How to become

How to become a Neurologist

How to become a Neurologist


Each year an estimated 1,170,000 people in the US are diagnosed with an adult-onset neurological disorder. These conditions include dementia, Alzheimer’s, strokes, meningitis, muscular dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, sleep disorders, and epilepsy. To address these neurological conditions, patients often seek out the expertise of neurologists. 

Neurologists are either doctors of medicine (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO) who have completed a neurological residency. They have the education and skills to address general neurological disorders in patients. After a general neurology residency, neurologists can complete a fellowship in a specialization such as pediatrics, sleep medicine, epilepsy, headaches, pain management, and many more. 

Becoming a neurologist takes years of dedication and education. Upon completing a bachelor’s degree, prospective neurologists must complete medical school and then a residency. This takes at least 12 years after graduating from high school. Neurologists must be licensed by their state’s medical board and be board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).

A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system including, but not limited to, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), concussion, epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.

A child or pediatric, neurologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of neurologic disorders in children from the neonatal period through adolescence. Some of the conditions overlap with those seen by adult neurologists, and others are unique to this younger population. Child neurologists treat many of the same common conditions found in adults such as migraine, epilepsy, stroke, and Tourette’s and are also trained in conditions related to neurogenetics and developmental problems.

What Does a Neurologist Do ?

Neurologists are licensed physicians who diagnose and treat patients with nervous system disorders. Some Neurologists may also work in research or as university professors. This career requires extensive medical training and may be a good choice for those with a passion for learning about and treating diseases that affect the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system.

Neurologists generally work in hospitals, clinics or universities to treat patients, or conduct research or teach students. They diagnose and treat neurological disorders like stroke, dementia and neuromuscular diseases. As they are also clinicians, their jobs entail examining patients and possibly ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests in order to determine a diagnosis and corresponding treatment. As researchers, they may participate in clinical studies and write articles for medical journals as well as present findings at professional meetings. Some common Neurologist duties and responsibilities include:


Neurologists are highly trained clinicians capable of diagnosing complex conditions through detailed history and physical examination, including testing of mental status, vision, speech, strength, sensation, coordination, reflexes, and gait. Even as medicine becomes more dependent on technology, the neurological exam will remain a critical component of the patient evaluation. They would also need to counsel patients or others on the background of neurological disorders including risk factors, genetic or environmental concerns.

Performs Tests

Some common neurologic tests used to complete the evaluation include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) or computer-assisted tomography (CAT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (NCS/EMG)
  • Lumbar puncture (LP) for cerebral spinal fluid analysis

Performs Procedures

Neurologists and neurosurgeons work closely together for several conditions, sometimes even in the operating room together.

General neurologists perform various procedures including LP and NCS/EMG. Subspecialty-trained neurologists also perform intraoperative brain and spine monitoring, autonomic testing, endovascular procedures including angiograms and coiling of aneurysms, botulinum toxin injections, skin and muscle biopsies.

Research Work

Some neurologists work in research, to develop and administer clinical trials to expand neurology knowledge.

It is important for Neurologists to remain current in their fields and remain certified, in order to provide their patients with the best care for brain and central nervous system disorders.

Neurologist Skills

Neurologists are highly motivated and dedicated people, they are specialists who work with some of the most difficult medical conditions under highly stressful situations. Neurologists work in hospitals, private practice or a combination of both. The basic work hours for neurologists in a clinical practice may vary depending on patient needs and issues. They work shifts, weekends and have on-call responsibilities. A typical day involves seeing patients and completing paperwork. Although it can be an emotionally demanding career it can also be highly rewarding. A typical day for a researcher might be morning conferences, checking in with your team in the morning and research or clinic visits in the afternoon, and checkout rounds. Some Neurologists may only work 4 days a week depending on the size of their team and their seniority.

Other key Neurologist skills include:

  • The intellectual capacity to apply concepts of neurological medicine
  • The ability to find solutions to problems, dealing with people and directing the work of others
  • A self-assured and a strong decision maker
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to empathize with othersEmotional strength and maturity
  • Able to work under pressure and have the stamina for work long hoursStrong ethics

Duties Of A Neurologist

As a neurologist, you need to perform the following duties in this profession.

