How to Become a Gastroenterologist

November 22

Table of Contents

Humans have a complicated digestive system comprising various organs or 'parts.' To assist patients with various digestive-related medical disorders, gastroenterologists diagnose, treat, and create care plans for their patients. 

The American College of Gastroenterology states that around 60 million Americans have acid reflux at least once a month, with many complaining of daily pain. If left untreated or unmonitored, a condition this widespread can develop much more severe symptoms that can be fatal. 

Other uncommon illnesses that gastroenterologists may potentially handle include Crohn's disease, which affects 700,000 Americans and has no known treatment.

If you are interested in helping patients treat and cure these illnesses and diseases, being a gastroenterologist is for you. 

This article will discuss how to become a gastroenterologist, their duties and responsibilities, how many years it will take you to become one, and how much money they make. 

What is a Gastroenterologist? 

Gastrointestinal disorders are primarily diagnosed and treated by gastroenterologists

Your physician will probably advise you to see a gastroenterologist for a more comprehensive diagnosis of the problem if they discover that something is wrong with your GI tract.

Gastroenterologists use specialized tools and perform endoscopic operations to see the GI system and make diagnoses. Although they usually collaborate closely with other GI surgeons, gastroenterologists do not perform surgery themselves. Their main places of work are clinics and hospitals.

As part of their training, gastroenterologists must thoroughly understand the standard passage of food through the stomach and intestines, the removal of waste from the body,  the assimilation of nutrients, and the role of the liver in the digestion process.

They can identify health issues like the following thanks to their specialty:

Even though the mouth is a part of the digestive system, gastroenterologists rarely treat or otherwise deal with it. Instead, dentists and dental specialists focus on maintaining good oral health. 

Furthermore, proctologists, who are experts in treating conditions of the anus and rectum, are distinct from gastroenterologists in another way.

What are the Different Duties and Responsibilities of a Gastroenterologist?

An internist is a category of doctor that includes gastroenterologists. They are experts in the intestines, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, and the rest of the body's digestive system.

As such, gastroenterologists have the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Observing and evaluating patients
  • Getting the patient's medical background
  • Suggesting and creating a therapy strategy
  • Doing MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays
  • Examining test results to uncover any unusual findings
  • Meeting with medical staff and making decisions for the patient
  • Ordering tests to be completed by nurses or other medical personnel
  • Recommending surgery for patients and maintaining their care after surgery
  • Performing endoscopies and colonoscopies to examine the digestive tract and colon
  • Revising patient records and charts to reflect the most recent discoveries and therapies
  • Completing administrative duties include paperwork completion and patient record keeping
  • Encouraging patients to take care of their health by talking to them about things like good nutrition and hygiene
  • Addressing patients' worries or responding to their inquiries concerning their liver and gastrointestinal tract health and well-being

What are the Requirements to Become a Gastroenterologist? 

To become a gastroenterologist, you must complete extensive study and training. You must complete four years of study to earn a bachelor's degree from a college or university.

As per the American Medical Association, you will next enroll in medical school for four more years to obtain a Doctor of Medicine degree from a university authorized by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education

The study of and training in gastrointestinal structure and disease takes gastroenterologists more than ten years. Before you start practicing, you must have a medical license and a graduate degree.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Gastroenterologist? 

Gastroenterology programs are available at several medical institutions across the United States at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

Becoming a gastroenterologist, however, like any other medical specialty, is not cheap. 

Nevertheless, a public medical school, like an undergraduate program, is much less expensive than a private one. 

While tuition for gastroenterologists varies widely between institutions, the AAMC maintains statistics on the average cost of public and private medical schools

The average tuition for public in-state students was estimated to be USD 53,327 per year, while the average for out-of-state students was USD 92,808

Furthermore, the average four-year cost of medical school in the United States ranged from USD 255,517 to USD 337,584, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. This may explain why, in 2023, medical students who borrowed money graduated with an average debt of USD 207,500.

It includes time spent in classrooms, labs, and clinical settings. Tuition, fees, lodging, books, boarding, and supplies are all included in the cost of attendance, which is a more comprehensive assessment of spending.

It should be noted that the cost of becoming a gastroenterologist differs by medical school. However, the overall cost would be the same as stated previously. We also recommend that you confirm with the medical school of your choosing for assurance.

How to Become a Gastroenterologist? 

Once you decide to become a gastroenterologist, you should know the different processes and academic requirements you must complete. The following section lists in detail the steps to becoming a gastroenterologist.

1. Achieve a Bachelor's Degree

Although an undergraduate degree is necessary for admission to medical school, there is no set major that students must choose. 

As long as they have taken the necessary prerequisite courses during their undergraduate studies, many programs look for applicants who have a well-rounded background. 

These prerequisites include biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, mathematics, physics, humanities, English, and social sciences.

To stand out to admissions committees for medical school, the Association of American Medical Colleges advises aspiring doctors to volunteer while still in college. Aspiring gastroenterologists can obtain practical experience working in the medical industry by volunteering at nearby hospitals or clinics.

Aspiring gastroenterologists might stand out when applying to medical schools by joining honor societies, clubs, and sports teams.

