Can you be a neurologist and neuroscientist?

In this article we will answer the question ”Can you be a neurologist and neuroscientist?” and we will define the differences between the two disciplines and the requirements to pursue a PhD in neuroscience if you are a neurologist.

Can you be a neurologist and neuroscientist?

Yes, you can be a neurologist and neuroscientist. A neurologist just needs to go for a MD/PhD program.

How do I become a neurologist?

Neurology is the medical discipline that deals with disorders of the nervous system. Thus, study the alternations of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles, etc. It’s a vital field of medicine for many people, as it helps to improve the quality of life of patients with disabilities or chronic diseases.

To become a neurologist you will need:

1. College: You need an undergraduate degree and you need to pass certain courses as a premed requirement, including: chemistry, biology, etc.

2. Medical School: you can attend an allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) medical school.

3. Residency: One year of internal medicine and 3 years of specialization in neurology.

4. Fellowship: With two more years of education, some neurologists take a subspecialty, for example, epilepsy.


What pathologies does a neurologist treat?

Not all neurologists treat the same type of patient. For example, some specialize in pediatric neurology (neurology for children), while others prefer to focus on the elderly or middle-aged.

Nonetheless, there are a large number of disorders linked to the nervous system. This makes neurology a very rich discipline, but also a very complicated one. Although the list of pathologies they treat is endless, these are some of the most common cases:

  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  •  Parkinson.
  • Alzheimer.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Muscular dystrophy.
  • Migraine.
  • Undiagnosed neurological diseases.

In many cases, the neurologist also deals with changes in the nervous system resulting from other diseases. This is the case of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or some trauma.

Where can a neurologist work?

After 10 years of training, finding a job is a long-awaited reward. Fortunately, Medicine is one of the degrees with the highest employability rate.

If you are a neurologist, you will have two great options: practice as a doctor or dedicate yourself to research. In addition, they are perfectly compatible activities. Broadly speaking, a neurology professional can work in these areas:

  • Public healthcare.
  • Private healthcare.
  •  Health foundations.
  • Scientific research centers.
  • University teaching.

What’s a neuroscientist?

Neuroscience it’s a field of science that studies the nervous system and its structure, function, evolutionary aspects, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology. It also deals with studying how its different elements interact, giving rise to the biological bases of cognition and behavior. 

There are several ways to become a neuroscientist, since neuroscience is a specialty that is acquired through postgraduate courses.

However, it’s essential to have at least a previous related academic degree, as all postgraduate courses require it.

With the following academic degrees you could ended up working in the area of neuroscience:

  • Psychology degree.
  • Bio-chemistry degree.
  • Bachelor of Science (General Courses)
  • General physicians.
  •  Neurologists.
  • Engineering degree.
  •  Veterinary.

Generally, each of these graduates faces the specialty of neurology from the area of knowledge acquired in their initial training (for example, engineers perform more in the area of image interpretation, in the creation of software and the reading of data).

However, thanks to their talent, psychologists have also completed demanding doctorates and have ended up working alongside other professionals in more “scientific” areas.

Where can a neurologist work?

Students who earn a Ph.D. in Neuroscience benefit greatly in their careers. It’s possible to get into much more advanced positions that only PhD holders can enter. Also, the salary that can be earned is much higher.

Careers in the field of neuroscience are also divided between practical and theoretical areas.

If you’re interested in the first one, your options include doctor, surgeon, technician, and other health care providers. On the research side, lab jobs are plentiful.

It’s possible to work as a scientist and study almost any aspect of the nervous system. Lastly, it’s also possible to enter the field of education and teach future students about neuroscience. Regardless of what you decide, working in neuroscience offers highly satisfying careers.

What’s the difference between neuroscientists and neurologists?

As you can see, neurology and neuroscience are different and we’ll tell you wh

Neuroscience is the discipline that scientifically studies the functioning of the nervous system, as well as the way to apply its knowledge to understand diseases of the nervous system.

Neurology is a specialty of medicine that diagnoses and treats disorders and diseases of the nervous system, both central and peripheral and autonomic.

Neuroscientists are basic scientists who don’t need to have a medical degree, as it’s accessed with a Doctorate in Neuroscience.

Neurologists are medical graduates who have specialized in neurology through specialized study and practice. They treat neurological diseases of all kinds, such as epilepsy or Alzheimer’s. Neurologists can also become neurosurgeons if they specialize in surgery, or even in pharmacy to pursue psychopharmacy.

How can I become a neurologist and a neuroscientist?

Research has been the driving force behind the amazing discoveries in Medicine of the past 150 years and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future.

Good universities have distinguished themselves by adapting to educational demands by developing programs designed according to specific needs.

The Medical Doctor and Doctor of Philosophy (MD / PhD) dual graduation programs have been considered one of the most useful training systems for pursuing a research-oriented career in medicine.

The idea originated in the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University (Ohio), then spread to other states and later to European universities and Asian Pacific countries. The Universities of Harvard, Cambridge and Heidelberg, among many others, offer every year to a small and select number of medical students studies equivalent to a PhD.

