Becoming a Neurologist
By Angela Tao
From dementia to brain tumors, neurologists specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system, which comprise of the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and nerves. They generally focus on problems with how nerve endings communicate sensory information through the spinal cord to the brain .
An extensive education in science is needed, starting with an undergraduate degree in either biology or chemistry. Prerequisite courses usually include: biochemistry, microbiology, and human anatomy. Medical schools are competitive, so it is important to maintain a high GPA (around 3.5 or higher), as well as participate in job shadowing and volunteering. During the third year of an undergraduate program, students take the MCAT. A minimum score needs to be achieved before medical schools before going through admissions interviews at medical scores .
Once accepted to medical school, students have to complete another four years of medical curriculum. In the first two years, classes are only in the classroom, but in the last two years, classes are taken in a teaching hospital. At teaching hospitals, students gain hands-on experience while being supervised by professional neurologists .When medical school is finished, aspiring neurologists take on an internship and a residency, which add up to a total of four years . Under these programs, residents further learn about neurology in the real environment of a neurologist. Beyond interacting with patients, residents also continue to attend lectures and discuss case studies .
The final step to becoming an official neurologist is to pass the licensure and certification tests to become board-certified and state-licensed; similar to the MCAT, these tests are difficult and cover all of the material learned over the course of several years. As a certified neurologist, it is still imperative to continue education in order to renew the license and certification every ten years .
Neurologists normally have a five-day work schedule, working 40-50 hours a week and seeing 20-25 patients a day . Their average annual income is around $281,616 . Although this may seem like a large amount of money, the average student loan debt a new neurologist may accumulate is around $170,000 per year . Many neurologists find their job enjoyable due to the new discoveries emerging in the field and wide variety of conditions they treat. For budding physicians who are looking for a more procedural-oriented and office-based career, meaning that they wouldn’t need to be a surgeon or work full-time, becoming a neurologist is an ideal match.
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