What is a pulmonologist?
This is a medical professional who specializes in treating disorders that are related to your cardio-pulmonary system and includes your lungs, blood vessels, and heart. All of these organs are working together to help you breathe so you are taking in oxygen and oxygenating your blood. Pulmonary medicine, which is what a pulmonologist practices, is a subspecialty of internal medicine.
Job description of a pulmonologist
When you become a pulmonologist you will analyze diagnostic tests, consult with other medical professionals, research symptoms, and then prescribe the appropriate treatments. You will be skilled in helping your patients who have chronic conditions like COPD, lung cancer, acute complications of respiratory failure, pneumonia, bronchitis, cancer, asthma, tuberculosis, etc. To treat their condition they may prescribe medications and monitor their symptoms with a follow-up. They may also recommend surgery. If it is an emergency situation the pulmonologist can use cardiopulmonary resuscitation and/or oxygen therapy to help prevent a problem that could be life-threatening. They may decide to place this patient on a mechanical respirator until their medical condition can be resolved. They will also do follow-up visits or have their primary care physician follow up with the patient so the breathing problem does not return.
Although a pulmonologist is specialized to provide critical health care for their patients like using mechanical ventilator support the one thing that they do not do is perform surgeries. They will conduct physical exams on patients, diagnosis and then treat the disease or disorder. As mentioned they can also prescribe medications and two that they would use would be various inhalers to help the patient breathe better and anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain and any swelling a patient may have.
How to become a pulmonologist?
If this is your career choice you should make sure that you are taking as many science and math classes you can during your high school years. If you plan to open your own private practice you may want to include some business courses like accounting or business management. After graduation you will start to work on your bachelor’s degree majoring in biology or any other health or science related major. You should take courses in anatomy, molecular biology, and physiology in order to help you become familiar with how your lungs work before you start medical school. In your junior year you should start preparations for taking the Medical College Admission Test. Getting into medical school is a competitive field so you need to make sure that you have a high GPA and you score high on the MCAT exam. To help increase your chances on getting into the medical school of choice you should also get several letters of recommendation.
Getting a bachelor’s degree takes 4 years and so does medical school. In medical school the first 2 years is normally spent participating in laboratory work and attending classroom lectures. You will also take advance courses in pharmacology, biochemistry, and pathology. You will also take several more tests that are related to human health. During the last 2 years of medical school you will do clinical rotations at the local hospital and in ongoing lab research. During these clinical rotations you will have the opportunity to watch physicians in many different specialties, including pulmonology to make sure that you will be suited for that medical profession. At the end of your 4 years of medical school you will have to take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination in order to get your Medical Doctor degree (M.D.)
After getting your M.D. degree you will need to apply for an internal medicine residency program. When you are a resident you will work directly with patients while under the supervision of experienced physicians. You will also continue going to class along with conducting research. During this residency you will gain firsthand experience and valuable instruction to help you become a pulmonologist. You will be getting intensive instruction on all organ systems, learn about respiratory therapy, the many different treatments that can be used, and the different lung diseases.
After residency you will do a 2 year fellowship that is dedicated specifically to pulmonology in order to complete your training and become a practicing pulmonologist. This fellowship program will take place in specialty divisions of hospitals. This is where you will work with knowledgeable pulmonologists. Once you finish your fellowship you will take a licensing exam in order to earn board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine and the right to become a practicing pulmonologist. If you want to specialize and become a pediatric pulmonologist or work in critical care, you will have to take extra training or fellowships.
Even after getting your license you must stay up to date on current advancements in pulmonology and be constantly improving their skills. Throughout their career they will often complete continuing education courses, attend conferences, seminars and workshops in order to renew their license and board certification.
A pulmonologist can work in a variety of work environments like emergency care centers, private practices, group practices, and general hospitals. When working in a hospital, the emergency room, or emergency care centers you may find yourself working odd hours, maybe working 60 or more hours a week, and being on call some weekends and nights. You may even do a 24 hour shift of being on call. If you are in private practice or with a group practice the hours that you work will vary. Most in these two work environments will work Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but there is always the chance that you will not get out of the office that early so your hours could also be 60 or more hours a week. If you have patients in ICU in the hospital you will usually check on them before going into your office in the morning to treat the patients you are seeing that day.
Many of the patients that a pulmonologist sees will be referrals from a primary care physician but you may have a few that will just call and ask for an appointment. When you see a patient with a chronic condition you will first identify the physical symptoms by doing a complete physical exam but before the exam the pulmonologist will take a medical history, check to see when the problems started, what symptoms they are experiencing, etc. If the patient is a referral and the pulmonologist has a copy of the chart from their primary care physician they will read over the chart to see what their primary care physician has to say about the patient and the problems they are having before the patient’s scheduled appointment.
