How to Become a Gastroenterologist
Gastroenterologist Careers & Degrees

A Gastroenterologist is a physician that specializes in the human digestive system.

This specialization includes diagnosing and treating a variety of problems, diseases or disorders affecting a patient’s digestive system.

This specialization includes having a vast knowledge of the gastrointestinal tract and the liver.

Individuals who want to become a Gastroenterologist will need to have an extensive background in medicine and Gastroenterology.

In addition, the following personal characteristics: detailed oriented, compassionate and strong communication skills will help individuals be successful in this profession.

Education Requirements to Become Gastroenterologist

Gastroenterology is a sub-specialty of internal medicine and individuals who want to become a Gastroenterologist will need an extensive educational background, training and a medical license in order to enter this profession.

The first step an individual must make after they graduate high school is to attend a four year accredited college and complete an undergraduate degree.

In order to fulfill the requirements for medical school, individuals must study a medical field such as biology, microbiology, pre-med or a closely related field.

After obtaining an undergraduate degree, individuals must pass the entrance exam for medical school called the Medical College Admission Test.

Individuals may visit MCAT to look at learn specific requirements and take some practice tests.

Once an individual is in an accredited medical school, they must complete a minimum of 4 years in order to attain a medical degree.

Once medical school is completed, individuals who want to become a Gastroenterologist must then follow that with a 3 year residency in internal medicine which is then followed up with a 2 to 3 years fellowship (a long term specialized training) in Gastroenterology.

In addition to the educational and training requirements, individuals must also become board certified in order to become a Gastroenterologist.

The American Board of Internal Medicine is responsible for administering this certification exam.

Individuals may visit ABIM to learn detailed information on becoming board certified.

Gastroenterologist Job Description

Gastroenterologists are specialized physicians who focus their work on Gastroenterology: the human digestive system, its normal function, diseases or disorders.

The digestive system is comprised of the following body parts:

  • Liver
  • Bile Ducts
  • Pancreas
  • Gallbladder
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Large intestine and
  • Esophagus

Gastroenterologists work under a sub specialty of internal medicine and use their knowledge of the digestive system to differentiate a normal digestive system from one with abnormalities or conditions.

The following is list of common disorders or diseases that Gastroenterologists work to diagnose and treat:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Nutritional problems
  • Gallbladder and biliary tract disease
  • Colitis
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Gastro esophageal reflux (commonly known as heart burn)
  • Hepatitis and
  • Colon polyps and cancer

A patient gets referred to see a Gastroenterologist by their primary care physician and this is the first point of contact between a Gastroenterologist specialist and their patient.

Gastroenterologists must look at a patient’s digestive system to see whether it is functioning normally.

This includes determining whether a patient is absorbing nutrients appropriately, whether microorganisms are balanced and using specialized equipment and procedures, such as colonoscopies and endoscopies to view how the digestive system is functioning.

After some basic procedures and tests, a Gastroenterologist will diagnose a disorder, if there is one, and a treatment to help improve a patient’s overall health.

Gastroenterologist Salary and Career Path

The median annual wage for physicians and surgeons, which includes the Gastroenterologist specialization, was approximately $220,942 in 2012.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including whether an individual owns their own practice, years of experience, geographical location and a physician’s reputation.

The job outlook for physicians and surgeons, which includes the Gastroenterologist specialization, is expected to increase by 18 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is considered a faster than average rate when compared to other professions and is attributed by many factors including the aging population and the expansion of health care related industries.

Gastroenterologists are health care specialists that focus on the human digestive system.

This profession is expected to benefit from the growth in health care services and individuals interested in this profession will have several other benefits in entering this field including the ability to work with people and some of the highest wages when compared to other professions.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$201,440
$60K
$107K
$201K
$K
$K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$213,790
Alaska$230,160
Arizona$218,630
Arkansas$146,900
California$212,510
Colorado$195,190
Connecticut$206,200
Delaware$208,750
District of Columbia$165,080
Florida$204,690
Georgia$95,690
Hawaii$235,770
Idaho$173,190
Illinois$211,950
Indiana$257,270
Iowa$216,910
Kansas$211,770
Kentucky$209,700
Louisiana$188,650
Maine$239,460
Maryland$203,270
Massachusetts$232,970
Michigan$171,210
Minnesota$242,390
Mississippi$218,830
Missouri$216,350
Montana$202,100
Nebraska$249,510
Nevada$253,920
New Hampshire$241,240
New Jersey$220,790
New Mexico$280,620
New York$188,370
North Carolina$256,000
North Dakota$266,540
Ohio$196,860
Oklahoma$190,030
Oregon$237,910
Pennsylvania$227,650
Rhode Island$171,280
South Carolina$248,760
South Dakota$281,590
Tennessee$199,720
Texas$160,180
Utah$230,170
Vermont$207,920
Virginia$234,220
Washington$224,940
West Virginia$146,840
Wisconsin$253,900
Wyoming$273,570
Puerto Rico$73,990

The top earning state in the field is South Dakota, where the average salary is $281,590.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

South Dakota - $281,590
New Mexico - $280,620
Wyoming - $273,570
North Dakota - $266,540
Indiana - $257,270
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for General Internal Medicine Physicians, OCC Code 29-1216, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a gastroenterologist?

Gastroenterologists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat digestive diseases and conditions of the GI tract.

They can treat a large variety of diseases, from irritable bowel syndrome to hepatitis C.

Gastroenterologists usually work in hospitals or outpatient clinics.

In order to diagnose health problems, they perform endoscopic procedures and, in some cases that require surgeries, they may work with a GI surgeon.

Some specialize in treating a particular field, such as diseases of the liver, pancreatic disease, or reflux esophagitis.

Gastroenterologists, like all medical doctors, need many years of medical training.

They also need special skills, including compassion, dexterity, time-management and communication skills.

If you choose to become a physician you should be ready to work long hours in order to accommodate your patients’ needs.

QuestionHow much does a gastroenterologist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physicians and surgeons, in general, was equal to or greater than $208,000 as of May 2018.

However, salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including the physician’s level of experience and education, the employer, the specialty, and the region.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a gastroenterologist?

Gastroenterologists start their medical training with four years of medical school followed by several years of residency and fellowship training.

Tuition costs vary based on many factors and four years of medical school can cost you anywhere between less than $200,000 and more than $300,000.

Students who want to enroll at a medical school must obtain a passing score at the Medical College Admission Test; the higher the score, the better your chances of being accepted to a reputable institution.

Before enrolling at a medical school you should complete your undergraduate studies.

Pre-medicine training will cost you, on average, around $40,000 a year.

QuestionWhat is the demand for gastroenterologists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physicians and surgeons, in general, is expected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

Job opportunities vary depending on the specialty and the region but may also vary year by year, as demand for physicians can be affected by health coverage policies.

Physicians who specialize in diseases that affect the elderly should have better employment prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a gastroenterologist?

To become a gastroenterologist you will need at least 13 years of training beyond high school.

The first step is to finish a 4-year bachelor’s degree program, followed by 4 years of medical school.

After graduating from medical school, the next step is to complete around 3 years of residency training in internal medicine; thus having the chance of working alongside an experienced physician.

The next step is to complete a 2-3 year fellowship which will give you more specialized training in gastroenterology.

To be able to practice, you must pass a specialty exam in gastroenterology and earn a state license.

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