Since the days when you bandaged your dolls’ imaginary injuries, you’ve known that a career in medicine was your goal. Now that you’re all grown up and the dolls are stored in the attic, you’ve narrowed your choices to endocrinology or neurology. Job prospects should be good -- the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects physician employment to grow 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, considerably faster than the 14 percent average for all U.S. jobs. The American Medical Group Management Association reports that endocrinologists earned an average of $233,000 in 2011, while neurologists earned $246,500.
You might as well face it -- there’s no way to short-cut the educational process in medicine. After college, you’ll need four years of medical school. Up to this point, would-be endocrinologists and neurologists follow pretty much the same educational path. Once you hit residency, however, you’ll spend another four years getting specialized training in your field. If you go on for a fellowship, which is the usual routine, plan on another three to five years of specialty training. From the day you start college until you’re ready to practice, your training will take a minimum of 12 years. You’ll also need a license -- required in all states -- and will probably also want to take the exams to become board-certified.
Glands such as the pancreas, thyroid, ovaries and adrenals secrete hormones that control your metabolism, growth and reproduction. The pancreas, for example, secretes insulin to regulate your blood sugar. Endocrinologists are specialists in diagnosing, treating or managing glandular diseases and disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disease, infertility or other metabolic disorders. In most cases, their goal is to restore the normal balance of hormones in your system. Some endocrinologists treat patients, while others perform research to determine how the endocrine system might malfunction, and what drugs or treatments might help.
Neurologists are trained in in the diagnosis, treatment and management of brain and nervous system disorders. A neurologist might care for patients with Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or brain tumors. Neurologists also treat epilepsy, chronic headaches or chronic pain and strokes. Many physicians who are specialists act only as consultants; neurologists may be either the primary care doctor or a consultant, depending on the patient’s medical issues. A neurologist is likely to be the primary care doctor for a patient with Alzheimer's disease or a seizure disorder, for example, but act as a consultant when a patient has a concussion or migraines.
Endocrinologists and neurologists may specialize in a variety of areas. Either may focus on diseases in children, as pediatric endocrinologists or pediatric neurologists. Children with diseases such as diabetes or epilepsy respond differently from adults to medications, and because they are still growing, require different care than adults for the same disease. Endocrinologists might also specialize in a particular disease, such as diabetes, or in a group of conditions related to a particular part of the endocrine system, such as reproductive disorders. Neurologists might also specialize in pediatric neurology or in conditions such as epilepsy, headaches, movement disorders or strokes.
- American Medical Group Management Association: 2011 Medical Group Compensation and Financial Survey
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- Hormone Health Network: What Is an Endocrinologist?
- American Academy of Neurology: What is a Neurologist?
- American Academy of Pediatrics: What is a Pediatric Endocrinologist?
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