Neurologists are specialized physicians trained to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions and disorders of the nervous system, including the muscles, spinal cord, brain and nerves. They use various types of equipment to analyze abnormalities, such as CAT scans, MRI and EEG machines. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports specialized doctors earn, on average, over $300,000 annually.
The education and training for a neurologist career begins in high school. Students are advised to take all the mathematics and science classes available, such as algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy. English, social science, computer science and foreign language classes are also recommended. Students will need to apply to a bachelor's degree program, and should therefore earn high grades and competitive standardized test scores.
Neurologists are required to attend a bachelor's degree program at an accredited college or university. Most undergraduate students planning to enter medical school major in one of the natural sciences, such as biology or chemistry. Although this does help provide pre-med students with the strong science background needed for medical school, and eventually a career as a neurologist, it is not required. Medical schools accept, and often invite students with degrees in non-science related majors, such as political science, English and psychology. This speaks to a student's well-roundedness and ability to focus on multiple endeavors, both of which are excellent attributes for doctors. Regardless of a student's undergraduate major, there are certain prerequisite courses that must be completed in order to qualify for medical school admission. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these include organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, English and mathematics.
Neurologists are required to graduate from a medical school program accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). Medical school curriculum lasts four years and provides students with the didactic and clinical education required to perform successfully as general physicians. The first two years of medical school are spent in a classroom and/or laboratory setting; students are taught biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology, medical laws and ethics, anatomy, physiology, psychology and microbiology. They also learn how to examine patients, ask questions to determine symptoms and medical history, and diagnose health conditions. The final two years of medical school are spent practicing supervised patient care in rotating specialties, such as family practice, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology and internal medicine. Graduates with a Medical Doctor (MD) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree are required to pass the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) in order to obtain a license to practice medicine.
Neurologists are required to spend four years in a hospital residency program completing additional education and specialized training in their field. Hospital residency programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). In addition to providing patient care under the close supervision of licensed neurologists, the ACGME recommends students are taught the foundational sciences of neurology, including neuropathology, neuroanatomy, neuroimaging, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, neurochemistry, neural development, genetics, immunology, molecular biology and statistics.
Upon completing residency, graduates are required to pass a board certification exam administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or the American Board of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists.