What Degree Do You Need to Become an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor?

Persistent nosebleeds are often treated by an ENT specialist.
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An Otolaryngologist job description includes the diagnosis, treatment and management of diseases and medical conditions associated with the study of the ears, nose and throat. An Otolaryngologist is also known as an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or, ENT. 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.

1 Strong Academic Preparation

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. Instead, consider a major in the hard sciences like biology or chemistry. In addition to a college degree, a strong score on the Medical College Admission Test will give you the edge, when applying for medical school.

2 Study of Ears, Nose and Throat

Try to choose a medical school that has an otolaryngology specialty track. The study of ears, nose and throat involves specialized courses during the third and fourth years of med school. If this is not possible, you will need to gain this knowledge through your residency experience. Upon completion of medical school, you will have an M.D. degree and be ready to start a medical residency.

3 Hands-On Experience

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

4 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. Part 1 is completed, after the first two years of medical school, and Part 2 is completed, after the third and fourth years. Typically, medical students take Part 3 of the USMLE while they are completing their residencies.

5 Board Certification in Otolaryngology

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 of the study of ears, nose and throat medicine. The board certification process includes both an oral and a written component. The examination is given by the American Board of Otolaryngology.

Kathy Kattenburg has been a writer for more than 30 years. Her articles have been published in "N.J. Jewish News" and "Suburban Essex," and she is a contributing writer and full partner at Not the Singularity. Kattenburg has a BA in English literature from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.