The Field of Child Neurology
What does a Pediatric Neurologist do?
The discipline of Pediatric Neurology, also called Child Neurology, encompasses disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve and muscle affecting infants, children and adolescents. The variety of patients seen by a child neurologist varies from those with common, relatively straightforward conditions, such as cerebral palsy or migraine, to those with rare or complex conditions, such as metabolic or degenerative disorders. This robust variety of conditions allows child neurologists to structure their scientific or clinical careers according to their clinical or research interests.
What are the career opportunities?
Given their shortage, child neurologists have exciting opportunities in private practice or academics throughout the world. The number of child neurologists in the U.S. is estimated to be at least 20% below the national needs, although many believe that this is a conservative estimate.
The majority of child neurologists have active clinical practices, either as private practitioners or in an academic setting. In general, approximately 40% to 50% of the patients in a typical child neurology practice have epilepsy, 20% have developmental delay or learning or behavioral issues, and 20% have headaches. The remaining patients have unusual conditions, such as metabolic, genetic or syndromic disorders. In many centers, individual clinical practices are highly specialized and address specific conditions, such as pediatric stroke, migraine, intractable epilepsy, or rare metabolic or degenerative conditions. Child neurologists can subspecialize in such areas as neonatal neurology, epilepsy, headache, neurogenetics, neurodevelopmental disabilities, or pediatric neuromuscular diseases. Child neurologists often evaluate and manage children with neurobehavioral disorders, including Tourette syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder. Many academic child neurologists enter careers in laboratory-based or clinical/translational research. Thus, divisions of child neurology can be a home for individuals with MD/PhD degrees or other advanced research training. As neurogenetics has moved from the era of identifying single gene disorders to the studies of complex traits, such as autism spectrum disorder and Tourette syndrome, opportunities for both basic and clinical research in child neurology continue to expand. New and emerging therapies require child neurologists who will join teams of investigators as they identify evidence-based approaches for many neurological conditions.
What Board(s) certifies Child Neurologists?
Child neurologists are certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) as having special qualification in child neurology. Many child neurologists also obtain Board Certification in Pediatrics through the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). A special agreement exists between the ABP and the ABPN whereby an applicant can fulfill the training requirements of both organizations. To ensure that trainees receive comprehensive training in pediatrics, the ABP requires two years of training in general pediatrics. Click here for more information.
What is the lifestyle of a Child Neurologist?
Child neurologists lead rewarding lives through service to their patients and dedication to pediatric neuroscience. The hours can be long, but the practice life of a child neurologist can be enriched through community service, advocacy and scholarly activities. Because most child neurologists enter group practices, night and weekend calls are typically taken at home and can be distributed, allowing balance in personal and professional lives.
What is the compensation of a Child Neurologist?
The salaries and benefits provided to a child neurologist vary according to the nature of the clinical practice. In general, child neurologists in private practice earn more than those in academic environments. Practices that emphasize and derive compensation from procedures, such as electroencephalography (EEG) or neuroimaging, can provide substantial income to the members of the group. A child neurologist’s salary and benefits allow a very comfortable lifestyle. Most child neurologists annually earn between $175,000 to $350,000 (ref).
How do I become a Child Neurologist?
Child neurologists enter training via a match administered by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Trainees can enter the match at several points: during their fourth year of medical school (the most common pathway), after 1, 2 or 3 years of pediatric training, or after the completion of pediatric residency. Prerequisites for training in child neurology consist of 2 years of residency training in pediatrics, 1 year of residency training in general internal medicine and 1 year of residency training in pediatrics or 1 year of pediatrics plus 1 year of basic neuroscience (for example, PhD) training. These prerequisites allow considerable flexibility in the educational preparation to become a board eligible child neurologist. After completion of training, an individual must successfully pass the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology examination to become board certified as a child neurologist.
Where do I find out about available programs?
Information about careers and programs can also be obtained from the website of the Child Neurology Society.
When do I apply?
The child neurology match occurs simultaneously with the regular residency match process. The process ensures that fourth year students matching in child neurology can obtain two years of training in a pediatric program. There are three different options for child neurology and pediatrics training:
- Option 1: A combined five-year child neurology program. An institution offering this program has a single match list for both pediatrics and child neurology training and matches the candidates for a full five years of residency training (two years in pediatrics followed by three years in child neurology). When the candidate uses this option on their NRMP ranking list, a separate preliminary pediatrics residency list does not appear and is not needed.
- Option 2: A linked preliminary pediatrics and child neurology program. The child neurology and pediatrics residency programs have separate rank lists. The candidate matches into the child neurology program for post-graduate years three through five and will only match into the two-year preliminary pediatric program if the candidate is ranked by both programs. When the candidate uses this option on the NRMP ranking list, a separate list for the preliminary pediatric residency program with the institution appears and must be completed.
- Option 3: Separate preliminary pediatric and neurology residency programs. In this option, the candidate must create two separate rank lists, one for the two year preliminary pediatric residency program and another for the three year child neurology program.
Why should I choose to become a Pediatric Neurologist?
Pediatric neurology provides rewarding career opportunities for those interested in child development and pediatric neuroscience, whether in clinical child neurology or basic neurobiology. Given the continuing shortage of child neurologists, job opportunities abound throughout the U.S. for satisfying careers in practice or academic environments.
For more information about Pediatric Neurology, visit these websites:
- Child Neurology Society
- American Board of Pediatrics
- American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
- American Academy of Neurology Child Neurology Section
- American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neurology
- Child Neurology Foundation