Becoming a urologist

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Students listening attentively to their mentorUrologists treat both men and women who have diseases and injuries that involve the urinary tract. They also treat conditions associated with the female pelvic floor muscles and disorders of the male reproductive system. They do not treat female reproductive issues, since gynecologists usually treat those conditions. Urology is one specialty that allows physicians to use both their medical management knowledge and their surgical skills to care for patients.     

Urologist responsibilities

Urologists diagnose and treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including urinary incontinence, recurrent bladder infections, weak pelvic floor muscles and prostate cancer. They may also treat conditions, such as kidney stones and male infertility. Some urologists choose to specialize further and narrow their focus. Pediatric urology, oncology urology and female urology are three subspecialties within the field of urology.

In addition to completing a medical history and physical exam as part of the diagnostic process, urologists may also perform certain tests, such as an ultrasound. Once a diagnosis is made, the urologist will determine the most appropriate treatment. The type of treatment recommended will depend on the condition.

Urologists are surgeons, so they may perform various types of surgical procedures as part of a treatment plan. For example, prostate cancer may require surgery to remove abnormal growths. Other conditions may require treatment in the form of medication, surgery or both.

Urologist training and education

The road to becoming a urologist is lengthy. A four-year college degree is required before you can apply to medical school. The medical college admission test is also a requirement to get into medical school.

Once you are accepted to med school, you have four years of training ahead. During that time, you take classes, such as medical ethics, embryology, genetics, neuroscience and biochemistry. In your third and fourth year of med school, you apply your classroom knowledge to the real world when you start clinical rotations.

There are mandatory clinical rotations, such as internal medicine and psychiatry, and elective rotations. Since urology is not usually one of the required rotations, you can choose it as an elective during your fourth year of medical school in order to get a better understanding of the field.

After graduating from medical school, a urology residency is next. Urology residencies are a minimum of five years in length. Depending on the program, the time may be split by completing a two-year general surgery residency and three years focusing on urology training. For those who are interested in a subspecialty of urology, a one to two-year post-residency fellowship is also required. Once all educational and training requirements have been completed, physicians are eligible to take the exam to become board certified in urology. 

Opportunities and salary

Urologists work in medical centers, clinics and private practice. Some urologists also conduct research on new treatments, procedures and medication, which will help treat various urological conditions. 

Urology is considered one of the higher paying medical specialties, although exact salaries vary. According to a compensation report conducted by Medscape, urology was the fifth highest paid medical specialty in the United States.  The median yearly salary for a urologist in 2102 was $340,000. 

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