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Nature of the work

A neurologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of disease or impaired function of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, muscles, and autonomic nervous system, as well as the blood vessels that relate to these structures.1

Neurologists can receive training in the following subspecialties:

  • Clinical Neurophysiology- A neurologist who specializes in the diagnosis and management of central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous system disorders using a combination of clinical evaluation and electrophysiologic testing such as electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and nerve conduction studies (NCS), among others.
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine - prevent and relieve the suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting illness.
  • Neurodevelopmental Disabilities - diagnoses and manages chronic conditions that affect the developing and mature nervous system such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and chronic behavioral syndromes or neurologic conditions.
  • Neuromuscular Medicine - diagnoses and manages of disorder of nerves, muscle or neuromuscular junction.
  • Pain Medicine - provides a high level of care, either as a primary physician or consultant, for patients experiencing problems with acute, chronic or cancer pain in both hospital and ambulatory settings.
  • Sleep Medicine - diagnoses and manages of clinical conditions that occur during sleep, that disturb sleep or that are affected by disturbances in the wake-sleep cycle.
  • Vascular Neurology - evaluates, prevents, treats and recovers from vascular diseases of the nervous system.

Training/residency information

The residency training program for neurology is four years. Certification in any of the subspecialties requires an additional one to three years of training.

Salary information

The annual salary for neurologists ranges from $203,200 to $298,503.2

For more information

Careers in Neurology

A large variety of career options are available to neurologists. Every neurologist takes a different path and can tell a story about his or her particular career. AAN Members were asked to submit answers to the following four questions, to give medical students a taste of the opportunities available to them after graduate:

  1. What career option you have chosen and why?
  2. What do you do in a typical day?
  3. The advantages of your particular career path and/or subspecialty and why a medical student should consider it.
  4. Anything else you want to share, as you see fit.

Academic/Neurocritical Care

I have chosen a career in academic neurology, specifically within the area of neurocritical care. I entered the field because I like to perform ICU based procedures and I enjoy the challenge of thinking about complex medical problems that have a life or death outcome. I see this as a bridge between diagnostic neurology and neurosurgery or endovascular neurology. In a typical day I see between eight and 14 patients in the ICU who are there because of stroke, intracranial hemorrhage or subarachnoid hemorrhage. I am trained to manage every aspect of their care from tracheal intubation, to ventilator management, to invasive line placement, to medical decision making regarding needs for operative procedures and other medical management, and I greatly enjoy family discussions and helping coordinate multidisciplinary care. I also spend about 25 percent time performing clinical research, the type of research that involves patients directly and is the closest science to directly impact patient care. Finally, I teach medical students (co-chair the neuroscience first-year course for students), residents and fellows in neurocritical care. My job allows me to see patients, contribute to meaningful research and allows me to mentor physicians interested in learning advanced skills in neurocritical care. Any medical student who is drawn to this level of patient interaction and intervention should consider rotating on a neurocritical care service run by a neurointensivist.
¯Wade S. Smith, MD, PhD


  1. Academic/teaching/clinical research/patient care in neuro-ophthalmology.
  2. No day is typical. That is why what I do is so fabulous. At least two days per week I see patients with residents and fellows. At least once per week I am giving some sort of teaching lecture. I attend grand rounds, specialty conferences, etc. I sit on innumerable committees for the medical school and the university, including committees on teaching, faculty development, promotion, etc. I write papers and books. I review articles and grants. I travel as visiting professor and to various meetings within the country and in various places around the world to present papers and teach courses. I am usually on one of these trips about once every six weeks.
  3. You never get bored! You get to do lots of different things while still being a doctor.
  4. You need to be able to multitask and like the feeling of never being sure of what you are doing! And yes, you can still have a family and do other things outside of medicine (but it's best if you really enjoy what you do professionally, including writing).

¯Nancy J. Newman, MD, FAAN


  1. I just "followed my nose." I was interested in a lot of things but got really excited about genetics during my internship and ended up doing a post doctoral fellowship in a great Human Genetics lab.
  2. I read and write a lot. Meet with students and post docs, occasionally see a research patient (with one of a number of genetic neurological disorders). I travel pretty often to go to meetings or give talks. I lecture occasionally in medical school or graduate school courses. I'd estimate: Administration 25 percent, Teaching 25 percent, Research related (not counting administration and teaching) 25 percent, Travel, community service (meeting with patient advocacy groups, reviewing grants and manuscripts, etc.) 25 percent.
  3. It's extremely exciting. Doing very basic research ultimately will have huge impact on our ability to diagnose and treat patients.
  4. Follow your passion. If you love what you do, you'll enjoy doing it hard and well. I believe this is the most important factor in "success."

¯Louis J. Ptacek, MD, FAAN

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