2. Take and Ace the MCAT

To be considered for admission to medical school, you must take the Medical College Admission Test, and each institution establishes its own minimal score criteria. This test is typically done during the junior year of study in a bachelor's degree program.

3. Attend Medical School

A Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is a degree earned after four years of study in medical school. 

The first two years often concentrate on teaching science and medical topics such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, diagnostics, and medical ethics in classrooms and laboratories.

Clinical rotations, which occur over the final two years, give students experience in various medical disciplines.

4. Attend Residency Training

After graduating from medical school, Doctors complete a two- to three-year internal medicine residency program. 

In-depth exposure to the human body's inner workings is provided during residency training to help trainees get ready for gastrointestinal fellowship training.

Residents may receive didactic training while completing clinical rotations in different internal medicine subspecialties.

5. Complete a Fellowship in Gastroenterology

Fellowship programs are highly competitive educational opportunities world-class authorities offer in a particular medical specialization. 

You can concentrate on honing your craft and narrowly focus on your specialty throughout your gastrointestinal fellowship program. 

The American College of Gastroenterology provides information and educational opportunities related to the field on its website. Build relationships, gain practical experience, and learn as much as possible throughout your fellowship program. 

Given how demanding gastroenterology fellowships are, staying focused and looking for yourself before continuing is essential. After completing your gastroenterology fellowship program, you must pass the American Board of Internal Medicine's board certification exam.

6. Get Licensed and Certified 

By this time, you ought to have finished the USMLE in its entirety, as well as the two board certification tests. 

A medical license cannot be granted in some U.S. states without verifying your credentials. To prevent delays or confusion later, you should apply for a state license in each state where you intend to work.

Moreover, you must obtain board certification from either the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Internal Medicine after completing your residency program.

7. Keep Learning

To keep their licenses and certificates current, gastroenterologists must pursue ongoing education. They can enroll in advanced classes in topics including nutrition and obesity, gastrointestinal oncology, and esophageal illness. 

A gastroenterologist can benefit from continuing education by honing skills, staying up to date with industry advancements, and fulfilling prerequisites.

8. Join Professional Organizations

The American Gastroenterological Association, for example, membership can give gastroenterologists access to programs for continuing education and other advantages for career progress. These include access to networking opportunities, professional directory listings, and medical journals and magazine subscriptions.

Important Qualities Needed to Be a Gastroenterologist

Gastroenterologists frequently have scientific minds and an interest in the function and structure of the digestive tract. They like assisting others in enhancing their quality of life and overall health.

If you want to become a gastroenterologist, you require the following abilities to succeed:

Interpersonal Skills

On average, gastroenterologists see around a dozen patients each day. 

They ought to be cordial, approachable, and considerate. Patients should feel at ease disclosing private health information.

Communication Skills 

Gastroenterologists should be able to explain complicated conditions and procedures in terms that patients can comprehend. 

They must also interact with nurses and other medical personnel effectively.


Gastroenterologists should be able to understand the issues and struggles that their patients face.

Problem-Solving Skills 

Gastroenterologists must evaluate their patients' symptoms, select the proper tests to perform, interpret the test results, and then identify the most effective treatment options. 

They must constantly find answers to complex gastrointestinal issues.


Gastroenterologists oversee a group of healthcare professionals and participate in business decisions that impact their practice.

How Much Do Gastroenterologists Make?

Gastroenterologists are substantially specialized internal medicine doctors. Since they are experts in their field, they frequently earn high salaries. 

The average annual pay for a gastroenterologist is believed to be around USD 411,100, even though it might be difficult to quantify due to variables including experience, geography, and workplace environments.

The Bureau of  Labor and Statistics projected a slower-than-average 3% increase in doctors' and surgeons' jobs between 2020 and 2030.

Additional FAQs – How to Become a Gastroenterologist?

What is the Work Environment for Gastroenterologists Like?

Typically, gastroenterologists are employed by hospitals, clinics, or healthcare facilities. They could be the sole physician on staff or a partner in a group practice. 

Including on weekends and at night, they frequently put in lengthy and erratic hours. They can be required to report to the office in an emergency if they are on call outside of regular business hours.

In addition to consulting with other medical professionals and personnel, gastroenterologists may see 25 to 125 patients weekly. There is a chance they will have to handle challenging patients and challenging circumstances.

What Are the Alternative Careers for Gastroenterologists?

There are numerous specialty possibilities available to doctors. After finishing your residency, you might pursue a fellowship in a different branch of internal medicine, such as hematology, rheumatology, or nephrology, as an alternative to concentrating on gastroenterology.

These scholarships could last one to three years. As an alternative, you could select a residency in a field of medicine entirely, like pathology, anesthesiology, or psychiatry

Plan a career as a physician assistant if you seek a different position at a gastroenterologist's clinic. These specialists must have a master's degree and a license to practice. They collaborate closely with medical experts, such as gastroenterologists, to provide patient treatment.

Is Becoming a Gastroenterologist Hard?

It is not as simple to become a gastroenterologist as it is with any medical specialty. Commitment is necessary to succeed in the subspecialty of gastroenterology. 

After completing your residency, you must successfully finish a fellowship program. Fellowships in gastroenterology are well-renowned for being challenging.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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