Career OverviewA gastroenterologist is a specialized physician that helps to treat and diagnose conditions of the digestive system. This may include such diseases as Crohn’s disease, ulcers, hepatitis, cancers, colitis, acid reflux and other digestive disorders. A gastroenterologist is usually called in by a family physician if he or she is unable to diagnose the conditions or problems that the patient is experiencing.
One diagnostic tool that is used by gastroenterologists is endoscopy. This procedure involves the gastroenterologist actually using a thin tube with an optical device to examine the actual lining and structure of the digestive system. This can be used to diagnose cancers, growths, ulcers and other conditions that are undetectable without the endoscopy. A gastroenterologist may consult with a surgeon or may work closely with a team of medical experts called a treatment team to provide complete care for the patient.
A gastroenterologist may work in a private practice or may be part of the consulting staff at a hospital or healthcare facility. The gastroenterologist is very involved in both pre and post treatment recommendations for dietary changes or lifestyle changes that will assist with the recovery or control of the gastrointestinal disorder.
The gastroenterologist also works with conditions of the liver, pancreas, intestines and gallbladder. The gastroenterologist may make recommendations to other internal medicine specialists if the diagnosis has multiple features or is very involved and complicated.
Career RequirementsA gastroenterologist must complete a total of thirteen years of training. They must first complete a four-year undergraduate degree followed by a medical degree that is also four years.
After that there is a three-year residency in internal medicine after which the physician can elect to specialize in gastroenterology. They then complete a three-year fellowship that focuses both educationally and practically in working on issues relating to the area of specialty.
Job OutlookDue to the lengthy and involved training there is always steady to above average demand for Board Certified gastroenterologists. The demand for physicians in all areas of specialty will continue to increase sharply over the next several years.
The American College of Gastroenterology predicts that the demand for gastroenterologists will not decrease, largely due to the increasing number of stomach related illnesses and the aging population. Increasing gastroenterologists moving into private practice also increases the demand for hospital or managed care organization gastroenterologists to work as salaried doctors and specialists.
Career TrackA gastroenterologist is a highly specialized field that usually doctors remain in once they have completed the training. Most gastroenterologists will start their careers working for a hospital or healthcare facility and then will graduate into private practice when they build up experience. Some gastroenterologists may return to teaching while still others may move into research.
CompensationThe average salary of a gastroenterologist is between $179,000 and $382,000. The average salary across the United States for a gastroenterologist is $251,000. Years of experience and type of hospital or healthcare facility or private practice are the major factors in the salary difference.