When doing a physical exam the pulmonologist will use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs first on their back and then on their chest having the patient breathe normally and then take deep breaths. They may also use a spirometer to measure their lung capacity, or a bronchoscope to see in their airways. Once the pulmonologist knows what the symptoms are they may order diagnostic imaging scans and blood tests to make an accurate diagnosis. There may be several diagnostic tests that are done so the pulmonologist will need to keep careful accurate records of all tests perform in order to determine what the exact cause is of the patient’s problem. In order to be able to formulate a treatment plan the pulmonologist will have the patient schedule a follow-up appointment. When they come to that appointment the pulmonologist will discuss the test results, do a check of their heart and lungs, ask how they are feeling, if the symptoms are still there and if they are better or worse than the first visit, and then the pulmonologist will let the patient know what the treatment plan is for their specific problem.
In addition to seeing patients the pulmonologist will write in the patient’s chart what tests were done, the diagnosis, and the treatment plan that is going to be use to treat the patient’s problems and symptoms. If there is some concern that it may be cancer they may send the patient to a pulmonology surgeon or cancer surgeon for them to decide on the correct treatment plan. The environment they work in, whether it is a hospital, their private practice, group practice, etc, will be sterile, clean and temperature controlled.
Pros and cons of being a Pulmonologist
The job of a pulmonologist can be truly stressful as well as very demanding. This happens because you’ll get to treat patients that confront with respiratory system diseases such as treating lungs, throat, nose, bronchial tubes and other parts.
If you like to help patients who confront with various respiratory system illness then this job can be most rewarding for you. The salary is very good for this field, but you’ll have to watch out for spreading diseases or illnesses. Working with people is not always an easy thing to do and like in any other healthcare specialization you’ll be required to deal with those patients who are less cooperative and be there.
Your education, for becoming a pulmonologist might raise up your financial debt at the end of your college training and until you’ll get a decent and good salary you’ll stick with your debt. In order to become a pulmonologist, you’ll need to complete a four-year training program and get a Bachelor’s degree.
This is not all. You’ll have to enroll a medical school and make sure that your average score is pretty high. Then, you are required to pass the MCAT, and you can enroll to this admission test during the third year of your undergraduate school.
To complete your educational path, you’ll still need a three-year internal residency program, followed by two years of pulmonary training and then pass the licensing examination and get your board certificate according to each state.
Your working schedule will vary greatly, and this can be a huge con. The reason this is a down-side is because you’ll have to be at work at irregular hours. Many professionals in this field will try to stick to a 40 hours per week but this depends on the setting in which you are working in, or your specialization.
With this job, you’ll get some opportunities of advancement, even though there are many in this profession that stick to their career or their specialization. You can even start your own practice and being self-employed can raise your opportunities and your salary.
Pulmonologist Job Growth
This particular career field has a very optimist estimation with a lot of job setting opportunities. As a pulmonologist, you can find work in a variety of settings that involve the public and the private sector. By a variety of settings, you can think of hospitals, group practices and private ones, medical clinics, or nursing homes and many other.
With other words, the job growth for the next coming years is expected to have a very good higher point. The percentage estimated for this job growth is around 23 percent. In this field, the number of female working is higher than the number of male working. Still the incomes differ greatly since those that have more advantage in this field are the male with a higher income.
For instance according to some surveys the pulmonologist male incomes are estimated at around $267,010 per year while for pulmonologist female the incomes are estimated to be only at around $217,010 per year. The job growth is mainly influenced according to the number of demanding, and the job opportunities that can be found across the US.
The salaries for job growth will also vary according to the job postings that are to be found in various states. In Alaska, the income is estimated at around $157,010 per year. This estimation is showing that these average salaries are on a base of 21% lower than the average pulmonologist salaries that are posted for jobs postings nationwide.
On the other hand if we would take a look at Alabama, the average incomes are estimated at around $200,010 per year. This will mean that these average salaries for these professionals for job postings in this specific area are 1 percent lower than the average pulmonologist salaries for nationwide job postings.
This fluctuation is always present in the increase or decrease of the economic flux and is mainly influenced by the earlier reminded factors.
