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How do I Become an ENT Physician?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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An ENT physician is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the ear, nose and throat, and in general, the head and neck. This specialty can also be called otolaryngology, but frankly ENT is easier to say and is in greater common use among laypeople. ENT doctors are licensed physicians who have fulfilled additional training requirements to become board certified in their area of expertise. The amount of training to become an ENT specialist may vary by country and those investigating this career as a possible choice, should check with medical schools or state otolaryngology licensing boards to determine specific requirements.

In the US, an ENT physician first takes a bachelor’s degree in college usually in the sciences and often specifically in pre-med studies. They must then take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and apply to medical school. Once accepted, they will complete three to four years of medical school and hands on training before participating in licensing examinations. The licensed physician then can determine whether to specialize, and they usually get lots of opportunities to work in different specialties in the last year or so of medical school.

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Those who wish to be an ENT physician will choose to apply to surgical programs that allow them to specialize in otolaryngology. This additional training, called a residency, takes about four to five years to complete. To make matters a little more confusing, some people then decide on a subspecialty. There are various subspecialties of ENT practice. Some doctors choose to work with patients who are kids and become pediatric ENTs, while others may specialize in facial reconstruction surgery, or voice therapy; lots of choices exist. Subspecialties may extend training for several years after residencies and fellowships are completed.

The path to becoming an ENT physician is lengthy. People can expect to spend at least 12 years, counting undergraduate work, in training. Taking a subspecialty may easily lengthen this time to 14 or 15 years. It can cost a great deal of money too, and many people need to take loans in order to complete their full training. It is not uncommon for people who specialize in various medical fields to owe in excess of $100,000 US Dollars (USD) in student loans by the time they finish medical school and complete other training requirements. Though some scholarships are available, these may only go to a few students, and most must find other means of paying for college.

A person wishing to become a doctor doesn’t necessarily have to decide to be an ENT physician at the beginning of training. People may find themselves drawn to one specialty or another for a lot of different reasons. The actual practice of otolaryngology can require highly proficient and delicate surgical skills, and some people may be better suited to this than others because of greater manual dexterity and ability to perform delicate work with the hands.

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