Everything you need to know about becoming a urologist

A urologist is a healthcare practitioner who specializes in conditions of the urinary system, as well as the male reproductive system. When a person experiences problems with urination, kidney or bladder pain, or male reproductive issues, they often see a urologist for diagnosis and treatment. 

What does a urologist do?

Urologists are doctors who assess patient symptoms to evaluate both chronic and acute conditions and determine a course of treatment. Conditions that a urologist may treat include kidney stones, urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder cancer, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, infertility, and a range of other complications of the urinary or male reproductive system.

Symptoms that may indicate the need for a referral to a urologist from a primary care or emergency care physician include frequent urination, incontinence, pain with urination, back pain, testicular pain, and loss of sexual function in males.

During in-office visits, urologists perform physical assessments of patients and often employ a variety of diagnostic tools to make a diagnosis. They will often order tests such as bloodwork or urinalysis to analyze the physical and chemical characteristics of a person’s urine to look for signs of disease or illness. Urologists may also order imaging tests such as a CT scan, X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to closer examine internal organs and determine the best course of action.

Many urologists also work in hospital settings to perform a variety of surgical procedures on their patients. When it’s indicated for a patient, urologists may perform biopsies to check for cancer, cystoscopies, or ureteroscopies to use a scope to look at or remove debris from the bladder or kidneys, and vasectomies for pregnancy prevention.

While urologists can treat a range of ages from babies to adults, some choose to specialize by focusing on a specific subset of patients such as pediatrics or males. Some urologists also choose their specialty based on what type of conditions they exclusively treat such as cancer, kidney stones, sexual function, or infertility. 

How do you become a urologist?

It takes no less than 12 years to become a board-certified urologist: 4 years of undergraduate studies, 4 years of medical school, one year of internship, and 3 to 5 years of residency. 

Most urologists will obtain a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field such as chemistry, biology, or pre-med in order to take the required prerequisite courses before applying to medical school. Prior to entering a medical school accredited through the Association of American Medical Colleges, candidates must pass the 7.5 hour-long Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). 

After successfully completing 4 years of medical school and passing the first two parts of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), urologists will complete an internship and residency program training under other medical professionals within their chosen specialty. While most internships last one year, the length of a urologists’ residency will depend on whether or not they choose to specialize in a subset of the field.

Upon completion of residency, urologists will complete the third portion of the USMLE to obtain their medical license. Once a medical license is obtained and all training and licensing requirements are met, a urologist can become board-certified by the American Board of Urology, American Urological Association, or American College of Surgeons.

What skills do you need to become a urologist?

As urologists are healthcare professionals, an expertise in human anatomy and biology is essential, with a specific focus on the urinary and reproductive systems. Urologists should also possess the physical dexterity required to operate the requisite medical tools to perform medical tests and procedures. These skills are usually learned in medical school. 

Through exercising skills like observation and problem-solving, urologists can make diagnoses and troubleshoot complex treatment plans. Working with patients requires urologists to possess interpersonal skills such as empathy and compassion, as well as communication skills and patience to answer questions about diagnosis and treatment.

Among the many personal and professional skills that a urologist must practice, especially in a hospital setting, urologists will work closely with other doctors and nurses, so the ability to work collaboratively and communicate effectively is essential. 

What is the average salary for a urologist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) urologists are included in the working category of physicians and surgeons who made a reported average of $218,850 in 2020. However, because urology is a speciality practice, these practitioners can make much more than the reported average for all physicians and surgeons.

The average salary for a urologist in 2021 falls between $339,180 and $450,760, according to data from Salary.com. The pay for a urologist does vary widely depending on experience, area of practice, and where they’re located, with the highest paying doctors being located in California and New York states.

What is the typical career path for a urologist?

Once medical school is completed, a urologist-in-training can start earning an income throughout their internship, residency, and fellowship. Regardless of their specific career path, a urologist’s day-to-day work will depend on whether or not they choose to specialize and where they choose to work. 

Once fully licenced and board-certified, a urologist can begin practicing in a clinical setting, private practice, hospitals, or research facilities. Some urologists choose to specialize in a subset of urology such as surgical urology, oncology, or reproductive health. After residency, these urologists may go on to complete a fellowship in their chosen specialty to further develop their skills or perform research within their subspecialty. 

Practicing urologists are required to complete periodic continuing education courses to help them stay up-to-date on the latest surgical and diagnostic technology and learn about new treatment options once their formal education is complete.

Where to find urologist jobs

The BLS predicts that job market growth for all physicians and surgeons, including urologists, will be on par with the national average at 4% growth over the next decade.

Take a look at some of the current job openings for urologists available on Ladders now.