Graduate Degrees in Neurology: Program Information
Qualified students interested in post-doctoral study of neurology and who already hold a medical degree might consider applying to a fellowship program. Fellowship programs are usually undertaken after the completion of a medical residency program. Neurologists must also pass a nationally standardized examination.
Post-doctoral Fellowships in Neurology
Post-doctoral fellowship programs are intended for already licensed doctors wishing to focus on neurological research. These fellowships typically last 2-3 years and offer advanced education and research opportunities for students interested in a specialization in neurology. Programs emphasize development of laboratory research and research administration skills, as well as acquisition of teaching experience. Fellows spend the majority of their time working closely with other physicians and peers in a professional laboratory environment while conducting research studies. Students are expected to accompany physicians on rounds and master medical technologies used in diagnostic testing and research.
Fellowship applicants must have an M.D. (Medical Doctor) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). While holders of either degree are practicing physicians focused on patient care through treatment, pharmaceuticals and surgery, doctors with a D.O. focus more on preventative measures and holistic medical practices. Advanced degrees are awarded after completion of formal educational and licensing requirements.
Formal educational requirements for an M. D. include 4 years of undergraduate education, where a student typically majors in biology or chemistry, followed by 4 years of medical school. After medical school, students enter a residency program, which can last from 2-6 years, depending on the area of specialty. Students must also pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
Typically, fellowship applicants have completed a certain amount of graduate-level coursework. Admission committees look at letters of recommendation, academic achievements, professional experience and any notable awards or professional achievements.
Fellowships are largely self-directed endeavors where students, along with advisors, devise their own unique courses of research study within the field of neurology. Some fellowship programs offer students to specialize their studies in fields, such as critical care neurology, epilepsy, pediatric neurology, cell and gene therapy or neuro-onology. Instead of a set schedule of courses, students engage in the design, execution and analysis of directed research projects and acquire advanced knowledge and skill through close interaction with doctors and patients in a professional environment.
Possible Career Options
Although neurology is a specialized and focused career path, a variety of specializations are available within the field itself. Fellows often pursue a specific career path in neurology. Some possible career paths are:
- Behavioral neurologist
- Critical care neurologist
- Geriatric neurologist
- Epilepsy specialist
- Neurological surgeon
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth of 24%, faster than the average for all occupations, for all physicians and surgeons from 2010-2020. The BLS reported the mean annual salary for all of these professionals regardless of specialty was $190,060 as of May 2012.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) offers a recognized professional certificate in neurology or neurology with a specialization in child neurology. Currently practicing doctors can obtain a certificate in neurology by passing the nationally standardized examination, which is typically offered during one week each year. Practicing neurological physicians and surgeons are required to obtain new certificates every ten years, as mandated by the ABPN, and must adhere to the ABPN's maintenance of certification program. This program promotes life-long learning, and it ensures neurologists achieve a minimum set of basic skills and keep abreast of new studies, procedures and technologies.
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