What's the Job Description of an Endocrinologist?

Medical interest in the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid and adrenal glands, picked up in the early 20th century. As an endocrinologist, you would help diagnose and treat endocrine-related disorders, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Keep reading if you'd like to learn more about working as an endocrinologist. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description of an Endocrinologist

An endocrinologist is a medical doctor (MD) who has specialized in the treatment or research of disorders that affect the endocrine system. This system includes multiple glands throughout the body that can cause problems with reproduction, growth, bone health or metabolism. Some endocrinologists specialize in specific areas of the endocrine system. When treating patients, you'll be involved in assessing symptoms and running tests, as well as developing long-term treatment plans. The following sections will give some important facts about endocrinology and lists some of the common problems and health issues you may deal with as a practicing endocrinologist.

Important Facts About Endocrinology

Median Salary (2019) $197,391*
Similar Occupations Physician's assistant, licensed practical nurse, adult nurse practitioner
Key Skills People skills, dexterity, organizational skills, ability to interpret/understand lab tests
Work Environment Hospital or in private sessions, regular Monday-Friday office hours
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13%** growth (for all physicians and surgeons

Sources: *Payscale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association's 2012 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, approximately 29.1 million U.S. citizens have some form of diabetes. This group of disorders is characterized by high levels of sugar in the patient's blood. As an endocrinologist, you might teach patients to monitor their blood sugar levels and understand their nutritional limitations in order to keep their glucose levels low. You would also prescribe various medications to augment lifestyle changes.

Some women contract gestational diabetes when they become pregnant. Because you will be treating both mother and unborn child, special care must be taken not only to maintain the health of the mother, but also to monitor the development of the fetus.

Thyroid Diseases

An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can cause problems with hypertension or a slow metabolism. You may treat patients for thyroid disorders, such as Grave's disease, hypothyroidism and, in some cases, tumors. Working with surgical and oncology professionals, you might help patients by removing cancerous or benign tumors that pose health risks. After surgery, you would monitor your patient's progress and prescribe medications.

Menopause

As women age, their biological systems change. Menopause is the point at which a woman's reproductive system ceases normal function. Due to the hormonal changes involved, endocrinologists can work with patients to address potential side effects, such as fatigue, mood swings, body temperature changes, depression and weight gain. You also would look for warning signs of problems that can be caused by menopause, such as heart disease, poor bladder function, vision issues and osteoporosis, a condition that can cause bones to become brittle.

Pituitary Tumors

The pituitary gland produces hormones and performs a variety of functions in the body. Tumors that affect this gland can be cancerous or non-cancerous, and the symptoms that an endocrinologist must recognize can be anything from loss of sexual drive to an increased shoe or ring size. Working with surgeons, you might remove a patient's pituitary gland. After removal, you would work with your patient to control his or her hormone functions through medication.

Education Requirements

To become an endocrinologist, you must graduate from medical school, complete a residency in internal medicine and complete a fellowship in endocrinology. The road to becoming an endocrinologist is a long one, with most spending four years to earn a bachelor's degree, another four years to graduate from medical school, three years in an internal medicine residency and 2-3 years in an endocrinology fellowship.

Licensure and Certification Info

All states require physicians to be licensed. While still in medical school, you'll begin the licensing process by taking steps 1 and 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). After successfully passing step 3 (which is usually taken during your residency training), you'll be granted licensure.

Board certification in your specialty, though optional, can increase your patients' confidence in your abilities. Maintaining board certification requires a lifelong commitment to learning and demonstrates your dedication to keeping up-to-date with changes in the field. You can earn certification in internal medicine from the American Board of Internal Medicine after completing your residency. You may then earn subspecialty certification in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism after completing your fellowship.

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