How to Become a Neurologist
Neurologists are physicians that treat disorders of the nervous system and to become a neurologist you will need to become a physician and pursue additional training after medical school.
As a physician, a neurologist attends medical school and completes an MD or DO degree, which means four years of undergraduate study plus the four years of medical school. Once medical school is completed, you will complete a three-year neurology residency and an additional year in internal medicine, or complete a four year neurology training program.
Neurologists possess a state medical licensure. They can also purse board certification with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. To pursue board certification, you need to complete your residency in neurology or pediatrics, if you are pursuing certification in pediatric neurology, possess a medical license, complete specialized training requirements and complete a certification examination. Board certification does need to be renewed and you must remain a member in good standing in the medical profession.
Neurological surgeons will complete a five to seven year neurological residency as well as a one year surgical internship.
Tips and Advice
If you are currently in high school, you should take courses in biology and chemistry, in addition to the courses that you need to complete for admission to college. Once you are in college, you can major in any discipline, including liberal arts which is an acceptable path for entrance into medical school, provided that you also complete the courses for admission to medical school. It is important to do well in all of your courses, especially biochemistry.
As an applicant to medical school, you should also take courses in anatomy, biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physiology and pharmacology. As a neurologist, you will also be dealing with people cognitive and behavioral disorders, so it would be helpful to take courses in psychology. Read and study as much as you can about the human brain and behavior. The American Academy of Neurology offers additional resources for college and medical students.
If you cannot get a job in a health care setting, it is highly recommended that you do volunteer. For neurologists, you can find volunteer opportunities in a health care setting, but you can also volunteer in social and rehabilitative services. Look for opportunities to work in awareness programs for epilepsy, spinal cord disorders and diseases that affect the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis. These opportunities will allow you to come in contact with people who are working in the field in healthcare, fundraising and education, as well as patients and their families. A long standing volunteer experience in these areas can help you in your application to medical school, since you can refer to these experiences in your application documents and interview, and it will also help you decide if neurology is a good discipline for you to pursue.
Neurologists work in hospitals and see patients on rounds and diagnosis and treatment, when available, for their conditions. They are also employed in universities, conducting research and teaching classes. Research in this field is also conducted in laboratories and in neuroscience institutes. If you decide to pursue a career in surgery, you will have your own practice in addition to the work that you perform in hospitals. There are also opportunities for physicians and surgeons, including neurologists, in international healthcare and in the military.