Nephrologist Overview

A nephrologist is a physician who has been educated and trained in kidney diseases, kidney transplantation, and dialysis therapy. Nephrology is classified as an internal medicine subspecialty. Knowledge of internal medicine is required to obtain certification.

Education in Internal Medicine

  • Graduation from an approved medical school
  • Completion of an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited internal medicine residency program, which is a minimum of 3 years in length
  • A minimum of 2 years of meaningful patient contact and responsibility
  • Of the 2 years, 20 months must be spent in ambulatory settings, inpatient services, and in the services of dermatology or neurology
  • Four months may be taken outside the above areas, subject to program director approval
  • Increased level of responsibility for patients with each year of training

Internal Medicine Examination & Certification

After satisfactory completion of graduate education, the physician is allowed to take the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) board certification examination. Once this examination has been passed, the physician is certified in internal medicine. This is a prerequisite to becoming certified in nephrology.

Education & Training in Nephrology

The physician must fulfill the requirements for education and training in nephrology in order to qualify to take the board's examination.

  • Completion of 2 to 3 years of training (fellowship) in an ACGME-accredited program in nephrology
    • Fluid, acid-base, and electrolyte physiology
    • Medical management of acute and chronic renal failure
    • Glomerular/vascular disorders
    • Tubular/interstitial disorders
    • Mineral metabolism
    • Clinical pharmacology
    • Hypertension
    • Epidemiology, ethics, and nutrition
    • Renal transplantation
    • Dialysis
    • Interpretation of x-rays, sonograms, photomicrographs, and radionuclide studies
  • Twelve months of clinical training in diagnosis and management of kidney diseases
  • Placement of temporary vascular access for hemodialysis and related procedures; acute and chronic hemodialysis; peritoneal dialysis; continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT); and percutaneous biopsy of both autologous and transplanted kidneys

Nephrologist Examination & Certification

Once training is satisfactorily completed, the physician is eligible to take the ABIM nephrology examination.

Nephrology Subspecialties

Nephrologists may further specialize in pediatric nephrology (treatment of kidney diseases in children) or adult nephrology. Certification in these subspecialties requires satisfactory completion of additional education and training and passing an examination.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 01 May 2001

Last Modified: 26 Jan 2015