ENT doctors, formally known as otolaryngologists, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and medical conditions associated with the ears, nose and throat. ENT doctors also treat structural problems of the face and neck. Otolaryngologists treat many conditions, including problems such as hearing loss, balance issues, ringing in the ears, facial tics, nosebleeds, sleep apnea and snoring, sinus problems, tonsillitis and throat cancer. They are also surgeons, and may perform plastic surgery and facial reconstruction.

A Bachelor's Degree

The first step in the road to becoming an ENT physician is a four-year college degree. While many students complete pre-med programs, it is not required. Regardless of your major, medical schools will want to see a strong college record in math and science, particularly in biology and chemistry. That, and your score on the Medical College Admission Test, will matter more to them than whether your diploma says Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.

Medical School

Try to choose a medical school that has an otolaryngology specialty track. This will allow you to take specialized courses in your third and fourth years of med school. If this is not possible, you will need to gain this knowledge through your residency experience. When you finish medical school, you will have an M.D. degree but you will not yet be able to practice medicine on your own.


Before you can practice medicine on your own, you need to complete your medical residency. As a resident in an otolaryngology program, you will get essential on-the-job experience by practicing your ear, nose and throat specialty in a hospital under the observation and supervision of an experienced otolaryngologist. Otolaryngology residencies usually take about four years to complete.

A License To Practice Medicine

All medical doctors must successfully pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, and a state licensing examination for the state where they plan to set up practice. The USMLE is given in three parts, over a period of seven years, although this can vary by state. The first two parts of the USMLE are taken while you are still in medical school. You take Part 1 after completing your first two years of medical school, and Part 2 after completing your third and fourth years. Typically, medical students take Part 3 of the USMLE while they are completing their residencies.

Board Certification

After completing your residency plus a year of training in general surgical procedures, and after passing the USMLE and the state licensing examination, you will be eligible to become board certified in otolaryngology. This step is not mandatory, but it's recommended, because it indicates to both hospitals and patients that you have expert understanding and training in your field. The board certification process includes both an oral and a written component. The examination is given by the American Board of Otolaryngology.