Neurologists, like computer technicians, are interested in "wiring" and connections, but of the human brain. Neurologists diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the the nervous system, and blood vessels that feed it. They handle strokes, tumors, seizures, speech disorders, Alzheimer's disease and more, and perform spinal taps, nerve conduction and other tests. Understandably, becoming a neurologist takes a long time, and the field is making great gains in knowledge.
Work and Education
Today, neurologists treat disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and multiple sclerosis with more drugs and other therapies then they were able to just a few years ago. One thing neurologists do not do is perform surgery; surgery is a neurosurgeon's arena. To become a neurologist, plan on spending 12 to 15 years preparing. Students must have four years of a college or university education that includes a lot of science and math or follows a standard pre-med curriculum. Then they attend four years of medical school, earning either a doctor of medicine, M.D., degree or doctor of osteopathy, D.O., degree. Next comes a one-year internship in either internal medicine or medicine/surgery. Then, they must take at least three years of specialty training in an accredited neurology residency program. Neurologists who want certification in a subspecialty such as stroke, sleep medicine, pain management, or movement disorders, must have one to three years of additional training.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that while many physicians, neurologists included, work in private offices or clinics with a few nurses and administrative personnel, today's trend is for physicians to work in group practices, health-care organizations or hospitals where they share patients with other doctors. The benefits of this for doctors is readily available backup coverage, it helps them coordinate care for their patients and their salaries tend to be higher. However they typically have less decision-making ability than solo practitioners have in running their businesses. Neurologists, like other doctors, can work long, irregular and overnight hours while treating patients.
Unfortunately, neurologists are among the lower paid of physician specialties, according to Medscape. In 2011, neurologists earned a mean annual salary of $184,000, placing them in bottom half of the 25 specialties Medscape surveyed. As in the trend described by the BLS, neurologists who are members of office-based multi-specialty group practices earned the highest salaries, at a mean annual income of $227,000; followed by members of single-specialty groups at $224,000, while solo neurologists earned $195,000, a decrease since 2010. The bottom earners in the survey were neurologists working in hospitals and for academic and government groups. Medscape also notes that neurologists in the Southeast earned the most in 2011 at $209,000; while those in the Southwest earned the least at $155,000.
Female neurologists earned 24 percent less than male neurologists in 2011, Medscape reports. Males earned mean annual salaries of $198,000, while females earned $160,000, a widening of the gap from 2010. The same gulf exists in all medical specialties, with males on average earning 40 percent more than females. This imbalance is at least partly attributable to female doctors deciding to work fewer hours to have more time for their families.
It doesn't provide statistics on neurolgists alone, but the BLS expects employment of physicians and surgeons overall to grow 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. It bases its prediction on continued expansion of healthcare-related industries, an aging population and consumer demand for care using the latest technologies, diagnostic tests and therapies. Neurologists can expect to be among the most in demand, because jobs will be more plentiful for doctors who treat diseases of aging. However, health insurance changes could cause consumers to demand fewer services in the future. The Bureau notes that the areas with the most job prospects will be rural and low-income areas, because they are traditionally underserved.
- Association of American Medical Colleges Careers in Medicine: Specialty Information -- Neurology
- University of Rochester Medical Center Highland Hospital: What Is a Neurologist?
- University of South Florida Department of Neurology: Welcome from the Chair
- Oregon Health & Science University Department of Neurology: Chairman's Message
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons -- Work Environment
- Medscape: Neurologist Compensation Report -- 2012 Results
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons -- Job Outlook
Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.