How Do I Become a Pediatric Neurologist?

If you have an interest in the medical field, the aptitude to understand the human nervous system and a desire to work with children, you might wonder how to become a pediatric neurologist. A pediatric neurologist is a physician that specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders involving the nervous system in patients 18-years-old and younger. Some pediatric neurologists are trained in neurosurgery, qualifying them to perform surgeries such as removing a brain tumor and repairing damage to the brain or spinal cord.

The nervous system includes the brain, the spinal cord, and a set of nerves called peripheral nerves. Because the nervous system controls important functions of the human body, including physical and cognitive performance and the function of sensory organs, neurological disorders can greatly impact a child. Neurologists help children who have sustained brain or spinal cord injuries in a physical trauma as well as children who show symptoms of neurological disorders. Some symptoms that require the help of a neurologist include headaches, blurred vision, seizures, and weakness, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.

A pediatric neurologist may work in a children’s hospital, an outpatient medical office, a university medical center or a private practice. During an examination, a pediatric neurologist may discuss symptoms with young patients and their parents and perform tests, such as brain scans, to reach a diagnosis and determine the most beneficial course of treatment. It may be necessary for a pediatric neurologist to work with primary care physicians and other specialists to ensure that all of the young patient’s medical needs are being met.

Becoming a pediatric neurologist requires a significant investment of time in education and training. As college undergrads, students should major in pre-medical studies, neurology, anatomy, psychology, or a related science field that will prepare the student for a rigorous education in a competitive medical school. During their medical school careers, students study laws and ethics as they relate to medicine and science fields such as biochemistry and pharmacology. They gain firsthand medical experience completing clinical internships in various fields, such as family medical practice and surgery. Aspiring pediatric neurologists may have the opportunity to specialize in either neurology or pediatric medicine. From there, candidates often complete fellowships in pediatric neurology that may last as long as three years. After earning an M.D. and gaining the required experience, these candidates can apply for board certification and become full-fledged physicians.

Though the process is time-consuming, the career is personally fulfilling and financially worthwhile. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects career opportunities for physicians to jump by 24 percent during the 2010-2020 decade and reports that the average median salary for all physicians practicing in a medical specialty was $356,885 as of 2010.

If you do well in science and mathematics courses, are skilled at working with your hands and enjoy helping children and young adults, knowing how to become a pediatric neurologist may be the first step to a rewarding new career.

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