Endocrinologists care for patients with complex hormonal disorders and metabolic conditions. Other common endocrine problems include metabolic bone disease, pituitary and adrenal conditions, osteoporosis, growth disorders, and lipid and nutritional disorders.

Simply put, endocrinology is the study of the endocrine glands - a group of glands in the body, which secrete hormones, evoking specific responses in other cells of the body, and control basic bodily functions such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. These hormones travel to their target organs and cells and then bind to receptors either on cell surfaces or inside the cell. This results in a change in the activity of those cells. Endocrine responses are relatively slow, taking from seconds to days to occur.

The amount of hormone produced by each gland is carefully balanced. Too much or too little of a specific hormone can have consequences throughout the body and cause various endocrine disorders. For example, in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin, so the diabetic needs to inject the insulin hormone into their body in order to regulate and maintain balance in the endocrine system.

Endocrinologists are trained to recognise problems with hormones and restore the natural balance of hormones in a patient’s system. In addition, endocrinologists conduct research on the basic and clinical aspects of endocrine glands and disorders. They also treat a wide range of functions and disorders of the endocrine system, including metabolism, hormonal imbalances, menopause, osteoporosis and cholesterol disorders. Endocrinologists also develop new drugs and treatments for hormonal disorders.

Amongst the most common illnesses associated with endocrine disorders are diabetes and hypothyroidism, which can cause hormonal imbalances such as obesity, immune problems, kidney failure, fertility problems and even heart disease and cancer. Endocrinologists help many of their patients to treat their disorders and diseases with medication and proper diet. They also educate people and recommend exercise and other lifestyle health choices.

Personal Requirements

  • pay attention to detail
  • be interested in helping people
  • have excellent communication skills
  • get along well with people well and instil confidence
  • enjoy finding solutions to problems

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

MBChB degree at UP, UCT, UFS, Wits, US, UL, UKZN:

  • Theoretical training: 6 years
  • Student internship: 1 year
  • Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year).
Post-graduate study for specialisation as an embryologist: 4 years.

Additional Requirements: before commencing post-graduate study for specialisation as an endocrinologist, the candidate must:
  • be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years
  • be registered as a medical doctor with the Health Professions Council of South Africa for 1 year.

Registration: On successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, the candidate must register with the HPCSA as an endocrinologist.

Please refer to the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date requirements.


  • universities and colleges
  • research organisations
  • hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities
  • private practice or in a group practice

Further Information

Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa
Unit 16, Northcliff Office Park
203 Beyers Naude Drive
Northcliff, 2115
Tel: (011) 340-9000

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • speak to an endocrinologist about this career
  • read up on endocrine diseases such as diabetes, thyroid and adrenal disorders etc
  • try and do voluntary work for organisations providing support to people with endocrine diseases

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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