Some people dream of becoming a doctor. Others want to become a surgeon. Becoming a urologist allows you to do both.
With a job description that includes both the clinical skills of a physician and the surgical skills needed in the operating room, urologists must have a unique set of skills to succeed in their chosen profession.
Doing so can take more than a decade of schooling. Urologists must first become medical doctors, then move into a residency program that can take as long as five years.
It’s an extremely specialized field. But urology can prove a satisfying career choice for the right type of doctor. Before looking at how to become one, here’s a look at what they do.
Job Duties and Pay
While there are specialties within the field, urologists typically work with both men and women on diagnosis and treatment of urinary system disorders and certain types of cancer, such as testicular or prostate cancer. They also provide medical treatment for men on issues with the reproductive system, such as fertility and other reproductive issues.
Some conditions require medical treatment and therapy. However, urologists sometimes have to use surgical procedures to correct issues with patients.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is considered the authority on salary figures and job growth in the U.S. Unfortunately, the BLS does not separate out urologists specifically. However, for all physicians and surgeons practicing in a specialty field, the median pay in May 2016 was $425,509.
The BLS also projects 15 percent growth in the number of physicians and surgeons between 2014 and 2024.
Becoming a urologist requires a long period of education and training.
As with all physicians, urologists first complete a four-year undergraduate program. Majors are entirely up to the student, as long as they meet all the requirements to enter medical school. In most cases, this means majoring in a science degree program that includes courses in biology, chemistry, calculus, physics and more advanced study in areas such as microbiology.
It should be noted that some medical schools offers both an undergraduate degree program as well as medical school, allowing students to spend six to eight years at one academic institution.
After completing the four-year bachelor’s degree program, it’s off to medical school. This typically lasts another four years. Getting into medical school is a major hurdle in itself – schools are highly competitive. In addition to the usual admission requirements for graduate level work, students must also pass the Medical College Admission Test.
They may also be required to interview with the school’s admissions board.
Generally, the first two years are spent in classrooms and laboratories, learning diagnostic skills, biochemistry, anatomy, pharmacology and other related skills needed to become a doctor.
The last two years are spent working in a healthcare setting, typically a hospital or physician’s office, caring for patients under the supervision of experienced doctors.
After medical school, urologists then enter a residency program that has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Medical Graduate Education. These programs can last five years – some last as long as seven. They typically are in hospitals.
During residency, urologists learn clinical and surgical procedures they will need to practice, all under the supervision and guidance of experienced urologists. They also, in the last four years, begin to work with patients, diagnosing conditions and recommending the proper treatment.
The final hurdle at the end of this 13-year road is getting certified by passing an exam on urology. All states also require physicians and surgeons to be certified by passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. The oral examination can take up to two days, and typically requires the doctor to talk about how they would approach treating a hypothetical patient with a specific medical condition.
It’s a long road to becoming an urologist, but the reward includes substantial pay as well as the satisfaction of working in a field where your knowledge and skills help improve the lives of others.