They treat a variety of problems like spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, migraines, and much more.

  1. Examine patients through memory tests or movement activities.
  2. Perform diagnostic tests, imaging tests, EGGs, and biopsies.
  3. Analyzing patient test results, blood work, and spinal fluid.
  4. Discuss the treatment plan with the patients.
  5. Develop treatment plans for medications or therapy.
  6. Prescribe medications and monitor intakes to patients.
  7. Recommend other surgeons for further treatments.
  8. Monitor patient’s progress post-surgery.
  9. Documenting patient records and progress reports.
  10. Provide tools and methods for recovery to the patients.
  11. Conduct research for serving patients in a better way.
  12. Consult neurosurgeons or other surgeons for patient’s advanced treatments.

Pros and Cons of becoming neurologist

Here are some of the pros and cons of being a neurologist.


  • Suitable for people who likes to solve problems mentally
  • Suitable for people who values achievements and are results-oriented
  • This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.
  • Demand for this career is growing very fast


  • Not suitable for people who likes to follow routines
  • It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience is required for this career.
  • Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week)

How To Become a Neurologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years)

Completing school or obtaining a GED is the first step towards becoming a neurologist. Not only is it required for most bachelor’s programs, but it also demonstrates a minimum level of education and dedication towards completing education. Aspiring neurologists should focus on biology, chemistry, physics, and other science courses. 

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program (Four Years)

A bachelor’s degree is necessary to apply for medical school. Prospective doctors can complete several different degree programs, but the most common majors include pre-med, biology, physical sciences, and social sciences. Students should ensure to keep a high GPA as applying for medical school can be very competitive. Experience volunteering in medical settings can also improve medical school applications. 

Step 3: Take the MCAT Exam (Timeline Varies)

Students pursuing a career in neurology will need to take the MCAT to apply for most medical schools. This exam is to be taken in April or May of the year before they wish to start. This translates into taking it during the spring of their junior year to start fall after graduating from undergrad. 

Step 4: Apply for Medical School (Timeline Varies)

The majority of medical schools have moved to using the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Students can apply to multiple schools through this application service without having to submit documents multiple times. Applications must be submitted a year before the desired start date. Students currently completing their bachelor’s degrees typically apply for medical school admission during the summer between their junior and senior years, just after taking the MCAT. 

Step 5: Attend Medical School (Four Years)

Medical school takes four years to complete. During this time, students will receive general medical training and complete rotations in a variety of medical specialties. Students who want to pursue neurology should consider medical schools with neurology residencies, as this will allow them to complete a rotation in their desired specialty.  

Step 6: Apply for a Neurology Residency (During Medical School)

Residency is completed at hospitals and medical schools across the country. During the final year of medical school and after completing clinical rotations, students can apply for a neurology residency. This process is highly competitive, so having completed rotations in neurology can boost applications as candidates can speak to their experience in their personal statement. 

Other ways to improve the chances of getting the desired residency are interviewing well and having outstanding references. Students are informed of their residency match in March.  

Step 7: Fulfill Residency Requirements (Four to Seven Years)

Requirements to complete a residency vary based on the program. Most neurology residencies are four years long but can be longer or shorter depending on the specialization and school. 

Step 8: Sit for the National Licensing Exams (Timelines Vary)

Neurologists must sit for a national licensing exam. The exam varies based on the type of medical school completed. 

Students who have completed an MD will take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), and those who have completed a DO will take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMPLEX-USA). These exams evaluate both the knowledge and skills obtained during medical school and residency. 

Step 9: Obtain State Licensure (Timelines Vary)

Finally, after medical school, residency, and examination, doctors may apply to their state boards for licensing. 

Step 10: Take the Exam to Become Board Certified (Timelines Vary)

Neurologists must take the additional step to be board-certified to practice in this field. The exam is offered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). This ten-year certification must be maintained with continuing education requirements submitted every three years.

Best Programs and Courses to Become Neurologist

Listed below are seven of the top medical schools in the country that have neurological residency programs. 

