Requirements to Be a Neurologist

Updated February 21, 2017

Neurologists research, diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous system, including those which take place in the brain and spinal chord. They do not perform surgeries but act primarily as consultants to those suffering from nervous system disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis. Neurologists are highly educated individuals who typically spend over a decade studying full time. They need a certain set of experiences, skills and personal qualities to be successful in the career.

Formal Education

The formal education requirements for neurologists are quite rigorous and time-consuming. Only individuals who enjoy intensive studying and learning should consider this field. Neurologists must complete a four-year bachelor's degree program that includes classes in mathematics, biology, physics, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and English. After college, a neurologist must attend four years of medical school, admission to which is based on a candidate's academic performance, teacher recommendations, MCAT test scores and other factors. While in medical school, aspiring neurologists study topics common to other medical students in order to gain a thorough and broad understanding of medical science and prepare them for the demands of the career. Topics of study include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, immunology, public health and neurology.


After medical school, neurologists are required to complete a residency which is an extended internship for doctors. During the residency they specialise in neurology, working closely with veteran neurologists in a clinical setting as they gain experience in the field. Residencies typically last about three years and are offered at major medical institutions such as university hospitals. Those who wish to focus in a specific area of neurology, such as epilepsy, sleep medicine or neurorehabilitation, may need to complete a longer and more in-depth residency.


After completing their residency, neurologists must apply for and obtain a license in the state in which they wish practice neurological medicine. Each state has its own specific requirements, but all states require individuals to pass a series of written and oral exams. A neurologist who obtains a license is legally permitted to treat and diagnose patients in the state in which he received the license.

Skills and Personal Qualities

A neurologist's job can be quite challenging, and only certain individuals are candidates for the career. Neurologists need a specific set of skills and personal qualities to be successful. Candidates should be highly organised, analytical and detailed-oriented individuals with a knack for solving problems. They need to have a penchant for science and math-related fields and should be able to memorise and compute data well. They should also be compassionate, sympathetic people who enjoy helping others and working with people who are suffering from potentially life-threatening diseases.

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About the Author

Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.