If you’re considering becoming a neurologist, it’s important to know what this type of profession is all about. The short answer to this question is simply a medical doctor that treats nervous system diseases. However, there is far more to this career than a short definition can cover.
Before you choose to go into any career, you should understand what you will be doing. As a neurologist, you will treat the nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. You will treat disorders, injuries, and illnesses.
If you want to become a neurologist, it will require many years of education and training. Let’s look at the job duties, the steps to becoming a neurologist, and some of the common questions about this profession.
Job Duties of a Neurologist
As a neurologist, you will treat and manage conditions related to the nervous system. Some of the common symptoms a patient will feel before seeing a neurologist include:
- Muscle weakness
- Coordination issues
- Sensation changes
Any of these issues, which might impact vision, smell, and touch will likely mean the patient needs to see a neurologist. It’s also common for neurologists to treat the following:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord disorders
- Migraine headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Seizure disorders
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Nervous system infections
- Neurodegenerative disorders
The majority of your job will be to treat these types of issues in patients.
You will perform specific types of procedures to test for the different nervous system issues in patients. The most common procedures performed by a neurologist include:
- Lumbar puncture – This procedure is used to test the spinal fluid of a patient. This procedure includes inserting a needle into the spine to collect fluid.
- Tensilon test – This is a procedure used to help diagnose myasthenia gravis. The doctor will inject Tensilon into the patient and observe how it impacts muscle movement with this test.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) – Electrodes are applied to the scalp to measure brain activity. Electrodes will be placed around the scalp to perform this test. Small charges will be used to measure the activity within the brain signals.
- Electromyography (EMG) – This test will measure the electrical activity between the spinal cord or the brain and the peripheral nerves. Small electrodes will be inserted into muscles to measure the activity and movement. A nerve conduction velocity study may also come along with an EMG.
Some other tests may also be used, such as an MRI, CT, or PET scan.
Steps to Become a Neurologist
Step #1 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
After high school, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree if you want to become a neurologist. This degree should be in biology, chemistry, or physics. You need to make sure you earn good grades as you will need them to take the next step.
Step #2 – Complete an Internship
Before you can apply to medical school, you will likely need to complete an internship. This internship can offer clinical practice and the opportunity to interact with patients.
Step #3 – Complete Medical School
You will need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and get accepted to medical school. The score on this test will help you to get into the right medical school program to become a neurologist.
Once you’ve been accepted, you will need to complete medical school. This will likely last about four years with half the time studying theory and half the time in a teaching hospital.
Step #4 – Finish a Residency Program
After graduating from medical school, you will need to complete a medical residency. This is a year-long internship to help you develop the skills you need to practice medicine.
Once you complete your year-long residency, you will do a full residency in neurology. This will take three to four years. You will practice examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and diseases, and performing procedures during your residency.
Step #5 – Get Your License
You will also need to pass the certification tests and the state licensing tests to earn your license. There are both written and oral components to the tests. Without passing the tests, you cannot practice medicine as a neurologist.
Step #6 – Complete a Fellowship
You don’t have to complete a fellowship to become a neurologist. However, it can help you to specialize in a specific area of neurology. You can complete a fellowship in rehabilitation, neuroimaging, neural repair, autonomic disorders, or another area.
Common Specialties for Neurologists to Consider
There are several subspecialties in neurology. The most common include:
- Pain Medicine
- Geriatric Neurology
- Child Neurology
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine
- Sleep Medicine
- Autonomic Disorders
- Interventional Neuroradiology
- Headache Medicine
- Neurocritical Care
You can choose any of these specialties as a neurologist.
Skills Needed to Become a Neurologist
You will need plenty of skills to become a neurologist. Some of these skills will be gained through education and training. Others, you should develop throughout your education include:
- Communication – You need to be able to communicate well as a neurologist. Working with patients and other doctors will require you to have good verbal and written communication skills.
- Problem-solving – It’s necessary to properly analyze the results of the tests you will order. This is a big part of the job as you will need to diagnose patients.
- Leadership – As a neurologist, you will likely work with a medical team. This means you need to be able to lead your team and communicate the necessary tasks to your team.
- Dexterity – Since you will perform delicate tests and procedures, you will need good dexterity. Steady and agile hands are necessary for this career path.
These are some of the most important skills for neurologists.
Frequently Asked Questions About Neurologists
How much will I make as a neurologist?
According to Salary.com, the median salary of a neurologist is about $264K. The range goes from around $200K to as much as $352K.
ZipRecruiter.com has a bit of a higher average salary at $289K per year. Their range runs from about $155K to about $391K per year. This is a very high-paying career with a salary range much higher than most other careers.
How long does it take to become a neurologist?
The path to becoming a neurologist takes about 12 to 13 years. It will take around four years to get your bachelor’s degree and another four years to complete medical school. your residency will take another four to five years, as well.
If you plan to enter a fellowship, expect to spend another two to eight years.
Where will I work as a neurologist?
As a neurologist, you can work in many different settings. You can work in private practice, a hospital, or in another medical facility. If you work in private practice, you will likely handle non-emergency cases. This will include ongoing treatments.
Neurologists working in a hospital setting will have a more demanding job. They will work at a faster pace and handle emergency cases requiring immediate treatment.
What type of environment do neurologists work in?
It’s common for neurologists to work in an office setting. The office might be found in a medical office building or a hospital.
How many hours do neurologists work per week?
The average neurologist will work about five days a week and spend time on-call. They will work between 40 and 50 hours per week. A full office day will have a neurologist see 20 to 25 patients.
It’s common for neurologists to take four to six weeks off per year for vacation time.
What are the benefits of becoming a neurologist?
If you become a neurologist, you will get to help people in need of healthcare services. you will treat very harmful diseases. It also allows you to work in a specialized area of medicine, which means you will earn a higher salary.
Are neurologists and neurosurgeons the same?
No, a neurologist diagnoses and treats neurological disorders without performing surgery. A neurosurgeon, on the other hand, performs surgery when treating patients. Neurologists commonly use non-invasive procedures or medicine as treatment.
Is neurology a growing field?
Yes, neurology is expected to grow by more than 11% over the next ten years. Neurologists are considered one of the most employable professionals out there. With many retiring, new neurologists are expected to be needed over the next ten years.
Do I need to be highly intelligent to become a neurologist?
You will likely need to be very intelligent for this career path. It’s a career that will require a very advanced degree. You will also need to be able to score well on the MCAT and on many other tests.
If you are considering a medical career, becoming a neurologist might be for you. Just like any other career, you should know what a neurologist is and what they do before going down this path. You can earn a high salary and help people in need of medical attention if you become a neurologist.