A neurologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of
disease or impaired function of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves,
muscles, and autonomic nervous system, as well as the blood vessels that relate
to these structures.1
Neurologists can receive training in the following subspecialties:
- Clinical Neurophysiology- A neurologist who specializes in the
diagnosis and management of central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous
system disorders using a combination of clinical evaluation and
electrophysiologic testing such as electroencephalography (EEG),
electromyography (EMG), and nerve conduction studies (NCS), among others.
- Hospice and Palliative Medicine - prevent and relieve the
suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting illness.
- Neurodevelopmental Disabilities - diagnoses and manages chronic
conditions that affect the developing and mature nervous system such as
cerebral palsy, mental retardation and chronic behavioral syndromes or
- Neuromuscular Medicine - diagnoses and manages of disorder of
nerves, muscle or neuromuscular junction.
- Pain Medicine - provides a high level of care, either as a
primary physician or consultant, for patients experiencing problems with
acute, chronic or cancer pain in both hospital and ambulatory settings.
- Sleep Medicine - diagnoses and manages of clinical conditions
that occur during sleep, that disturb sleep or that are affected by
disturbances in the wake-sleep cycle.
- Vascular Neurology - evaluates, prevents, treats and recovers
from vascular diseases of the nervous system.
The residency training program for neurology is four years. Certification in
any of the subspecialties requires an additional one to three years of training.
The annual salary for neurologists ranges from $203,200 to $298,503.2
For more information
A large variety of career options are available to neurologists. Every
neurologist takes a different path and can tell a story about his or her
particular career. AAN Members were asked to submit answers to the following
four questions, to give medical students a taste of the opportunities available
to them after graduate:
- What career option you have chosen and why?
- What do you do in a typical day?
- The advantages of your particular career path and/or subspecialty and
why a medical student should consider it.
- Anything else you want to share, as you see fit.
I have chosen a career in academic neurology, specifically within the area of
neurocritical care. I entered the field because I like to perform ICU based
procedures and I enjoy the challenge of thinking about complex medical problems
that have a life or death outcome. I see this as a bridge between diagnostic
neurology and neurosurgery or endovascular neurology. In a typical day I see
between eight and 14 patients in the ICU who are there because of stroke,
intracranial hemorrhage or subarachnoid hemorrhage. I am trained to manage every
aspect of their care from tracheal intubation, to ventilator management, to
invasive line placement, to medical decision making regarding needs for
operative procedures and other medical management, and I greatly enjoy family
discussions and helping coordinate multidisciplinary care. I also spend about 25
percent time performing clinical research, the type of research that involves
patients directly and is the closest science to directly impact patient care.
Finally, I teach medical students (co-chair the neuroscience first-year course
for students), residents and fellows in neurocritical care. My job allows me to
see patients, contribute to meaningful research and allows me to mentor
physicians interested in learning advanced skills in neurocritical care. Any
medical student who is drawn to this level of patient interaction and
intervention should consider rotating on a neurocritical care service run by a
¯Wade S. Smith, MD, PhD
- Academic/teaching/clinical research/patient care in neuro-ophthalmology.
- No day is typical. That is why what I do is so fabulous. At least two
days per week I see patients with residents and fellows. At least once per
week I am giving some sort of teaching lecture. I attend grand rounds,
specialty conferences, etc. I sit on innumerable committees for the medical
school and the university, including committees on teaching, faculty
development, promotion, etc. I write papers and books. I review articles and
grants. I travel as visiting professor and to various meetings within the
country and in various places around the world to present papers and teach
courses. I am usually on one of these trips about once every six weeks.
- You never get bored! You get to do lots of different things while still
being a doctor.
- You need to be able to multitask and like the feeling of never being
sure of what you are doing! And yes, you can still have a family and do
other things outside of medicine (but it's best if you really enjoy what you
do professionally, including writing).
¯Nancy J. Newman, MD, FAAN
- I just "followed my nose." I was interested in a lot of things but got
really excited about genetics during my internship and ended up doing a post
doctoral fellowship in a great Human Genetics lab.
- I read and write a lot. Meet with students and post docs, occasionally
see a research patient (with one of a number of genetic neurological
disorders). I travel pretty often to go to meetings or give talks. I lecture
occasionally in medical school or graduate school courses. I'd estimate:
Administration 25 percent, Teaching 25 percent, Research related (not
counting administration and teaching) 25 percent, Travel, community service
(meeting with patient advocacy groups, reviewing grants and manuscripts,
etc.) 25 percent.
- It's extremely exciting. Doing very basic research ultimately will have
huge impact on our ability to diagnose and treat patients.
- Follow your passion. If you love what you do, you'll enjoy doing it hard
and well. I believe this is the most important factor in "success."
¯Louis J. Ptacek, MD, FAAN