  • The University of Chicago – Pritzker School of Medicine

The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine’s neurological residency program emphasizes anatomical and physiological diagnosis and treatment. Doctors completing their residency here will be supported by a full hospital staff and services such as neuroradiology, neuro-ophthalmology, neuro-oncology, neurophysiology, and neuropsychiatry.

Residents enter this program in the second year of their residency, having completed a general residency year elsewhere. One of the biggest draws of this program is the experiential diversity it offers its residents. During the three-year program, residents will have rotations in general neurology, pediatric neurology, neuroradiology, neurophysiology, and neuropathology. Three full months of vacation are also budgeted into the time required to complete this program. 

Location: Chicago, IL

Duration: Three years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $63,654 to $73,202 per year

  • Washington University in St. Louis – School of Medicine

Residents can complete all four years of their neurology residency at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Residents who wish to specialize can complete an advanced fellowship or residency in pediatric neurology, critical care medicine, neurodevelopmental disabilities, pain management, vascular neurology, or clinical neurophysiology here as well. 

Within the regular residency, program participants are allotted a large amount of time to pursue electives, making this residency an excellent choice for doctors with a desire to explore all aspects of the career. 

With a focus on resident wellness, diversity, and inclusion, this progressive program aims to care for its residents while caring for their patients. Residents have access to wellness classes, counseling, crisis relief support, and discounted fitness center memberships. 

Location: St. Louis, MO

Duration: Four years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $60,540 to $77,290 per year

  • Tufts University – School of Medicine

At Tufts University School of Medicine, the neurology residency program’s goal is to produce superior clinicians who are focused on patient care. Residents can choose to focus on either laboratory investigative, academic, or community-based careers. 

This program is four years long and encompasses a preliminary medical year, a year of general neurology, and two years of specialized neurology rotations. Specializations residents will work within include neuroradiology, neuropathology, pediatric neurology, and psychiatry. A full month of vacation is scheduled for each year of the program. 

Location: Boston, MA

Duration: Three years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $66,265 to $72,645 per year

  • Rutgers University – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

The Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School neurology residency has a strong tradition of excellence in research. In 2019 alone, the faculty and residents of this program published 33 peer-reviewed publications. Residents in this program work in the 610-bed Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where they can train in the state-of-the-art neurocritical care unit.

This residency comprises years two through four, so applicants will need to complete their preliminary year of residency at a different institution. In addition to completing at least four weeks of research, residents will have the opportunity to rotate through electives such as sleep medicine, epilepsy, pain management, neurophysiology, neurosurgery, headache, neuropathology, and noninvasive cerebrovascular diagnosis. 

Location: Piscataway, NJ

Duration: Three years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $61,749 to $83,618 per year

  • University of California San Francisco 0 Weill Institute for Neurosciences

Residents in neurology at the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California San Francisco have the option of completing their training in adult or child neurology. There is also a third option for residents looking for more options called the “flexible residency.” This option can be pursued starting in the second year of residency and is a program that allows residents to tailor their training to their liking. Options can include research, education, public health, and global health. 

Widely heralded as one of the top neurology programs in the county, graduates of this program excel in patient care and research. For the past decade, 100 percent of graduating residents have passed the American Boards of Psychiatry and Neurology. Many residents who complete this program choose to continue their training with a fellowship or clinical or laboratory research.  

Location: San Francisco, CA

Duration: Four years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $75,697 to $82,953 per year

  • Johns Hopkins University – School of Medicine

The neurology and neurosurgery department at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine offers three residency options in either adult neurology, pediatric neurology, or neurosurgery. The goal of all three programs is twofold: to create exceptional academic physicians who have outstanding clinical skills. Residents will receive a wide variety of experiences, including providing consultations, delivering inpatient services, and working in outpatient settings. 

To help residents have a well-rounded skill set they are required to rotate through various disciplines. These include neuropathology, epilepsy, psychiatry, neuroradiology, and sleep disorders. Residents are given the option to utilize some of their time during their third year to engage in clinical or laboratory research projects either in the department of neurology or in any other department at Johns Hopkins.  

