Last Updated: 03/17/15
Neurology Career Guide
Neurologists are physicians that diagnose and treat the diseases of the brain as well as any impairments to the brain, spinal cord, muscles, peripheral nerves, autonomic nervous system and blood vessels that relate to any of these structures. Some of the health issues neurologists diagnose and treat include traumatic brain injury, stroke, brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease, meningitis, tic disorders, Tourette’s syndrome, encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, peripheral nervous system infections, myelitis, Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease just to name a few. Neurologists also conduct electrophysiologic testing such as electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and nerve conduction studies (NCS), among others.
If you have a strong interest in one of the following subspecialties of neurology, you might consider doing some additional training after your residency. These subspecialties include:
- Clinical Neurophysiology: focuses on central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous system disorders.
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine: focuses on preventing and relieving the suffering of patients experiencing life-limiting neurological illnesses.
- Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: focuses on chronic conditions that affect the developing and mature nervous system like mental retardation and behavioral syndromes.
- Neuromuscular Medicine: focuses on disorders of nerves, muscle, or neuromuscular junction.
- Sleep Medicine: focuses on conditions that occur during sleep, disturb sleep, or are affected by disturbances in the wake-sleep cycle.
- Vascular Neurology: focuses on diagnosing, treating and preventing vascular diseases of the nervous system.
Most neurologists work close to 60 hours a week in either hospitals, private practices or medical group offices where there might be several different physicians all practicing neurology or various different specialties. You might instead choose to work as a neurologist in the research field. When working in a research setting hours are closer to a normal 40 hour week and generally don’t include the weekend or on call hours that many other neurologists have.
Their busy hours may be one of the reasons neurologists appeared to be less happy than physicians practicing other specialties, according to a 2012 lifestyle survey compiled by Medscape. Neurologists tied for last place with gastroenterologists and internists with an average score of 3.88 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the happiest.
If you want to become a neurologist you’ll first have to complete four years of a medical school program. Then you must go on to complete a four year residency program which includes one year of internal medicine and three years of neurology. If you choose to specialize, you’ll probably have to complete two additional years of training or fellowship. Before you can practice as a physician, in any speciality, you will also have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
According to a 2011 physician compensation survey, neurologist made a median annual salary of $209,000. How much you make will depend on what type of facility you work in and what part of the country you practice in. For example neurologists that practice in Minnesota, Nevada, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Indiana make more than those who practice in other states. Neurologists who have become board certified in neurology tend to have salaries higher on the pay scale than those who have not.
The job outlook is very good for neurologists, as it is with all other types of physicians. As the baby-boomer generation ages, they will be in need of the specialized training that neurologists can offer and will be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s, stroke and dementia. Some of these baby-boomers are also practicing neurologists, so there will soon be many retiring which will leave open positions and add to the growing demand for specialized physicians.