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Neurology FAQs

What steps should I take to become a Neurologist?

1. Enroll in the best college that admits you, and major in premedicine or another science-based major. Complete your 4-year degree. Get the best grades possible so you can parlay your grades and the reputation of your college into a medical school acceptance.

2. Attend medical school. Graduate after 4 years with an acceptable grade point average to attain a desirable internship.

3. Spend 1 year in an internship. Study in your off hours to keep up with the latest developments in the field. Choose an internship in medicine and surgery or in internal medicine. Seek a residency program.

4. Complete a medical residency in neurology. Apply for a fellowship, if you desire more specific training in your field. Complete a short fellowship, or remain in a fellowship for decades.

5. Test for certification to become a board-certified doctor in neurology. Make sure you already have an unrestricted license to practice medicine in your state and have adhered to all accepted medical ethics practices.

6. Apply to the American Board of Medicinal Specialties and take its oral and written tests. Pass the tests with an acceptable grade on each test.

7. Set up your neurology practice, or join with other doctors in a partnership. Now you are a doctor who specializes in neurology-a neurologist.

How do I Get a Graduate Degree in Neurology?

1. You must have an undergraduate degree to attend medical school. While there's no required major for medical school, consider a pre-med, biology, biochemistry or chemistry major. These fields will help prepare you for the material in medical school.

2. Strive for a GPA above 3.0. According to the Medical School Companion, the average GPA for students entering medical school is 3.4. Only 2 percent of students who were accepted had a GPA that was below 2.5.

3. Consider electives in English and psychology. Good writing and verbal skills are essential for those pursuing a medical career. Since neurology shares much in common with psychology, courses in psychology are useful.

4. At some time in your undergraduate studies, you must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), which is a standardized test that all medical schools require. The MCAT consists of four sections: biological sciences, physical sciences, verbal reasoning and a writing sample. This test takes 5 hours and 20 minutes to complete, and a competitive scaled score is generally between 10 and 11. A high MCAT score may offset a poor GPA.

5. Once you've been accepted to medical school you can focus more on neurology. You should take classes centered on the nervous system. Courses such as anatomy, pathology, pharmacology and physiology are essential.

6. Although you'll have your degree after completing medical school, you will still need to complete a residency. You must apply to a clinic or hospital in order to complete this last step.

7. Your residency will typically consist of four years. One year will be in general clinical training. For the next three years, you'll have more freedom in choosing your specialty. It is during this time that you'll hone your neurological knowledge and become a full-fledged neurologist.

How do I become a doctor of Neurology?

1. Earn your bachelor's degree. Becoming a neurologist requires that you go to medical school, and a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for getting into medical school. Majoring in pre-medicine is, however, not a necessary requirement to get accepted to medical school. In reality, medical schools use a variety of criteria to determine who is admitted and who is not. Your major, although important, is not nearly as important as the types of classes you take in order to prepare for medical school. Most medical school admission committees will want to see that you have taken steps in preparation for medical school. Taking as many classes in the biological sciences, chemistry and even physics can bolster you medical school application. Medical schools will also look at your grade point average, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and other leadership qualities.

2. Apply to and complete medical school. In order to work as a neurologist, you will need to obtain the doctor of medicine degree (M.D.). If possible, attend a medical school that offers extended clerkships in neurology. According to the American Academy of Neurology, most medical students learn about neurological anatomy and physiology during their first two years of medical school and may only complete a short clerkship, or practical hands-on training period, in the field of neurology. These sometimes last only a few short weeks before students move on to another area of medicine. The academy suggests either finding a program with opportunities for specialization in this field during your fourth year of medical studies or taking it as an elective through another medical school if the opportunity is available.

3. Complete a residency in neurology. During medical school you learn much of the science needed to become a neurologist, but after medical school is where most neurologists receive the majority of their hands-on training in the field. These residencies typically last about three years. During your residency you will work under the supervision of a board certified neurologist. You will also have the opportunity to specialize in one particular area of neurology like neuro-oncology, Parkinson's and movement disorders, pediatric neurology or even sleep disorders. Most residencies last about three years, but as the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, if you want to become board certified you may need to spend up to seven years working as a resident.

4. Obtain your medical license. Each state has its own requirements to become licensed to practice medicine, but all states require as a minimum that you pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

5. Seek board certification. Board certification indicates that you have met the highest standards for your profession in the field of neurology. Board certification in neurology is carried out by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The process involves extensive evaluation by the board throughout your residency training.

How to Choose Medical Schools for Aspiring Neurologists

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) defines neurology is the study of the disorders related to the nervous system. To enter this field, students must complete premed and general medical school before applying for a neurology residency program. Those who want to specialize will need to apply for a fellowship following the completion of their residency.

According to, the average neurologist makes $202,930, a fact that makes this a competitive field. Students should first check accreditation. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) is the main accrediting body for medical schools and list all the accredited programs by area of specialty on their website (

Besides the tuition of medical school, cost-of-living expenses such as rent and food must be considered. According to U.S. News and World Report, medical school tuition can range from $22,800 to $42,472 so cost-conscious students should consider in-state public schools as opposed to out-of-state or private schools (

There are several other items that students need to consider regarding medical school including (

  • Whether a clerkship in neurology is offered as a requirement or an elective
  • Whether a Students Interest Group in Neurology (SIGN) chapter is available
  • Whether neurological research is being conducted

How to Choose Residency and Fellowship Programs for Aspiring Neurologist

Before applying, students should ensure that a residency or fellowship is accredited. Rather than the LCME, these programs are accredited by the ACGME which also list the accredited programs on their website (

Most residency programs will use the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) and the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) in the application process. The purpose of the NRMP is to standardize the process and the ERAS expedites the process by allowing for electronic exchange of application materials including a standardized application, recommendation letters and transcripts (

A limited number of combination programs in neurology are offered. They last at least a year longer in duration and also available through the NRMP service. The following combination programs are offered (

  • Internal medicine/neurology (5-year program)
  • Neurology/diagnostic radiology/neuroradiology (7-years)
  • Psychiatry/neurology (5-years)

Medical School and Neurology Residency and Fellowship Program Overviews

Medical School

In the first two years, students should learn about the anatomy, pharmacology, pathology and physiology of neurology followed by diagnosis and treatment in the final two. Some medical schools offer specialized or advanced training in neurology during the fourth year which can be based in research or clinical practice (

Neurology Residency Programs

Some neurology residency programs are integrated and incorporate the first post-graduate year (PGY-1) into their curriculum and some will require students to complete it separately ( At the completion of a general neurology program, a resident should be able to perform the following:

  • Demonstrate core knowledge in neurological sciences
  • Perform assessments and diagnose conditions
  • Interpret neurological data
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the health care system

Prospective residents should also inquire about the stipend which according to the American Association of Medical Colleges was $48,460 on the average in 2010 (

Neurology Fellowships

Fellowships allow neurologists who have completed their residency to specialize in a specific area while offering more autonomy than residencies. Fellows assist with the education of medical students and residents while gaining experience in clinical decision-making and patient care.

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