Last Updated: 03/17/15
An otolaryngologist, also called an ENT, is a physician that specializes in head and neck surgery and also provides comprehensive medical care for patients who have disorders or diseases that directly affect the throat, ears, nose and respiratory system as well as any upper alimentary systems and structures of the neck and head. Some of the conditions otolaryngologists diagnose and treat include neoplasms, allergies, deformities or injuries to the throat, nose, ears, sinuses or other structures of the respiratory system.
Like other medical specialties, otolaryngologists can sub-specialize in:
- Neurotology: focuses on treating diseases of the temporal bone and ears.
- Pediatric otolaryngology: focuses on children
- Head/neck plastic surgery: focuses on plastic and/or reconstructive procedures done on the head, neck, face, and other structures.
- Sleep medicine: focuses on the diagnosis and management of ear, nose and throat conditions hat can disturb sleep or are caused by sleep pattern disturbances.
As an otolaryngologist, you might work in a hospital where you perform a significant number of surgeries or you might work in a clinic or private practice only doing surgeries on certain days. Most of your time would be spent seeing patients in the office or doing consults. If you decide to work at a hospital you are likely to have to spend some time on call over the weekends and at night. You could also choose to become a professor teaching medical students about otolaryngology or work at a research university doing research in the field of otolaryngology. Working in a clinic, private physician group or your own private practice, gives you more flexibility with your hours.
In order to become an otolaryngologist, you must first complete a medical school program and then complete a five year residency program. The first year of residency generally covers general surgery, critical care medicine, emergency medicine and anesthesiology and the next four years will focus on otolaryngology. If you decide to practice one of the subspecialties of otolaryngology, you will have to do a 1 to 2 year fellowship following your residency. Before you can practice, you must also pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). While it is not required to practice, you might also want to take the certification exam given by the American Board of Otolaryngology as it can give you an edge when trying to find a job and make more money too.
An Allied Physicians Salary Survey reported that otolaryngologists make between $194,000 and $516,000. How much you make will depend on where you work and your years of experience. In the Allied Physicians Salary Survey otolaryngologists with 1-2 years of experience made around $194,000, those with 3 years or more made around $311,000. The maximum salary reported was $516,000. Otolaryngologists who work in private practices tend to make more than those who work in other types of facilities. You will also make more money if you work in Illinois or Oregon as they are the highest paid and you’ll be more likely to make the lowest if you work in Texas, where they had the lowest median annual salary of $82,500.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for all physician specialties and surgery specialties is expected to increase significantly between now and 2016. At the same time, a shortage of physicians is expected, this means there will be many opportunities for employment. When it comes to otolaryngologists, they will be in great demand as over 35 million American suffer from sinus related conditions every year. Plus as the elderly population continues to increase there will be an increase need for professionals who can treat and manage hearing loss and other specific needs of the elderly.