Requirements to Become an ENT Physician

When a person talks about ‘visiting the doctor’s office’, there is a fair chance that the ‘doctor’ he/she is about to visit is the ENT Specialist. Alternatively known as otolaryngologists, these doctors specialize in treating the ear, nose, neck and throat, and constitute a very popular group of doctors within the United States.

What does an ENT physician do?

An ENT doctor is basically a medical physician who specializes in treating physical issues in four main categories; namely: the ears, the nose, the head/neck and the throat. He frequently collaborates with dentists and other dentistry specialists due to the physical proximity of his area of concentration to dental areas.

– Ears: ENT doctors help treat issues related to the ear such as hearing problems, ear infections, tinnitus, balance, nerve pain, facial as well as cranial nerve disorders, among others, both medically as well as surgically.

– Nose: ENTs treat issues related to the nasal section such as chronic sinusitis, breathing issues, allergies and sense of smell.

– Throat: Ear/Nose/Throat specialists treat several throat-related problems such as those related to speech and swallowing, among others. (somtimes interacting with dentists to solve snoring issues and oral cavity irregularities)

– Head/Neck: Many ENTs oversee (or at least help with) the treatment of serious infectious diseases, severe head and/or neck trauma, and other abnormalities such as deformities and tumors. This sometimes includes performing reconstructive plastic surgery.

Besides the aforementioned, these doctors also do other things such as medical researching, teaching educational courses and publishing journal articles.

Educational Track

To become a board-certified, legitimate ENT physician, one must complete a medical degree (which is of four years duration), and thereafter follow it up with a residency program (of five years duration). The path to becoming an otolaryngologist, however, begins with earning a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited university or college. (Future specialists build their foundational knowledge in science and their interaction skills, which together form the the focus of their core educational course.)

Educational Steps

1. Bachelor’s Degree
As already mentioned, the first step towards being an ENT is earning a bachelor’s degree. While candidates can (and often do) take any undergraduate major, it is better for them to major in subjects that that medical schools generally require as prerequisites. This includes physics, chemistry, biology, as well as oral and written communication course study.

Undergraduate students who want to gain extra points in the medical-school application pool can benefit from taking specific career-oriented steps such as joining pre-med organizations, taking part in community service, observing physicians and preparing for the MCAT in advance. The candidate must apply to a suitable medical school before they graduate. Medical school continues for four years, the completion of which leads to an advanced-degree in medicine such as M.D. and D.O.

2. Medical School
ent dentistAfter graduation and successful passing of the MCAT, candidates must complete their medical degree from a suitably accredited medical school, which takes four years. In these four years, the first year is spent in the classroom studying subjects such as histology, anatomy, pathology, psychology, dentistry, biochemistry, and ethics along with preparation for the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations. Studies get more clinically focused in the second year, though they still remain largely in-classroom. In the third and the fourth years, medical students get assigned to clinical rotations from where they get exposure to a large variety of potential specializations.

3. Residency
Medical school graduates who intend to be board-certified ENT physicians should, in addition to their education, complete a residency of five years duration. This is where they get training as well as hands-on experience in specific areas of the nose, ears, and throat, oncology, research, dentistry, anesthesiology, pediatric, surgery, clinical evaluation and management/leadership.

4. Licensing
Given that the requirements for getting licensed varies from one state to another, doctors should the pass the state examination in every state in which they want to practice. Most doctors prefer to complete their residency from the state in which they intend to practice, because otherwise they will have to learn a separate set of regulations prior to taking the test.

5. Board Certification

To get board certified as an Otolaryngologist, medical doctors should satisfy the following criteria:

– Complete their graduation either from an accredited U.S. or Canadian medical school, or any other international school that has the approval of the WHO
– Have an unrestricted license for practicing in one state
– Complete their necessary ENT specialty training, as specified by ABOto
– Give and pass ABOto’s test for Otolaryngology

6. Specialization in a Field, Earn Sub-specialty
American Board OtolaryngologyWhile ABOto technically offers exams as well as certification in only two sub specialties, namely, Sleep Medicine and Neurology, a percentage of ENT doctors spend 1-2 years training in additional subjects to specialize in areas like allergy, pediatrics, balance, reconstructive and plastic surgery, neck and head tumors, dentistry, swallowing and voice problems and rhinology.

Career Path for an ENT

Gap Medics has revealed that ENT doctors are found in clinics and hospitals, and even in private practice. It also revealed that those who practice privately generally spend a very little time performing surgeries.

Needless to say, there is a wide scope of opportunity for an ENTs. Those who wish to work with children may go on to become Pediatric Otolaryngologists. Alternatively, they can also specialize in other areas such as allergies, or as reconstructive and plastic surgery, among others.


According to, the average annual salary in the US is $336,844.

Career Outlook

ENTs have a special place in American culture. As a matter of fact, ENT Associates has revealed that over 50% of all visits to the doctor are related to ENT issues. Furthermore, changes in coverage of medical expenses, such as the introduction of the Affordable Care Act has led to a large number of people being covered by insurance, who previously could not afford to see ENT doctors. Given the fact that overall demand for physicians is set to grow up to 18% by 2022, there will be a greater need for doctors in general and ENT physicians in particular.