The Career Path of a Nephrologist

Nephrology is projected to be a growing field, as the aging population grows in addition to there being more cases of kidney problems. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 33% of all adults are at risk of kidney disease. Kidney function begins to decline at the age of 50, leading to an increase in chronic kidney disease in those over 60 years of age. The National Kidney Foundation goes on to state that the average adult is more likely to have complications with kidney disease than they are to experience diabetes or breast cancer.

The Characteristics of a Successful Nephrologist

Like most positions in the medical field, success depends on many factors. Education, drive, bedside manner, and intelligence are all important factors in being a good nephrologist. You will have to develop a relationship with your patient and be able to help answer their questions. Correctly diagnosing a situation and helping a patient is frequently reported as the most rewarding part of the job.

As a patient, everyone has a favorite physician that they’ve worked with. Think about the characteristics that they had that made them good at their job. They were patient and compassionate, paid attention to the details, and used critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills to not only diagnose the situation but to also help the patient. Subjects like internal medicine and physiology, combined with a lot of math, are a big part of the skillset needed to be a successful nephrologist.

If you are a student, you may want to explore adding a third-year study that includes transplantation, critical care, or other subjects that can set you apart and possibly increase your salary range.

Workplaces for Nephrologists

If you choose to go into the field of nephrology, you have a wide variety of places that you can find employment. These places include:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Medical Centers
  • Private Practice
  • Universities

You may also work in academic settings, outpatient clinics, healthcare organizations, solo practices, hospitals, office-based group practices, and other locations. You should be able to find a place to work that matches what you are looking for.

Regardless of where you work, the tasks will probably be the same for the most part. Your patients will be treated for kidney stones, dialysis, or even transplants. They may have chronic disorders or acute diseases impacting the function of their kidneys. You’ll have to diagnose the problem and prescribe a plan of treatment for your patient.

Most nephrologists report working up to 50 hours a week, with 40 of those hours spent seeing patients. The time with patients averages around 20 minutes per patient. The remaining time is used for administrative duties, documentation, and organizational tasks.

Compensation for nephrologists depends on many variables including the practice’s setting, the hiring situation, and the regional location. According to the Medscape Nephrologist Compensation Report (, nephrology ranks 14th for the highest income specialty. In addition, the pay gap between male and female nephrologists is 13%, less than many other medical specialties.

Research Opportunities in the Field of Nephrology

Research is an important part of Nephrology, so many doctors look to pursue this endeavor. Many nephrologists work in a research setting part-time, in addition to their clinic time.

The areas of research that are most important at this time are associated with subjects like making new organs available for transplant, discovering new therapies and treatments for acute renal failure, and improving the process for hospitals and surgical centers during kidney procedures and treatments.

Many research projects are underwritten by universities, non-profit foundations, and shareholders of private companies. Although government funding is available, currently 75% of research funding is provided by private institutions.

Opportunities Increasing in Nephrology

Unfortunately, the population of the United States is seeing an increase in Type II Diabetes, which in turn, is a factor in kidney disease. As more people develop kidney problems, the need for talented nephrologists will grow. It is critical that this increased demand is met with nephrologists that are knowledgeable and talented.