The training is carried out interlayed during the Medicine. The student receives upon the degree of physician and the PhD degree. According to the Cambridge study plan, entry to the MB / PhD program occurs in the 4th year after having passed the FINAL MB Part I exam with a high score.

Kuehnle has pointed out that “investigator training nurtures medical knowledge and patient care and, simultaneously, medical training clearly influences the focus and practice of clinical research”.

MD/PhD Programs

An Md / PhD is a combined program where you study medicine and earn your doctorate of science. If you want the best of both worlds, I invite you to consider it as an option. A PhD is a doctorate in philosophy with a focus on research.

In a PhD you will have a “research advisor” who will guide you to develop your research topic, carry out your project and the thesis you’ll present. The option of doing a combined program (depending on the PhD you select) would finish about six to eight years.

Usually, these programs are organized as follows: It’s divided into the first two years of your basic science medicine classes (in the classroom). Then you work for your scientific research and thesis (PhD), which can last from 2 to 4 years. Finally, you return to your last two 2 clinical years of medicine, in which you will be rotating in the hospital.

With this career as a medical scientist (MD / PhD) you can dedicate yourself in multiple areas of science and medicine. However, the most common is to dedicate themselves to medical research. You don’t necessarily have to do your PhD in the area of natural sciences.

What do I need to enter the MD / PhD program?

We are going to evaluate what medical schools expect of you. First of all, just like traditional medicine you need to take an MCAT (Oh, no again).

However, since you are applying to a highly competitive combined program, medical schools expect you to score higher than usual. It’s recommended to obtain an MCAT of 520 or more. I know it sounds difficult but it’s not impossible far less if you love neurosciences.

What else do I need? 

A GPA (General Point Average) or a competitive academic index. Because these combined programs are highly competitive, the student is encouraged to have a GPA of 3.70 or higher.

Also, experience in scientific research for a long period of time. Finally, like any other student who wishes to enter the field of medicine, they are also asked for excellent letters of recommendation, especially from minor investigators (“principal investigators” or “PI’s”), extracurricular activities, leadership positions, etc.

What happens after I get my MD / PhD?

Well, you have many options: you can pursue a residency (specialty),, be a professor, conduct medical research, be part of the medical school faculty. In the area of medical research, having your MD (medical degree) provides you with more opportunities such as passing clinical trials and doing more in-depth research.

Which Universities Offer MD / PhD Programs in Neuroscience?

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) the best universities that have MD / PhD programs are the following:

  • Harvard Medical School.  Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Stanford University School of Medicine. Stanford, California.
  • Washington University School of Medicine  St. Louis, Missouri.
  • University of Michigan Medical School.  Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons  New York, New York.
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.  Los Angeles, California.
  • Yale University School of Medicine  New Haven, Connecticut.
  • University of Wisconsin Medical School.  Madison, Wisconsin.

Neurologist and neuroscientist, necessary?

More than 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system have been described that end in more hospitalizations and loss of productivity than any other group of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

In 2007, the World Health Organization estimated that neurological disorders affect one billion people around the world. In fact, neurological diseases are 11% of all diseases (not including mental health disorders and addictions).

For example, in 2005 studies showed that neurological diseases affect more than 50 million Americans each year and cost more than 500 billion dollars to treat. On the other hand, mental disorders affect 44 million American adults a year, at a cost of 148 billion dollars.

Advances in research could reduce these costs. Finding out how to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease could save a lot of money on more complex treatment and care. Given the aging of many populations around the world, the social impact of Alzheimer’s disease is many times greater than the financial resources it takes to cure it.

More and more neurologists and neuroscientists are needed, some people want to be both. Why not?

There are several innovative programs that offer the possibility for a tiny group of students to opt for the possibility of an Md / PhD.

Yes it is possible, but before taking it, you must ask yourself: what do I want to achieve? Where do I want to go? Do I like research, or treating illnesses? If you can answer these questions without any doubts, go ahead and consult your university for MD / PhD programs. Of course: Courage.

FAQS: Can you be a neurologist and neuroscientist?

Can a neuroscientist become a neurologist?

Yes, the best way to do this is through a MD/PhD program. Many neuroscientists even start out as neurologists.

What is the difference between neurologist and neuroscientist?

Neurologists are physicians. Neuroscientists are researchers.

Can a neurologist do research?

Yes, neurologists can do research in a college, government, etc.

How much time it takes to become a neurologist?

Becoming a neurologist can take 5-6 years.

Is neuroscience a hard major?

Yes, neuroscience is a hard major, but there other aspects it might be easier than other sciences. Maybe it’s considered hard because it includes core classes such as calculus.


In this article answered the question ”Can you be a neurologist and neuroscientist?” and we defined the differences between the two disciplines and the requirements to pursue a PhD in neuroscience if you are a neurologist.

If you have any questions, please let us know!


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‌Kuehnlea F, Winklerb DT, Meier-Abta PJ. Swiss national MD-PhD program: an outcome analysis. Swiss Med Wkly 2009; 139 (37-38): 540-6.

MD-PhD Degree Programs by State. (2020). Retrieved September 26, 2020, from @AAMCtoday website: