Neurologist: Job Requirements and Description

A neurologist requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties, certification and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Licensed medical doctors who complete a residency in neurology are qualified to be a neurologist. Practicing neurologists diagnose and treat patients with nervous system disorders. Neurologists may also work in research.

Essential Information

Neurologists are licensed physicians who specialize in nervous system disorders. Requiring extensive medical training, this career may be a good fit for individuals with a passion for learning about and treating diseases that affect the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system. Training includes medical school and a clinical residency in neurology. Some neurologists see patients in hospitals and clinics or work in research or as university professors. Many neurologists earn board certification by passing an examination in the field.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree; clinical residency, often followed by a fellowship in a specialized area
Other Requirements Medical licensure; board certification in neurology available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for physicians and surgeons
Mean Salary (2015)* $197,700 for physicians and surgeons

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Requirements of a Neurologist

Similar to other physicians, neurologists must begin their careers by going to college and then attending medical school. As an undergraduate, aspiring doctors who major in a science, such as biology, chemistry or physics, will be better prepared for a medical school curriculum. Although most colleges do not have a pre-med major because medical schools do not require any specific major, some schools do offer a pre-med concentration that may include the biology, chemistry, physics and math courses required by medical schools.

After college, aspiring neurologists must attend a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and then pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). At that point, a doctor enters a residency in neurology that usually lasts three or four years. This residency may include rotations in related specialties and subspecialties like behavioral neurology, multiple sclerosis and child neurology. After the residency is complete, clinical fellowship programs in neurology are also available for doctors who wish to specialize further in such areas as epilepsy, movement disorders and neuroscience.

Because the majority of employers prefer that neurologists be board certified, neurologist candidates should consider certification by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). The ABPN offers board certification to eligible neurologists who have passed a written, multiple-choice exam.

Neurologist Job Description

Neurologists may work in hospitals, clinics or universities treating patients, conducting research or teaching students. They are experts at the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders, including stroke, dementia and neuromuscular diseases. As clinicians, neurologists examine patients and may order and interpret diagnostic tests in order to determine the best course of treatment. As researchers, they may participate in clinical studies and other research, write articles for medical journals and give presentations at professional meetings.

Employment opportunities for physicians and surgeons, including neurologists, are expected to increase by 14% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As reported by the BLS, physicians and surgeons with a variety of specializations, such as neurology, were paid a mean annual wage of $157,670 when working at hospitals in 2015, and those who worked for colleges and universities averaged $99,450 that year.

From 2014-2024, job growth for physicians and surgeons, including neurologists who specialize in nervous system disorders, will be much faster than the average for all occupations. Medical doctors are in high demand, and those that complete the training to be a medical doctor, as well as a residency in neurology and board certification, will be prepared to enter the job market as a neurologist. A fellowship in neurology is also an option for those that wish to specialize further after completing their residency.

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