Career Exploration: Becoming an Ear/Nose/Throat (ENT) Doctor

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There is a wide range of medical specialties that you can pursue after medical school.  One of those is otolaryngology, commonly known as ear/nose/throat medicine.  The path the becoming an otolaryngologist is like many other medical paths up until you reach your residency program.  Here is what you need to know about becoming an Ear/Nose/Throat doctor:

Education and Training

To become an ENT doctor, you will begin by pursuing the traditional route to and through medical school.  Score well on the MCAT and earn a high undergraduate GPA, especially in the core science courses of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Obtain clinical experiences that allow you to shadow an ENT doctor so that you will begin to understand the realities of the profession.  Apply to complete four years of medical school. During the last two years, you can take specialized coursework in otolaryngology. Several First day on hospital placement! ENT residency programs stand out among others, including Johns Hopkins and Tufts. Plan to spend anywhere from 3-5 years in an ENT residency program.  After you’ve completed your residency, which includes a year of surgery training, apply for your state medical license as well as obtain board certification through the American Board of Otolaryngology.  Board certified physicians are the most reputable and knowledgeable in their fields of specialization. Even after all this training, know that you will be required to renew your license every 7-10 years depending on the state; this is typically done through Continued Medical Education.

Responsibilities of an ENT Doctor

You can expect to see up to 40 patients per day as an ENT doctor.  Your caseload depends on whether you work in a private practice, in a hospital, or in a larger medical organization.  You’ll examine and diagnose patients of all ages, but expect that pediatric care will be your primary job, as most patients with ENT issues are children and teens.  You’ll use specialized medical equipment to examine your patients, such as a laryngoscope and an otoscope. Typical problems you’ll encounter as an ENT include ear infections, sinus infection, deviated septums, tonsillitis, and cochlear issues.  Expect to perform up to 250 surgeries annually, including the removal of tumors, reconstructive surgery, and tonsillectomies.

ENT Salaries and Career Outlook

The Affordable Care Act has been a game-changer for many medical specialties.  Patients who could not afford to seek treatment are now able to get necessary, life-enhancing procedures.  This is especially true for otolaryngologists.  The demand for ENT doctors is high and is expected to increase.  Compensation in this medical specialty is very competitive, making an ENT among the highest paid of all specializing physicians.  Because ENTs are also surgeons, they earn a substantial income of over $400,000.  ENTs who did not complete a surgical residency earn significantly less, approximately $200,000. 

If you are interested in working with a varied demographic of patients, have the ability to solve problems, are detail-oriented and patient, and are fascinated with the functions of human otolaryngology, then a career as an ENT just might be the right choice for you! — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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