptologists can become certified through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. They must apply for certification within seven years of completing their residency and pass an exam to be certified in neurology. Once an epileptologist has completed additional training specified by the board, he or she can receive certification in the subspecialty of epilepsy.

Success Tip:

  • Earn continuing education credits. To maintain certification and licensure, epileptologists will be required to earn continuing education credits. Continuing education credits can be earned by taking seminars, attending conferences, or taking online courses that focus on medicine, health or health care policy
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