Pulmonologists specialize in the treatment of illnesses/diseases related to the lungs, chest and the whole respiratory system. The field of pulmonology is an internal medicine subspecialty which assesses the upper respiratory tract (including the throat, nose and pharynx) and the bronchial tubes.

Going by the data made available by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 756,800 Physicians and Surgeons in America (as of 2018). If you also want to become a medical practitioner in the respiratory care domain, then this guide is for you.

Should I Become a Pulmonologist?

  Education Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)/Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Area of Study/Major Requirement   Medicine (Pulmonology)
License/Certification Required
Experience/Training Required
    Key Skills Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Complex Problem Solving, Inductive and Deductive Reasoning, Active Learning, Problem Sensitivity.
Annual Mean Salary – US (2020) $218,850 (Physicians, All Other; and Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric)
Job Outlook (2020-2030) 3% (Physicians and Surgeons)

     Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pulmonologists diagnose and provide treatment for conditions affecting the lungs and chest. These include respiratory disorders, asthma, chronic breathing issues, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis and obstructive sleep apnea, etc. Oxygen therapy, oral medications, specialized procedures and inhalers are some of the treatment options that pulmonologists utilize to help their patients recover.

Steps to Become a Pulmonologist in the US

This is the procedure that will help you become a pulmonologist in the US.

  1. Get a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Getting a Bachelor’s degree is the first step in the process of becoming a pulmonologist in the United States. Any major can be chosen but you are recommended to take some courses in mathematics and sciences (biology, physics, chemistry, kinesiology, psychology, etc.) because they make up the prerequisites of many medical schools.
    You may also choose a pre-medical program at this level but it is not mandatory. You should, however, consider getting some healthcare experience by volunteering at a health facility or shadowing a licensed pulmonologist. Competition for medical school seats tends to be cutthroat and having such an experience on your application will help you stand out.

  1. Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
  2. After completing undergraduate studies, you need to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Aim to score high because your entry into a good medical school depends on it.

  1. Medical School
  2. In medical school, you must work towards attaining either an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree.

  1. Internal Medicine Residency Programl
  2. At the end of medical school, you should enter an internal medicine residency program. This will last for about 3 years. You must also qualify the Internal Medicine Board Certification Examination around this time. It will be needed later on when you complete pulmonology training and earn your certification in pulmonology.

  1. Enroll in a Specialized Pulmonology Training Program
  2. When the residency is over, it is time for specialized pulmonology training. This will take 2 more years. During this period, you will learn in depth about pulmonary physiology, molecular biology and pulmonary immunology. If you further decide to choose a subspecialty like pediatric pulmonology medicine, then the total training time will be 3 years.

  1. Get Licensed
  2. After completing pulmonology training, you can apply for your state license. Requirements vary from one state to another but candidates usually have to pass a standardized exam among other things.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pulmonologist?

To become a pulmonologist, you will spend 4 years in an undergrad degree program, 4 years in medical school, 3 years in residency and 2 to 3 years in specialized pulmonology training. The total is about 13 to 14 years.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Pulmonologist

These are the requirements to be met if you want to become a pulmonologist.

  • Completing Bachelor’s education.
  • Graduating from medical school with an MD or a DO degree.
  • Finishing a residency.
  • Undergoing pulmonology training.
  • Getting licensed.

How Much Can I Make After Becoming a Pulmonologist?

As indicated by the records of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physicians, All Other; and Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric, All Other earned $218,850 in annual mean wages in 2020.

Career Outlook

From 2020 to 2030, job opportunities for Physicians and Surgeons are expected to grow by 3%. This is as fast as the average rise projected for most other fields. The main driving force behind it will be the high demand for respiratory and pulmonary care as the number of middle-aged and senior citizens increases. This information is from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.