Transplant Pulmonologist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
A transplant pulmonologist's salary could be more than $187,200, but is it worth the lengthy preparation, long hours and high stress? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a transplant pulmonologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Transplant Pulmonologist

A career as a transplant pulmonologist can be exciting, rewarding and lucrative as you will have the opportunity to save lives and play a vital role in the health of your patients. Read on for more information, and determine if this is the career path for you.

Pros of a Transplant Pulmonologist Career
Helping profession with the chance to improve lives**
Well paid (mean salary of about $189,760 in 2014)*
Intellectually stimulating*
Highly esteemed position*

Cons of a Transplant Pulmonologist Career
Dangerous environment with exposure to blood and bodily fluids*
Risk of malpractice lawsuits*
Extensive educational requirements**
Long hours, erratic schedule*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American College of Physicians.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Pulmonologists are doctors who specialize caring for patients with lung and breathing problems like asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, chronic chest infections or other kinds of respiratory conditions. Transplant pulmonologists help evaluate, prepare, and provide follow up care to candidates who are eligible for organ transplants. Often they specialize in lung transplants, but they may provide consultations on other challenging transplant procedures. They provide screenings, such as bronchioscopies, and other evaluative tests to ensure that patients' lungs and respiratory functions are strong enough to survive the stresses of surgery and recovery.

Often they are present in the operating room to help assess patient condition or needs during the transplant operation. After the procedure is complete they aid in preparing the patient's lungs and breathing systems for the transition back into normal, healthy life. Post-operative appointments with patients are a regular part of a pulmonary transplant doctor's job.

Career Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that job opportunities for board certified, licensed physicians would grow by 18% between 2012 and 2022; however, changes to the American healthcare system with regard to paying for care could affect this projection.

While the BLS does not report data specific to transplant pulmonologists, salary data for this field is counted within the 'Physicians and Surgeons, All Other' category. As of May 2014, medical professionals in this category earned an average salary of $189,760; however, salaries can vary widely depending on a doctor's area of specialty and years of experience. PayScale.com also reported that the salary of most doctors specializing in pulmonary medicine ranged from about $139,000-$367,000, as of September 2015.

Education and Training Requirements

Transplant pulmonologists are medical doctors. They must first complete a 4-year bachelor's degree, typically in a science discipline like biology, chemistry or microbiology, and then four years of medical school that culminates with a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. After taking state licensing exams, doctors then complete several years (usually about three) of internships and residencies. It is during this time that a student may declare a specialty, like transplant pulmonology, and begin working towards building specialty-specific skills. All physicians, transplant pulmonologists included, must master human anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, medical ethics and communications and other fields. Upon completion of the required education and training, plus a minimum of work experience, physicians may be eligible to apply for board certification in their chosen area of specialization.

What Employers are Looking For

Employers typically prefer to entertain candidates with a significant amount of experience in the field. Your ability to work as part of a team can get you noticed, along with your previous work experience like fellowships. Read real text from June 2012 job postings:

  • A medical center in Columbus, Ohio, is seeking a transplant pulmonologist to join its team. The right candidate will have an M.D. degree and board certifications in internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care management. Job duties include evaluating patients, educating medical residents and fellows, and providing pre- and post-operative care to patients with advanced lung disease.
  • A Galveston, Texas, hospital is looking for a pulmonary transplant doctor with experience evaluating lung disease patients to fill the role of assistant medical professor. Ideal candidates will have critical care medicine and internal medicine board certifications as well as a relevant post-M.D. fellowship.
  • A hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, is seeking a transplant pulmonologist to join its staff. They are looking for someone to teach and perform research, as well as see patients. Candidates must be board qualified or certified, and have completed medical school and a residency.

How to Advance in This Career

Applying for transplant pulmonology fellowships or seeking board certification can set you apart; these experiences and credentials can illustrate your commitment to the field and your dedication to building your transplant pulmonology skills and experience. These opportunities also allow for development of teaching and research skills, communication skills and collaborative abilities - some of which are preferred by employers and others of which are essential to providing quality care to your patients.

Alternative Careers

Dentist

If you love science and want to enter the medical profession, but want to avoid the life or death environment of the operating room, you may want to consider becoming a dentist. According to the BLS, dentists earned an average of about $162,000 in 2011. To become a dentist, you have to enroll in dental school after getting a bachelor's degree. Your DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree prepares you for a residency program of about 2 years, and then you'll be ready for required state licensing, the standards for which vary among states. The BLS predicted faster than average job growth for dentists between 2010 and 2020 - a rate of 21%.

Nurse

For those interested in providing patient care in the operating room but who do not wish to have the job of surgeon, nursing may be a good fit. Nurses can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals. Some nurses specialize in assisting during operations. To become a nurse, you must attend a nursing program - either through a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program - and to become a registered nurse, pass a national exam. Nursing curriculums cover anatomy, physiology, chemistry and acute care measures; clinical experience is required. According to the BLS, registered nurses earned an average of about $69,000 in 2011, and could see a job growth rate of 26% between 2010 and 2020.

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