Education and Training Requirements

High School

Neurologists first earn an M.D. degree and become licensed to practice medicine. If you are interested in pursuing a medical degree, a high school education emphasizing college preparatory classes is a must. Science courses, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, are necessary, as are math courses. These classes will not only provide you with an introduction to basic science and math concepts but also allow you to determine your own aptitude in these areas. Since college will be your next educational step, it is also important to take English courses to develop your research and writing skills. Foreign language and social science classes will also help make you an appealing candidate for college admission and prepare you for your future undergraduate and graduate education. Courses in computer science are a must, as well, since the computer is changing the way medicine is communicated and shared by busy medical professionals.

Postsecondary Training

Those physicians who choose to specialize in adult neurology must first complete an internship (with a minimum of eight months spent in internal medicine) and a three-year residency in neurology. Both the internship and residency must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). In residency, neurologists can choose to specialize in areas such as epilepsy/seizure disorder, cerebrovascular disease, or clinical neurophysiology, among others. Those wanting to work in child neurology have several training pathways to choose from, including completing two years of a pediatrics residency or one-year residencies in internal medicine and pediatrics. Again, these must be ACGME accredited. In addition, the ACGME notes there are a growing number of programs that combine fields and prepare graduates to be eligible for certification in two areas, such as neurology/internal medicine or neurology/psychiatry. The residency programs provide supervised neurology experience in both hospital and ambulatory (outpatient) settings. Educational conferences and research training are also part of a neurology residency.

To stay current with trends and technology advances, neurologists often engage in continuing education programs in the form of classes, workshops, and conferences.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Upon completion of residency training, neurologists may seek certification in neurology or child neurology from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). To be eligible for certification, qualified applicants must have an unrestricted state license to practice medicine; have the required years of residency training; and must pass both a written and oral examination as administered by the ABPN.

All physicians must be licensed to practice in the United States. To become licensed, physicians must pass a state exam, which is administered by their state's board of medical examiners.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Neurologists should have excellent clinical skills as well as experience in general neurology and inpatient hospital settings.

In addition, they should have some background in conducting electromyograms (EMGs) and electroencephalographies (EEGs). Neurologists in specialized clinics must be knowledgeable in the particular practice area. For example, a neurologist at a headache center should be familiar with headache pain and migraines, while a neurologist at a sleep center should have experience in evaluating and treating apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy.

In any setting, though, neurologists should possess research experience and exhibit interest in helping develop ways to provide and maintain the proper care for their patients. Because they treat patients who may have suffered injuries to the head, neurologists need to have a calm and soothing presence with patients who may be experiencing alternating emotions, including confusion and anger. In addition to compassion, neurologists need to be capable of sifting through a lot of data for specific details.