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How to Become an Endocrinologist

May 11, 2022
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About EndocrinologyBecoming an Endocrinologist: Step by StepEndocrinologist SalaryIs Endocrinology Right for You? How to DecideFAQs: How to Become an Endocrinologist

Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/11/22

Are you considering a career in endocrinology? Look no further! Here we’ve created a  comprehensive guide on how to become an endocrinologist. 

When choosing a medical specialty, you may want to consider a career as an endocrinologist. Endocrinology is a medical specialty in which doctors treat hormone-related conditions. 

If studying and working with the endocrine system sounds interesting to you, we’ve got you covered! Here we’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to become an endocrinologist, including the cost, decision-making factors, and more. Let’s get started!

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About Endocrinology

Endocrinology is the study and practice of treating conditions in the endocrine system of the body. The endocrine system is composed of glands that secrete hormones to the rest of the body. These hormones are sent through the circulatory system to regulate target organs throughout the body. 

As an endocrinologist, you’ll treat diseases related to blood pressure, metabolism, cholesterol, thirst, hunger, body temperature, and more. When the endocrine system is not functioning properly, your body can create hormone imbalances which can seriously impact a patients’ daily life.

Endocrinologists work with patients to help diagnose and treat long-term, hormone-related health conditions as well. Patients with thyroid disorders, diabetes, infertility, and other long-term health issues see endocrinologists regularly to maintain treatment. Now that we’ve clarified what endocrinology is, let’s take a look at how to become an endocrinologist.

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Becoming an Endocrinologist: Step-by-Step

If becoming an endocrinologist is interesting to you, follow this step-by-step guide to get there. If you are struggling during any part of the application process, try scheduling a free consultation with an admissions advisor

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree 

Before applying to medical school, you’ll have to complete a bachelor’s degree. During this part of the process, your major will not impact your chances of admission. Just be sure to choose a major that allows you to complete the required prerequisite courses for medical school. The typical prerequisite courses for medical school are:

Note that every medical school has unique prerequisite course requirements. Although these are the most common prerequisite courses, some medical schools have more course requirements while others have none at all. The courses you take during your bachelor’s should also set you up to take the MCAT.

Step 2: Take the MCAT

Nearly all MD-granting medical schools require an MCAT score as part of your application. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a computer-based standardized test designed to assess the scientific knowledge, critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and more of prospective medical students. 

To properly prepare for the test, you should take notes throughout your prerequisite courses. Consider contacting an experienced tutor to help you study for the MCAT if you are concerned about achieving a competitive MCAT score.

Step 3: Apply for Medical School

Now that you’ve completed your prerequisite courses and completed the MCAT, you can begin applying for medical schools. The majority of medical schools in the US and Canada use the AMCAS application, which is submitted with application materials such as a premed CV, MCAT, GPA, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and secondary essays. If you’ve successfully passed the first rounds of screening, medical schools often request a video or in-person interview to help them make their final decisions. 

Because applying for medical school is a long and challenging process, it may be a good idea to get some help. An experienced admissions consultant can help you to find your dream schools and present the best application possible. You can also try using the MSAR to narrow down your school search to programs that best fit your needs.

Step 4: Complete an MD or DO degree

Congratulations! By this point, you’ve been accepted into a medical school program. You can choose to attend either an osteopathic (DO granting) or allopathic (MD granting) medical school to obtain your medical degree. Most medical school programs take four years to complete, with the first two years spent taking general science courses and the last two focusing more on the specialty that interests you.

At the end of your second year in medical school, you’ll also take Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). The USMLE Step 1 exam is the first of three exams you’ll need to successfully complete throughout your education to obtain medical licensure. Step 2 of the USMLE is also taken during medical school, typically at the end of your fourth year.

Step 5: Apply for an Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, or Gynecology Residency Program

Once you’ve completed medical school, it’s time to start applying for medical residency programs. Because endocrinology is a subspecialty, you’ll have to attend a separate residency program before being able to focus your education on the field. 

You can choose to attend a residency in either pediatrics, internal medicine, or gynecology before moving on to an endocrinology fellowship program. Each of these residency programs takes three to four years to complete. 

You’ll need to complete an ERAS application to apply for internal medicine, gynecology, or pediatrics programs unless a program has provided its own unique application. If a residency program is interested in your application, they will most likely ask you for additional application materials and an interview. Once you’ve completed all of your interviews, both you and your potential residency programs can move forward with the matching process. 

Using the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) system, you can create a “rank order list”. The list is used to name residency programs in order of your preference. Residency programs also create their own lists with names of applicants. Once everyone's top choices are taken into consideration, the Match algorithm pairs each resident with one of the programs on their list.

Step 6: Complete Residency & the USMLE 

After you’ve matched into an internal medicine, pediatrics, or gynecology residency program, you can begin practicing medicine under the wing of senior physicians. Residency is an excellent time to make connections, which may be useful in securing a fellowship placement later on. 

During residency, you’ll also have to take the third and final step of the USMLE exam. Completing all steps of the USMLE and residency means you are ready to begin looking for medical fellowships in endocrinology. 

