What is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a medical doctor or osteopath who has trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.

Neurologists perform neurological examinations of the nerves of the head and neck; muscle strength and movement; balance, ambulation, and reflexes; and sensation, memory, speech, language, and other cognitive abilities. They also perform diagnostic tests such as the following:

  • CAT (computed axial tomography) scan
  • MRI/MRA (magnetic resonance imaging/magnetic resonance angiography)
  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • EEG (electroencephalography)
  • EMG/NCV (electromyography/nerve conduction velocity)

To become a board-certified neurologist several requirements must be met.


  • Four years of premedical education in a college or university
  • Four years of medical school resulting in an MD or DO degree (doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy degree)
  • One year internship in either internal medicine or medicine/surgery
  • At least 3 years of specialty training in an accredited neurology residency program


Residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) provide supervised experience in hospital and ambulatory care settings as well as educational conferences and research trainings.

After completing residency training, neurologists may enroll in a fellowship program to develop expertise in a subspecialty such as stroke, dementia, or movement disorders.

Board Certification

After completing the educational requirements, medical doctors may seek certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The ABPN offers additional certification in the following fields:

  • Addiction Psychiatry
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Clinical Neurophysiology
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
  • Pain Medicine
  • Psychosomatic Medicine
  • Sleep Medicine
  • Vascular Neurology

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Have an unrestricted state license to practice medicine
  • Complete the required years of residency
  • Successfully pass both a written (Part I) and oral (Part II) exam administered by the ABPN

Certification by the American Board of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists requires a high degree of competency in the practice of neurology at the time of certification.

To be eligible for board certification, applicants must:

  • Graduate from an approved college of osteopathic medicine
  • Have an unrestricted state license
  • Meet ethical standards established by the American Osteopathic Association
  • Be an active member of the American or Canadian Osteopathic Association for 2 years prior to certification

Conditions Treated by Neurologists