How to Become a Gastroenterologist

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.

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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.

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