Step 7: Apply for an Endocrinology Fellowship 

Once you’ve completed your internal medicine, pediatrics, or gynecology residency program, you can finally focus on endocrinology. Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism (IM) fellowship programs are typically two to three years in length. 

During this time, you can learn from highly experienced endocrinologists and begin networking in the field. Because endocrinology fellowships are only two to three years in length, you should make sure to take in all of the information possible and make the most of your experience. 

Once you have completed your endocrinology fellowship program, you must pass the Endocrinology, Diabetes,& Metabolism certification exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)

Step 8: Obtain a Medical License

After you have completed medical school, residency, and your endocrinology fellowship, you’ve also completed all three steps of the USMLE and at least two board certification exams. You’re well on your way to full medical licensure, but there is one final step. 

Most US states have separate requirements for medical licensure, meaning they’ll need to verify your documents, education, and exam results before granting a state medical license. It is a good idea to apply for state licensure in every state you intend to practice in to avoid delays later on.

Endocrinologist Salary

If you’re considering becoming an endocrinologist, you may be interested to know the salary you can look forward to in the field. The average base salary for endocrinologists in the US is $237,915, according to indeed. However, this number can vary depending on the state you intend to practice in, the company you work for, and a few other factors.

The top-paying company for endocrinologists is American Medical, with an average endocrinologist salary of $325,619. The highest-paying cities for endocrinology specialists are New York (NY), Philadelphia (PA), and Baltimore (MD).

Should I Become an Endocrinologist? How to Decide

Deciding whether or not the field of endocrinology is right for you can be a challenge, but we’re here to help! Let’s go over some aspects of the field that can help you make your decision.

Great for Puzzle-Lovers

One reason to go into the field of endocrinology is your passion for science. According to Endocrine Society past-president Robert Vigersky, MD, endocrinology is an excellent choice for doctors who love a challenge. The field requires extreme attention to detail and a love of problem-solving. 

“I chose endocrinology because it was and still is the medical specialty that presents the ultimate challenge in putting an understanding of biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics directly into patient care.” - Dr. Robert Vigersky, MD

Drive over Dough

Endocrinology is not the highest-paying specialty. In fact, on average, endocrinology pays significantly less than other specialties such as cardiology. Due to the lower pay, job satisfaction may be low if you are not satisfied with your daily duties. You should only consider pursuing a career in endocrinology if you are passionate about the specialty and the type of work involved.

All In One

According to some endocrinologists, their choice of specialty was informed by the versatility of the job. According to Dr. Joanna Spencer-Segal, MD, she chose an endocrinology specialty program because of the combination of clinical and basic science knowledge required.

“As a neuroscientist, I like that endocrinologists must consider the integration of all of the body’s systems including the brain, with hormones as messengers.” states Dr. Spencer-Segal. “To me this was preferable to a subspecialty focused on just one organ system.” 

Years to Become an Endocrinologist

As mentioned above, becoming an endocrinologist means you’ll have to sub-specialize through a fellowship program. This means that on top of the four years in a bachelor’s degree, four years in medical school, and four to six years in a residency program, you’ll need to take an additional two-to-three years of education. Becoming an endocrinologist takes fourteen to sixteen years of education in total.

FAQs: How to Become an Endocrinologist

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how to become an endocrinologist. 

1. How long does it take to become an endocrinologist?

In total, it takes fourteen to sixteen years of education to become an endocrinologist. After your four-year bachelor’s degree and four years in medical school, you must complete an internal medicine, gynecology, or pediatrics residency followed by an endocrinology fellowship program. The total time it takes to become an endocrinologist varies depending on the residency program you choose to take.

2. Do you need to complete a fellowship program to become an endocrinologist?

Yes, endocrinology is a sub-specialty meaning you must complete a two-to-three year endocrinology fellowship program after residency to become an endocrinologist. 

3. What diseases do endocrinologists treat?

Endocrinology deals with the endocrine system, a system made up of glands that secrete hormones throughout the body. Endocrinologists treat hormone-related diseases such as diabetes, infertility, metabolism issues, hypoglycemia, thyroid-related diseases and more. 

4. How long is an endocrinology fellowship?

Endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism fellowship programs are typically two to three years in length. A medical fellowship is a unique educational opportunity that allows doctors to subspecialize and train under talented specialists in their field after residency. 

5. How much do endocrinologists make?

On average, endocrinologists make $237,915 per year in the United States. The highest paying cities for endocrinologists are New York (NY), Philadelphia (PA), and Baltimore (MD).

6. Can you specialize in endocrinology in residency?

The study of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism is a sub-specialty that requires a fellowship program. To become an endocrinologist, doctors must first complete a residency program in internal medicine, gynecology, or pediatrics.

Final Thoughts

Endocrinology is a fascinating specialty and is an excellent option for doctors who love science, puzzles, and problem solving. If you are interested in becoming an endocrinologist, be sure to consider all of your options and do thorough research on the specialty. 

Shadowing can be helpful in making your decision, as well as talking to doctors in the field. If you are in the process of becoming an endocrinologist and need help with a medical school, residency, or fellowship application, be sure to schedule an appointment with an admissions expert. Good luck!

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