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Are you considering pursuing an advanced career in the medical field, perhaps as a physician with a specialty in Otolaryngology? Have you researched the various education and training requirements for this type of position, including the undergraduate and post-graduate degrees you’ll need to earn? Otolaryngology is a very popular sub-discipline among students pursuing a medical degree. However, because the field is so very specialized, potential practitioners will first need to undergo a considerable amount of schooling and training before earning their license to practice. To help you become more familiar with these degree and training programs, below we will provide a brief definition of Otolaryngology, followed by an outline highlighting the usual course of study you will encounter as you pursue this very lofty and important title.
What Is Otolaryngology?
Otolaryngology is a medical specialty in which practitioners (called Otolaryngologists) diagnose, treat and help prevent disorders and illnesses of the ear, nose and throat, as well as the head and neck. Practitioners in this specialty are also referred to as otorhinolaryngogolists (ORL), but the most commonly used term, especially among those who are not in the medical field, is Ear, Nose and Throat Doctors, or ENTs.
ENTs deal with every possible ailment or disorder in the ear, nose and throat region, ranging from tonsillitis and sinus infections to deviated septums and sleep apnea. They can even diagnose and treat tumors and cysts in the head and neck region, and are qualified to perform surgery when the situation warrants it.
Degrees and Training Leading to a Career in Otolaryngology
The first step towards a career in Otolaryngology is the undergraduate pre-medical degree. These Bachelor of Science degree programs are offered by almost every major college and university and are generally open to all students possessing a high school diploma or its equivalent. It is recommended, however, that the applicant have a strong background in subject areas such as science, technology and mathematics, as well as above average reading, writing and communication skills. Many institutions will require an entrance examination prior to admission that tests for basic proficiency in these areas.
Pre-medical Bachelor of Science degrees are offered in a number of different disciplines, all of which are very science-intensive, and require students to demonstrate excellence in both the classroom and in the laboratory. Some of these fields include biology, chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, physics and biophysics.
Once a candidate successfully graduates with an undergraduate degree in a related field, he or she is eligible to apply for medical school. Medical schools offer highly-sophisticated degrees for those pursuing an advanced career in one or more sub-specialties in the medical field. Here they will acquire the general knowledge and training required of all medical doctors (MDs), as well as specific training in a discipline of their choice, or in this case Otolaryngology.
Upon completion of medical school, Otolaryngologists must begin a five year Otolaryngology residency approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Training is supervised by a resident physician and focuses on the diagnoses and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head, and neck disorders. Otolaryngologists may also choose to obtain a fellowship in a sub-specialty following their five year residency. Specialties include head and neck cancer surgery, facial plastic/reconstructive surgery, surgery of the inner and middle ear, allergy, sinus surgery, sleep apnea surgery, and other surgeries related to the head.
Once all of these steps have been taken, successful students are granted a license to practice medicine and become certificated members of the medical community.