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What is a Neurologist?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Brain Doctors Are Experts in the Central Nervous System

As a parent, few things are more frightening than your child suffering a head injury. A neurologist is part of the health care team who will respond if such an event were to happen. A neurologist is a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.

Job Description

Neurologists treat patients with brain injuries, such as concussions, and conditions such as epilepsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, meningitis, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and migraines and cluster headaches. Some neurologists may limit their practice to a sub-specialty such as pediatrics (children) or geriatrics (the elderly). Neurologists perform various diagnostic tests and interpret the results to develop a treatment plan. They work with primary care physicians and other health care professionals when treating patients. Since they do not perform surgery, they refer patients to neurosurgeons as necessary.

Education Requirements

Neurology is a specialty that requires a minimum of four years of additional training beyond medical school. After obtaining a license to practice medicine, physicians must complete a one-year residency in internal medicine and a three-year residency in neurology. Residency programs typically combine lecture with supervised clinical practice.

The first step toward medical school and a career as a neurologist is a bachelor’s degree, preferably in one of the life sciences, chemistry, physics or mathematics. Medical school admissions are competitive, and some successful applicants have advanced degrees. Most students admitted to medical school have a grade-point average of 3.65 or higher (out of 4.0), strong letters of recommendation, and a score of at least 508 on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), a required exam usually taken in the third year of undergraduate studies.

Following completion of medical school and a neurology residency, neurologists must obtain a license from their state medical board. Certification by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology is not required for practice, but it’s a highly desirable credential that attests to the doctor’s training and expertise. Board certification can open the door to more opportunities and may be required by some hospitals or employers.

Continuing education is required to stay abreast of the latest medical research and practice, and it’s necessary to maintain board certification. Lectures and conferences are offered through medical schools, large health care facilities and professional organizations.

About the Industry

Most neurologists work in an outpatient setting and see patients during regular business hours. Few neurologists work nights or weekends or are required to be on-call. They see acute patients who need treatment on a short-term basis as well as chronic patients, such as sufferers of epilepsy or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, who need monitoring and care on a long-term basis. Neurologists consult with physicians in other specialties. Some may teach in medical schools as lecturers and clinical supervisors. Regular hours mean that neurologists enjoy a better balance of work and family life than physicians practicing some other specialties.

Years of Experience

Geographic location, board certification and type of specialty typically influence level of pay. The median annual salary is $243,320, meaning 50 percent of neurologist earn more, and 50 percent earn less. Some typical salary ranges, based on years of experience, include:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $220,891–$238,743
  • 5–6 years of experience: $223,180–$241,031
  • 10–14 years of experience: $231,877–$250,909
  • 20+ years of experience: $240,116–$262,292

Job Growth Trend

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects positive job growth for all physicians, including neurologists, over the next decade. Population increase, including a greater number of aging baby boomers, will fuel the demand along with advances in diagnosis procedures and treatment of various neurological conditions.