Endocrinology is an exciting medical specialization that involves the study and treatment of conditions related to human hormones. The educational and licensing requirements are very strenuous, and include completion of medical school and a 3-4 year residency program. The reward, however, is a rewarding career in a lucrative field, as well as strong predicted job growth in the coming years.
Endocrinologists are physicians who specialize in the function of glands that produce and release hormones into the bloodstream that coordinate bodily processes ranging from metabolism to cell growth. Diseases these professionals diagnose and treat include diabetes and hypothyroidism. They must complete at least 10 years of rigorous medical education and training programs with a focus on the endocrine system. Passing state medical license exams is a requirement, but board certification in endocrinology is optional.
|Required Education||Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree; clinical residency, followed by a fellowship in a specialized area of endocrinology|
|Other Requirements||Medical license; board certification in endocrinology available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||14% for physicians and surgeons*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$411,852* for all physicians practicing a medical specialty|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Because most endocrine disorders are chronic diseases that require life-long care, endocrinologists must be thoroughly trained in understanding, treating and managing these problems. Additionally, they must be able to help patients cope with the physical limitations from diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism. Daily duties may range from ordering tests to prescribing medications.
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Career Information for an Endocrinologist
Those wishing to become endocrinologists first must earn a bachelor's degree and then begin the application process for medical school. Students receive their medical degree after successful completion of a 4-year medical school program. Most endocrinologists complete a 3- or 4-year residency in internal medicine, pediatrics or gynecology before finishing their training with a 3-year fellowship in adult, pediatric or reproductive endocrinology. Only after completing this entire process and obtaining a state license can an endocrinologist begin unsupervised practice.
Licensing and Certification
Once medical school is complete, aspiring endocrinologists must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and meet other requirements to gain state licensure. Endocrinologists who have finished their fellowships may also consider becoming certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Certification is voluntary and requires passing a qualifying examination. Certified endocrinologists must complete a self-evaluation and continuing medical education to maintain their credentials.
Career and Economic Outlook for Endocrinology
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide individual job outlook information for endocrinologists; however, it did report that employment of physicians and surgeons in general was expected to increase by 14% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The Bureau explained that this demand was expected due to population growth and the advancing age of the population, which is predicted to result in an added demand for medical services. In May 2015, the BLS reported the median salary for specialist physicians at $411,852. The BLS cited the median salary for general practitioners at $241,273 per year.
To summarize, endocrinology might be a good career choice for someone interested in metabolic disorders and other medical conditions related to human hormones. Fulfilling the educational requirements takes a total of about 10 years, and practitioners are further required to be licensed in all states in which they choose to practice.