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How to Become an Otolaryngologist

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An otolaryngologist or ENT is a physician who specializes in treating the ear, nose and throat. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of open jobs for physicians and surgeons will increase 22 percent from 2008 to 2018. The bureau also notes that the median salary of physicians was $186,044 as of May 2008. According to PayScale, Inc., however, the average salary of an ENT ranged between $174,979 and $306,449 as of November 2010. Becoming an otolaryngologist requires extensive training and preparation.

Obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Despite popular opinion, becoming a doctor does not require that you major in pre-medicine as an undergraduate student. Instead, you can major in any subject you wish so long as you take plenty of courses in math and science. Above all, take courses in the biological sciences and chemistry to give you a strong foundation for medical school. Medical school admission committees tend to make their decisions based on several factors such as your academic performance, preparation for medical school through the classes you choose and your scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). They may also take into account your other activities and hobbies as possible indications of your leadership abilities.

Apply for medical school. Ideally you want to attend a medical school that offers an opportunity to specialize in otolaryngology. If you are unable to get into a school offering this specialization, you may be able to gain adequate experience later on through a medical residency. Some schools offering otolaryngology programs include Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, Washington University in St. Louis and Georgetown University.

Complete medical school. This usually takes about four years from the time you start, although it can vary depending on the program and your workload. During your first two years of medical school you will be inundated with many of the basic aspects of medical practice and theory. During the third and fourth years, you will still take general medical classes, but you will also start taking courses related to your otolaryngology specialization.

Complete a residency program in otolaryngology. A residency provides you with the practical training that you receive after graduating from medical school. Residencies give you an opportunity to receive hands-on training in your field of specialization by working alongside and under the direction of an expert ENT. Most residencies take about three years to complete.

Apply for and receive your medical license. You must be licensed to practice medicine in the state where you plan to provide care as a otolaryngologist. Most states require you to pass a state licensing examination, a licensing fee and complete an extensive background check.

Apply for board certification. Although this step is voluntary, it is usually considered important by most physicians and their patients. Board certification indicates that you have all of the necessary experience and knowledge to be considered an expert in your field. Board certification in otolaryngology is determined by the American Board of Otolaryngology. The board requires at least one year of general surgical training and a four-year ENT residency in order to qualify for the examinations. Both an oral and written exam are required.


Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.