Pulmonologists are licensed medical doctors who specialize in treating lung disorders. Professionals conduct physical examinations and interpret diagnostic imaging results to pinpoint specific problems. A person who wants to become a pulmonologist usually needs to complete four years of medical school and up to five years in practical training to fully prepare for the job. A doctor who finishes training and passes all requisite licensing examinations can become a pulmonologist at a general hospital, specialty clinic, or a private practice.
Before an individual can apply for medical school, he or she typically needs to obtain a four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Most hopeful pulmonologists major in biology, though a degree in another science or health-related field can prepare a student for advanced medical studies as well. An undergraduate can take courses in physiology, anatomy, and molecular biology to become familiar with how the lungs work.
Most countries require prospective medical school students to pass admissions tests in their third or fourth year of college. In addition to taking the test, a student usually needs to prepare transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essays to send to different medical schools. A person who wants to become a pulmonologist can investigate tuition rates and financial aid opportunities by researching schools on the Internet and inquiring with admissions advisers.
A medical student usually spends the first half of a program attending classroom lectures and participating in laboratory work. A standard curriculum includes advanced courses in disease pathology, pharmacology, biochemistry, and several other topics related to human health. The second half of medical school is typically dedicated to a rotating internship at a local hospital and ongoing lab research. A student has the opportunity to observe doctors in many different specialties, including pulmonology, to make sure that he or she is suited for the profession.
After earning a doctor of medicine degree, a graduate who wants to become a pulmonologist can apply for internal medicine residency positions. A resident works directly with patients under the supervision of experienced doctors while continuing to attend classes and conduct research. During a residency, a new doctor gains valuable instruction and firsthand experience that will help him or her become a pulmonologist.
A successful resident usually needs to enter a two-year fellowship dedicated specifically to pulmonology to complete his or her training. Fellowship programs take place in specialty divisions of hospitals, where new doctors have the opportunity to work with knowledgeable pulmonologists. After completing a fellowship, an individual can take a licensing exam to earn board certification and the right to practice independently.