Location: Baltimore, MD

Duration: Three years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $59,570 to $65,051 per year

  • Weill Cornell Medicine

With only seven or eight positions offered each year, the neurology residency program at Weill Cornell Medicine is a highly competitive program. Weill looks for residents who have an aptitude for training, research, leadership, or public service. This program has a strong emphasis on a clinical approach to neurology and strives to educate its residents on pathology, biochemistry, physiology, and molecular biology. Residents are also trained to take psychological and social factors into consideration when diagnosing a patient. 

Since Weill is located in the heart of New York City, they offer their residents many perks to make living in the city more comfortable. There is housing available close to the hospital, including apartments for residents with families. 

Location: New York, NY

Duration: Four years

Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

Compensation: $73,489 to $90,484 per year

Due to the hands-on nature of obtaining a medical degree and completing a required neurology residency, there are no hybrid or online programs available. However, there are online continuing medical education (CME) options for practicing neurologists. Here are three options:  

  • American Academy of Neurology

The American Academy of Neurology offers its members several different and engaging ways to earn CME credits. These include a neurology question of the day, journal articles, self-assessments, and self-paced courses. 

For busy neurologists, there are short online videos and a one-minute podcast that can be completed on the go. All learning activities are designed by top neurology faculty and have an assigned number of American Medical Association (AMA) Physician’s Recognition Award (PRA) credits. Most activities and modules are free from AAN members. 

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Duration: Varies

Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) 

Tuition: Many free courses with AAN membership

  • Mayo Clinic – School of Continuous Professional Development

To help physicians and other medical professionals complete their required CME, the prestigious Mayo Clinic has established a School of Continuous Professional Development. 

They have published an extensive library of online self-paced courses that can be completed at leisure. Topics covered encompass every area of medicine, including neurology and neurosurgery. Courses vary in length and can be as short as an hour-long webinar and as long as a week-long conference. Costs also vary depending on the length and topic. 

In addition, the Mayo Clinic has partnered with GIBLIB to offer an online and on-demand medical education library. Videos can be accessed by purchasing a subscription to the service, and physicians can earn unlimited AMA PRA credits. 

Location: Rochester, MN

Duration: Varies

Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) 

Tuition: Free to $500 or more

  • Stanford University – School of Medicine 

With online workshops, conferences, and courses, neurologists can complete their CME requirements through the Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Continuing Medical Education. In addition to neurology and neurosurgery, this department offers courses in almost every type of medicine as well as allied health professions. 

In total, they have over 580 activities, nearly 70,000 participating physicians, and over 50,000 other learners. There is even a physician leadership certificate program for doctors who are looking to move into executive positions.  

Location: Stanford, CA

Duration: Varies

Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)

Tuition: Varies but many courses are free

How much does a neurologist make ?

The average Neurologist salary is $219,916 per year, or $105.73 per hour, in the United States. People on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $121,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $398,000. As most things go, location can be critical. North Dakota, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota provide the highest Neurologist salaries.


How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Neurologist?

It takes 14 years to become a neurologist.

Degree from medical school takes 4 years to complete. Students spend their first two years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms taking courses. During the last two years, you get to work with the patients under the supervision of experienced physicians. In the end, you need 3 to 7 years for various internships and residency programs.

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Neurologist?

Following qualifications, you need to be a neurologist.

  1. Bachelor’s Degree in Biology or related field.
  2. Doctor of Medicine (M.D) degree
  3. Clinical residency
  4. 3-year residency in neurology
  5. Fellowship in a specialized area.
  6. Compete for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USME)
  7. Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN)

Do Neurologists Make A Lot Of Money?

Yes, Neurologists do earn a lot of money in the field of Neurology. The annual income of Neurologists ranges from $144,000 to $600,000. According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the average income of neurologists is $281,616. The highest income earned by neurologists in non-metropolitan areas is $500,000.

How Much Does It Cost To Become A Neurologist?

Depending upon the school you choose, this course will cost you somewhere between less than $30,000-$60,000 a year. It takes four years to complete medical school. So, you will need a maximum of $240,000 in total.