What is Endocrinology?
Endocrinology is the medical specialization that involves the study of hormones that are produced and secreted by the endocrine glands. These are vital for the various functional processes of the body. An endocrinologist is well-versed with endocrine illnesses, their symptoms, management and treatment.
Endocrinology Consultation - Image Copyright: Image Point Fr / Shutterstock
The field of study focuses on six main organs:
- The thyroid gland
- The adrenal glands
- The pituitary gland
- The pancreatic islets of Langerhans
- The ovaries and testes
Most endocrinologists have specialized knowledge in the function of one or more of these organs. They have a thorough understanding of how their functioning can be treated to improve health outcomes.
Demographics of Endocrinologists
The results of a survey in 2012 indicated that more than half of all diabetes specialists and endocrinologists in the United States (58%) were men.
The age of endocrinologists was highly variable, but most practitioners were younger than 50 years of age. There were few over the age of 70. There appears to be a relatively low age of retirement due to the demands and challenges in the workplace of endocrinologists. The age of retirement is expected to progressively decline for this reason.
Working Hours and Duties
Most endocrinologists spend 30-50 hours per week consulting with patients. Approximately 6% of endocrinologists report working extended hours, more than 60 hours per week.
The number of physicians who are extending their working hours appears to be increasing, as this is an increase from the previous survey, when 3% of practitioners reported more than 60 hours per week.
There also appears to be a progressively smaller percentage working less than 30 hours per week.
The number of patient visits per week varied considerably for endocrinologists. 24% of endocrinologists were seeing 50-75 patients each week, while 23% of endocrinologists saw 25-39 patients each week. The majority of endocrinologists spend between 13-25 minutes for each patient consultation, and approximately 25% spent longer than 25 minutes per visit.
In addition to patient consultations, endocrinologists typically reported spending up to 14 hours per week on paperwork and other administrative tasks.
Salary and Work Satisfaction
The salary of an endocrinologist is markedly lower than many other medical specializations. The mean annual income in the United States in 2011 was $168,000 and the majority earn between $125,000 and $250,000.
According to the 2012 survey of endocrinologists in the United States, the majority of them reported that they did not feel they were adequately compensated for their skills and contribution to the healthcare team. In addition, 9 out of 10 did not feel rich.
This may be part of the reason why only 38% percent of respondents indicated that they would choose the same career path and specialization again.
Professional Organizations for Endocrinologists
There are various professional organizations that may help endocrinologists to embark upon and continue their career. In the United States, these include:
- American College of Physicians (ACP)
- American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE)
- Endocrine Society
- American Diabetes Association (ADA)
- American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE)
- American Thyroid Association (ATA)
- International Society for Clinical Densitometry (ISCD)
- American Diabetic Association (ADA)
There are also other country-specific professional associations for endocrinologists practicing in other regions of the world. These organizations offer a range of support for endocrinologists to continue professional development and improve the level of healthcare services offered to the public.
Reviewed by Dr Liji Thomas, MD.