How to Become an ENT
Many of the most common human ailments—from allergies to ear infections—are treated by medical doctors called ear, nose, and throat physicians, or ENTs. ENT medicine is officially called otolaryngology, and ENT physicians are also known as otolaryngologists.
What is an ENT doctor? ENTs treat a wide variety of conditions, providing compassionate care to millions. In fact, about half of all primary care encounters are for issues treated by ENT doctors. After all, when we feel sick, it is often in our ears, nose, or throat. Allergies and other sinus troubles are also common. However, ENTs do much more, treating conditions both minor and severe.
What Does An ENT Do?
ENTs treat conditions in the ears, nose, and throat as well as the head and neck. Let’s take a closer look at what an ENT does in each area.
Ears: ENTs treat conditions affecting hearing, tinnitus, ear infections, balance, nerve pain, and facial and cranial nerves. Some treatments are primarily pharmaceutical, but ENTs may also perform surgeries on the ear.
Nose: ENTs are on the front lines against nasal allergies and chronic sinusitis. They also perform surgery, such as to repair a deviated septum in the nose.
Throat: For the throat, ENTs may aid patients with problems such as swallowing or speech. They may also treat conditions involving the esophagus.
Head and Neck: ENTs also treat a variety of conditions in the head and neck area, such as tumors or deformities. In these cases, ENT doctors may perform reconstructive and plastic surgery. Importantly, in addition to surgical treatment of tumors, ENTs also treat thyroid disorders, enlarged thyroid glands, parathyroid disease, and more.
Given the conditions they treat, it should come as no surprise that ENTs treat many children. Some ENT doctors specialize in pediatric care.
The work many ENTs do as surgeons is remarkable and deserves a few more words. For example, some ENTs do extremely delicate operations on the middle ear, using micropicks and other specialized tools to help restore hearing. ENT doctors also treat cancers of the head, neck, and throat, both removing tumors and performing reconstructive surgeries to rebuild essential structures. ENTs also perform plastic surgery to address a variety of conditions, from congenital conditions such as cleft palates, to reconstruction after surgery, to restoring damage after trauma.
Through their treatment of the nasal passages, ENTs even help to treat sleep disorders. These include sleep apnea, a very common condition which impacts an estimated 22 million people in the United States alone.
Finally, some ENTs teach at research universities. In addition to treating patients and teaching students, these ENTs conduct research and publish journal articles.
There are many different answers to "What does an ENT do?” providing many different career options within the specialty.
ENT Education Requirements
To be an ENT, you must first become a physician by graduating from an accredited medical school—such as American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)*. The path to a medical degree at AUC, which is located on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, is the same as at United States-based schools: two years of medical science classes and two years of hands-on clinical training. For AUC students, the medical sciences curriculum is completed at the St. Maarten campus; the clinical training can be completed at affiliated teaching hospitals in the United States or in the United Kingdom.
During clinical training, AUC students complete core rotations in internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics/ gynecology, and psychiatry. Each individual student, then, selects from among dozens of specialty elective clerkships to fulfill their clinical requirements.
During the fourth and final year of medical school, students prepare for the next phase of their medical education: residency. At AUC, the Office of Career Advisement (OCA) helps students determine which residency specialty—such as otolaryngology—suits them best. The OCA then helps students negotiate the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®)—a placement system which medical students who wish to become licensed in the U.S. use to “match” with a medical residency. A clinical ENT residency is five years, while research ENT residencies may run six years or more. In 2021, 92 percent of AUC graduates attained a residency—on par with the overall match rate (92.8 percent) for medical schools in the United States.
After completing ENT training, a physician may be certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ABOHNS™). Many board-certified ENT doctors are members of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery® (AAO-HNS). With additional training, ENT physicians may subspecialize in a specific area of otolaryngology. These subspecialties include:
- Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery
- General otolaryngology and sleep surgery
- Head and neck surgery
- Pediatric otolaryngology
- Rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery
- Skull base surgery
Now that you know the answer to “What is an ENT doctor?”, as well as how to become one, prepare yourself for the challenge and make sure you have all the necessary application materials in place. Then apply for admission to AUC to start your journey.
- What are the Requirements for Medical School?
- AUC Medical School Guides and Resources
- Student Life at AUC
*American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM, www.accredmed.org), which is the accreditor used by the country of St. Maarten.