JAANUU » What Is a Neurologist and How Do You Become One? 

What Is a Neurologist and How Do You Become One? 

neurologist wearing lab coat scrubs
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Deciding on a career path can be tricky for a doctor-in-training, as the number of specializations  is is seemingly endless. There’s podiatry, dermatology, oncology, anesthesiology, cardiology and pulmonology, just to name a few. You could specialize in women’s health, pediatrics, hospice or drug research. None of these job titles appeal to you? Fear not. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of possible options.

In the would-be infinite sea of “-ologies,” one that often comes to mind is neurology. That is a neurologist and what kind of salary do they earn?

If you’ve got career options on the brain, read on. We’ve included all the basics about neurology below.

What is a neurologist?

neurologist wearing pink scrubs

Ever had a concussion or a pinched nerve? If so, you’ve probably visited a neurologist.

A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in neurological diseases and ailments of the nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.

These medical doctors come in different flavors depending on where they practice and the specific neurological conditions they focus on, like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or epilepsy. They treat general neurological disorders (like memory loss and seizures), neuromuscular disorders and other sports-related head injuries. Depending on their training, neurologists can also specialize in vascular care, migraines, brain tumors or conditions like Tourette’s syndrome and epilepsy.

Neurologists aren’t brain surgeons, but they refer their patients to neurosurgeons if they decide that’s the best course of treatment for a patient’s condition.
And not surprisingly, like many other medical careers, both neurologists and neurosurgeons usually wear scrubs in hospitals and certain practices.

What does a neurologist do?

So, if it’s not in the operating room, what sort of everyday tasks does a neurologist perform? 

Performing tests

Before they can refer a patient to a neurosurgeon, neurologists must first decipher their condition by performing certain tests, including electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography scans (EMG), computer-assisted tomography (CAT scans) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Even if you aren’t in medical school or haven’t worked in the medical field before, you’ve probably heard of these. 

These types of tests usually happen at a hospital or advanced healthcare facility. Either way, wearing scrubs will be part of your job. To prepare, shop for women’s medical uniforms or men’s scrubs using some of our handy Jaanuu student discounts

neurologist wearing two piece blue scrubs


After finishing all necessary tests, the next task is diagnosing a patient’s neurological condition. Essential traits include acute attention to detail, a curious mind to figure out what’s wrong, and excellent problem-solving skills. neurologists are often bearers of heavy news. You’ll need a strong sense of diplomacy and empathy to aid you in conveying difficult diagnoses  to patients.

Conducting procedures

Just because you’re not performing surgery doesn’t mean the work  isn’t hands-on. Procedures that will fall under your purview include skin and muscle biopsies, endovascular procedures and spine or brain injury in inoperable conditions.  

What conditions do they treat?

Within this field, you’ll also find specific areas of neurology that you can specialize in: The right area for you comes down to personal preference and training. These specialties include pain management, pediatric neurology, hospice care, epilepsy and sleep medicine. 

If you’re curious about these specializations and you’re not put off by the list of duties, here’s a shorthand of subspecialties or other areas of focus:

  • Epilepsy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Brain tumors and aneurysms
  • Strokes and their side effects
  • Chronic headaches and migraines, which can signal a bigger problem
  • Neuromuscular conditions like Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease

These last four conditions can be exceedingly complicated in their treatment plan.

How to become a neurologist

Neurology involves its fair share of schooling, and unsurprisingly so; after all, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body. First, you’ll require a bachelor’s degree—ideally with a major that will be useful to your program, like health sciences. 

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you’ll undergo four years of medical school to complete your doctorate. Then, you’ll move on to an internship, which can focus on internal medicine or surgery. But just how long is neurology residency, you ask? If you’re looking for more information, here’s how long it takes to become a doctor. Generally, residency requires one year for your internship, followed by three years of training at an accredited residency program and several years of additional training in your neurology focus. Overall, expect school to last for at least 10 years.

Why choose neurology?

neurologist wearing under scrubs

Neurology focuses on the brain, spinal cord and nervous system, which are some of the most vital parts of the human body. They’re also difficult to treat. By choosing neurology, you’ll be able to assist patients in ways that improve their quality of life. What’s more rewarding than that?

On a more personal front, neurology is an excellent career choice because your somewhat taxing, day-to-day work as a physician is offset by an attractive salary and a steady job growth rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Becoming a neurologist may not be easy. Still, once you arrive, you’ll find genuine career satisfaction and ample financial compensation to make all those years in medical school and training worth it. 

We wish you the best of luck on those med school entrance exams. Once you pass with flying colors and want the scrub wardrobe to show it, read up on the meaning behind different scrub colors.

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