How to Become a Neurologist
Neurologist Careers & Degrees

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If you’re interested in medicine and health then you might like to become a neurologist.

Neurology is the study of illness and disease which affects the center, peripheral, and automatic nervous systems.

A neurologist will diagnose and treat these diseases and their symptoms.

There is an overlap between the field of neurology and psychiatry, as many of the diseases of the nervous systems have a psychological component, or often a psychological after-effect.

Dementia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, movement disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s are all examples of illnesses that would be diagnosed and treated by a neurologist.

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Education Requirements to Become a Neurologist

A neurologist is a medical doctor that specializes in neurology.

To become neurologist, you’ll first need to become a medical doctor.

If you’re in high school, concentrate on getting good grades.

Enter a four year bachelors degree in college that offers a good pre-medicine major.

After college you’ll need to attend four years of medical school.

Your acceptance into medical school will be based on your grade point average in college, an interview, and medical school examinations.

In the first two years of medical school you’ll complete theory, then in the later years have more of an opportunity to interact with patients.

After you graduate from medical school, you’ll be able to take your exams to gain certification in your state.

You’ll then need to complete a one year internship at a hospital.

to find out about certification requirements in your state, have a look at the Federation of State Medical Boards.

After your internship, you will need to complete a residency in neurology.

This will take between 1 and 3 years to complete.

After this you can apply to the American Board of Medical Specialties to become a certified neurologist.

Neurologist Job Description

A neurologist works with patients with diseases of the nervous system, usually affecting the brain and spine.

A neurologist’s job begins when they are referred a patient, usually by another doctor.

They will study the patient’s history and any previous test results.

Usually, there is then an initial consultation with a patient.

They may perform a range of tests, including CAT and MRI scans.

Other tests may be as simple as the patient solving puzzles or answering questions.

The results will form part of a diagnosis.

After the neurologist has formed a diagnosis, they will then design a treatment plan for a patient.

Some disorders can be cured, others can only be managed.

A treatment plan could involve pharmacy drugs, changes to diet, mental activity such as crosswords, further sessions with a neurologist, or a referral to a specialist such as a neuropsychiatrist.

Here are some of the tasks of a neurologist:

  • Examining patient records
  • Meeting with a patient
  • Performing a range of tests
  • Ordering other tests and scans
  • Forming a diagnosis
  • Preparing a treatment plan
  • Communicating with other medical staff

Neurologist Salary and Career Path

Most neurologists work within hospitals, where they are referred patients internally, or from other medical doctors.

Some work in consulting rooms, which they may share with other practitioners.

Once you become a neurologist, you may choose to complete a fellowship to gain a specialty in a particular area.

You might also go on to complete other research work, or even publish papers as to your findings.

Some people in this field go on to supervisor’s positions within a hospital, such as head of medicine, or head of research.

Some in this field may go on to teach in a college or medical school.

Neurologists have the capacity to earn a high income.

The median income for a doctor working in a field of specialty is $338,000 a year.

Medicine is a high growth area, so job opportunities in this field are set to be excellent.

Those in rural areas will have better prospects than those in urban areas.

Some similar roles to that of neurologist include:

  • Medical doctor
  • Chiropractor
  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Neuropsychiatrist
  • Podiatrist

If you’re looking for a challenging career in medicine that allows for plenty of patient contact, then you might like to become a neurologist.

Although you’ll spend plenty of years in school, after your graduate there is a very secure job available for you with an excellent salary.

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

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$165,080
New Hampshire$241,240
New Jersey$220,790
New Mexico$280,620
New York$188,370
North Carolina$256,000
North Dakota$266,540
Rhode Island$171,280
South Carolina$248,760
South Dakota$281,590
West Virginia$146,840
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 neurologist?

Neurologists are physicians specialized in diagnosing and treating disorders that affect the brain, the spinal cord, and nerves.

The most common diseases that can be treated by neurologists are strokes, headache disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, infections of the nervous system and speech and language disorders.

Many neurologists choose to specialize in one area of neurology, such as stroke, epilepsy, or movement disorders.

Neurologists can find employment in hospitals, private practices, or healthcare clinics.

Like all medical doctors, neurologists need many years of training and a special set of personal skills, including compassion, patience, communication skills and attention to details.

Neurologists often work long hours in order to accommodate their patients’ needs.

This can be a very rewarding career (both personally and financially) but it is also emotionally and physically challenging.

QuestionHow much does a neurologist make?

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

However, neurologists can make anywhere between less than $200,000 and more than $500,000 a year, depending on their level of experience, education, employer, specialty and region of employment.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a neurologist?

Like all physicians, neurologists start their medical training with four years of medical school.

Med school can cost you anywhere between less than $30,000 and more than $60,000 a year, depending on the school you choose.

Before applying to a medical school you will need to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Many prospective physicians choose to major in biology, chemistry, or a related field.

Pre-med programs will cost you somewhere between $15,000 and more than $60,000 a year.

After finishing medical school and earning their Doctor of Medicine degree, future neurologists continue their training with several years of residency.

QuestionWhat is the demand for neurologists?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028 but the demand varies depending on the physician’s specialty.

Neurologists who specialize in treating diseases that affect aging baby boomers (eg. strokes or movement disorders) should have better job prospects.

Additional job opportunities may be available for neurologists who are willing to relocate to underserved areas.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a neurologist?

Neurologists need at least 12 years of training before being able to practice.

The first 4 years are spent in undergraduate school followed by another 4 years of medical school.

After medical school neurologists need 4 additional years of training consisting of an internship and residency.

After finishing the residency period all physicians must take the licensure exam in order to be able to practice.

If you want to specialize in a particular sub-field of neurology you will need to complete a fellowship that is around 1-2 years long.

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