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What is an Endocrinologist?

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Specialists in Diabetes, Menopause and Other Gland Conditions

An endocrinologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of glandular diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Endocrinology is one of the most family-friendly medical specialties since practitioners typically schedule patients for office visits during regular business hours and do not have to deal with emergencies.

Job Description

Endocrinologists work with patients who have been referred by their primary care physician to diagnose and treat diseases of the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid and adrenal glands. The endocrine system is vital to reproduction, growth, metabolism and bone health. Endocrinologists assess symptoms, perform diagnostic tests and design treatment plans. They may work with other physicians and health care professionals.

Education Requirements

Becoming an endocrinologist requires years of specialized study, beginning with a bachelor’s degree. Though there are no formal degree requirements for admission to medical school, as an undergrad, most applicants major in life sciences, chemistry or mathematics. Admission to medical school is competitive; most students have an undergraduate grade point average of 3.7 or higher, and some possess advanced degrees.

Medical school is a four-year, full-time course of study that includes lectures, lab work and supervised clinical rotations through various specialties. Upon graduation, those wishing to specialize in endocrinology must first complete a three-year residency in internal medicine and an additional two to three years’ residency in the subspecialty.

All physicians must be licensed by a state licensing board to practice. Board certification is not mandatory but desirable, as it demonstrates a high level of professional knowledge and skill. Endocrinologists must first obtain board certification as doctors of internal medicine before they can take the exam to become board certified in the subspecialty of endocrinology.

Endocrinologists must keep abreast of the latest medical research to best serve their patients. Continuing education is available at medical schools, large medical centers and through professional organizations.

About the Industry

Endocrinologists typically spend 30 to 50 hours per week seeing patients in an office or clinical setting. More female than male endocrinologists work part-time. Endocrinologists receive referrals from primary care physicians and in turn may refer patients to a surgeon for a problem such as a tumor on the pituitary gland. Some endocrinologists work in research laboratories, teach in medical school or supervise endocrinology residents during their rotations.

Years of Experience

Among medical specialties, endocrinology is among the lowest paying. Still, the average median salary for practitioners is $219,592, meaning that half earn more, and half earn less. Geographic location and board certification can affect salary in addition to other factors. Based on experience, salaries range as follows:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $199,086–$215,407
  • 3–4 years of experience: $200,342–$216,663
  • 7–9 years of experience: $203,690–$219,592
  • 15–19 years of experience: $214,570–$233,104
  • 20+ years of experience: $216,663–$235,806

Job Growth Trend

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for physicians, including specialists such as endocrinologists, is expected to grow much faster than average when compared to other jobs. Advances in medical science and the increase in population and incidences of diabetes contribute to this trend.