Being a pulmonologist is one of the highest paying medical professions. On average the yearly pulmonologist salary can range from $127,500 – $361,520 but remember that there are factors to take into consideration. You need to factor in the geographical location, the number of years of experience, are they in private practice, group practice, work in a hospital, etc. All of these factors will play a role in what type of salary you would make. If you have a certification in pulmonary disease from the American Board of Internal Medicine your average yearly salary could be $145,437 – $358,798. If you work at a hospital your average yearly pulmonologist salary could be $51,064 – $313,301 but if you work in the health care sector your average yearly salary could be $177,539 – $380,127.
According to research done it shows that women who are a pulmonologist earn approximately 24% more than men do. The women’s average yearly pulmonologist salary was $271,000 and a man’s average yearly pulmonologist salary was $219,000. The general average salary is $262,000 in 2016.
Average yearly pulmonologist salary in the various regions of the United States is:
- $296,000 for those working in the West region
- $289,000 for those working in the Southeast region
- $283,000 for those working in the North Central region
- $275,000 for those working in the Great Lakes region
- $262,000 for those working in the Northwest region
- $275,000 for those working in the South Central region
- $243,000 for those working in the Mid-Atlantic region
- $240,000 for those working in the North East region
- $210,000 for those working in the Southwest region.
Average yearly pulmonologist salary in various work environments is:
- $303,000 working in multispecialty group practices
- $299,000 working in single-specialty group practices
- $280,000 working in healthcare organizations
- $277,000 working in solo practices and outpatient clinics
- $212,000 working in an academic setting
- $210,000 working in a hospital
In addition to these lucrative salaries there is also the benefit package to consider. Again, what it will include depends on your place of employment. A basic benefit package usually includes paid vacation, sick, holiday, and personal days, life and health insurance that could include the family or just the employee, pension, social security, 401K, malpractice insurance, dental and vision care, and more. Being on-call may include a cell phone or a stipend for using your own personal cell phone.
Salary of a Pulmonologist in 2015
In the US, a Pulmonologist salary reaches about $261,010 per year but can be increased gradually according to the years of work experience. The salary in 2015 is also influenced by the type of institution in which you work. For instance, those who work in hospitals will get salary benefits such as paid holidays, education reimbursement, liability insurance, even life insurance and other benefits.
The Pulmonologist salary can be quoted as one of the highest since even the lowest percent in this job will gain a salary that reaches $90,725 per year. The outlook for the next ten year is very promising since the number of demands is still very high, and people are in need for these professionals.
Pulmonologist Salary in 2016
The income of a pulmonologist in 2016, in the US, is influenced on a daily basis by several factors that usually impact the economic living scale. The salary for these professionals is influenced by the geographical location in which a job is to be found, the experience that one has gained in this field.
For instance those professionals that found a job in Miami, Florida can expect to take home an average income estimated at around $221,010 per year. When it comes to the earnings that are estimated in this field, you can easily find higher points and lowest points. The highest earnings can be encountered in regions such as North and South Central where the incomes are estimated at around $298,010 per year and even higher being situated at around $282, 010 per year.
According to the lowest earnings estimated in the United States, you can take a look at a region such as Mid-Atlantic with estimated incomes that usually reach out at around $228,010 per year, or in the Northwest with estimated lowest earnings situated at $219,010 per year.
The earnings in 2016 will also vary according to the type of industry in which you are working for, and also if you are self-employed or not. If we take a look at the figures presented in the earnings will see that mainly those that are self-employed tend to earn more than those that are regularly employed.
The estimations that are made according to some surveys indicate that self-employed professionals tend to take home an estimated earning that usually reaches at around $290,010 per year while those that are employed have an average income that is estimated at around $234,010 per year. The figures might also differ according to the type of practice setting.
Pulmonologist salary in Canada, Australia, and UK
- UK—the average yearly salary for a pulmonologist is based on their age. In their 20’s the can earn up to 75,000, in their 30’s they can earn up to 98,000, and in their 40’s and 50’s they can earn up to 116,000
- Australia—the average yearly salary is AU$152,381
- Canada—the average yearly salary is CAD$161,000
Conclusion on pulmonologist salary
As mentioned, a pulmonologist can make a good starting salary over $100,000 but what it would actually be would depend on the many factors, which have been mentioned. You want to make sure that before you finish your fellowship that you are applying for various job positions in the areas where you want to practice to ensure that you get a position in that area. Yes, it can take over 12 years to get your license to become a practicing pulmonologist but the salary is good. According to research done it has shown that on average the lowest salary for a pulmonologist was $99,340 per year and the highest was $361,188 per year. Your lungs are one of the major organs in your body and they regulate the continuation of your life because if you are not breathing, your brain will starve to death and soon you will die.
- First Published Date: 9 June, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 12 June, 2016