Otolaryngology Career Guide: Qualifications, Job Outlook & Salaries

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An otolaryngologist is a physician who provides comprehensive medical care for patients who have disorders or diseases that directly affect the ear, nose, throat and respiratory system. Otolaryngologists are more commonly known as ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialists. In addition, they also treat conditions of the upper alimentary system and are specialized in head and neck surgery. 

Some of the conditions an otolaryngologist specializes in diagnosing and treating include allergies, neoplasms and deformities or injuries to the ear, nose, throat, nose, sinuses or other structures associated with the respiratory system.

As an otolaryngologist, you could work in a hospital or in a clinic or private practice. In a hospital you may find yourself performing a significant number of surgeries every day and you are likely to have to spend more time on call through the night and over weekends as well.  In a clinic or private practice, you would only be doing surgeries on certain days. Most of your time would be spent doing consults and seeing patients in the office. 

As a qualified otolaryngologist, other options available to you are to work at a research university doing research in the field of otolaryngology or to become a professor, teaching med students about otolaryngology.

Students working on the paediatrics ward at Morogoro Hospital Otolaryngology: Education & Training

To become an otolaryngologist you will have to first complete a medical school program followed by a 5 year residency program. During the first year of residency, you will study emergency medicine, critical care medicine, anesthesiology and general surgery and years 2-4 will focus on otolaryngology. 

Before you can practice, you must pass the USMLE, which is the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Another certification exam you may want to consider is the one set by the American Board of Otolaryngology. While this is not a necessary requirement for practicing, the additional certification will help you get the edge when you apply for a job to hospitals or prestigious private clinics. It will put you at a higher starting salary too.

Otolaryngology Sub-Specialties

As an otolaryngologist, you can sub-specialize in:

  • Head/neck plastic surgery: specializes in reconstructive procedures done on the head, face and neck.
  • Pediatric otolaryngology: focuses on ear, nose and throat problems in children.
  • Neurotology: focuses on the treatment of diseases of the temporal bone and ears.
  • Sleep medicine: focuses on diagnosing and managing ear, nose and throat conditions that disturb sleep or are caused by disturbances in sleep patterns.

If you decide to practice in one of the otolaryngology subspecialties, you will have to do an addition 1 to 2 year fellowship after your residency.

Otolaryngology Salary

The average annual income of an otolaryngologist ranges from $194,000 at the lower end to $516,000 at the higher end. In addition to years of experience, your place of work and geographical location are also factors that affect your earning potential. Professionals who work in private practices tend to make more than those who work in other types of facilities. Otolaryngologists in Illinois and Oregon are the highest paid.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is expected to be a significant boost in job growth for all physician specialties and surgery over the next few years. Otolaryngologists in particular are expected to be in great demand as over 35 million American suffer from sinus related conditions every year. Moreover as the elderly population continues to increase, there will be a growing need for professionals who can treat and manage hearing loss and other specific needs of the elderly.

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