How to Become a Neurosurgeon

Neurosurgeon Careers & Degrees

$252,040Avg / year
$121.1Avg / hour
4+ YearsEducation

Neurosurgeons are professionals who have experience and knowledge in spinal cord, central nervous system and brain disorders and illnesses.

These professionals will be involved in not only diagnosing, but treating a variety of brain ailments.

Individuals who want to become a Neurosurgeon will have a strong passion working with people and treating patients who are very ill.

In some cases, Neurosurgeons may be responsible for saving a person’s life by providing lifesaving treatments.

Education Requirements to Become a Neurosurgeon

Individuals who want to become a Neurosurgeon will have to complete several years of education and training to gain an extensive background in medicine to enter this profession.

In addition, individuals will have to pass a licensing exam and be approved by their state board in order to practice medicine.

The first step an individual needs to take in order to become a Neurosurgeon is to complete four years of a postsecondary school to attain a bachelor’s degree.

During their undergraduate program, individuals are highly encouraged to study a science based major.

The most common majors for individuals who want to enter medical school are biology or premed.

Some additional recommended courses include classes in chemistry, physics, English and mathematics.

After completing their bachelor’s degree, individuals must take the medical school entrance exam, the MCAT, before applying for a medical school.

Visit the MCAT website to register for the entrance exam.

Once accepted into medical school, an individual will begin to gain an in depth understanding of medicine.

Typical medical school programs focus the first two years focusing on classroom and laboratory work in the following areas: anatomy, psychology, pharmacology, biochemistry and ethics.

The last two years of medical school are primarily focused on gaining practical skills in the medical field through rotations.

Under the supervision of a licensed doctor, medical students will begin seeing patients in several medical specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics.

After completing medical school, individuals will need to become licensed in order to work in a residency program.

During their residency, individuals will begin to gain experience in their neurosurgical specialty.

Residency programs typically last between 6 to 7 years.

Neurosurgeon Job Description

Neurosurgeons are licensed physicians who are experienced in examining, diagnosing, treating and performing surgeries on patients experiencing nervous system and brain disorders or illnesses.

These professionals specialize in treating the peripheral nerves, spinal cord and brain for individuals experiencing medical problems in these areas of the body.

Some common types of disorders and illnesses Neurosurgeons diagnose and treat include the following list:

  • Scoliosis
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s
  • Vascular disorders
  • Tumors

To help them diagnose patients, Neurosurgeons will use highly sophisticated technologies that create PET scans, CT scans and MRIs to gather internal images of a patient’s brain, nervous system or spinal cord.

They will also work with other healthcare professionals as part of a team to plan for and treat patients needing complicated surgery.

Neurosurgeon Salary and Career Path

The annual median salary for Neurosurgeons was approximately $368,000 in 2012.

Some individuals can earn up to $643,000 depending on their experience and professional reputation.

Salaries are typically high for these professionals but their availability is high in demand causing long work schedules as well as irregular or overnight working hours.

However, personal satisfaction runs high for those who have a steady career in this profession.

The job outlook for Physicians and Surgeons, which includes the Neurosurgeon profession, is expected to grow at a rapid pace through the year 2022.

Job opportunities are expected to grow by approximately 19 percent through 2022.

This expected job growth is due to changes in health care legislation extending health insurance to a wider group of individuals.

This growth is also attributed to the aging population that is expected to live longer because of the advances in medicine.

The road to becoming a Neurosurgeon can be a lengthy and demanding one.

However, this profession ranks high among personal satisfaction offering individuals a glimpse of the promising career they are working towards.

In addition, Neurosurgeon wages are some of the highest when compared to other professions and is one in which individuals can advance and be challenged throughout their career.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$242,640
New Hampshire$#
New Jersey$279,660
New Mexico$248,740
New York$230,890
North Carolina$274,240
North Dakota$#
Rhode Island$278,020
South Carolina$#
South Dakota$285,320
Vermont- NA -
West Virginia$250,940
Puerto Rico$70,570

The top earning state in the field is Oklahoma, where the average salary is $286,320.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Oklahoma - $286,320
South Dakota - $285,320
Maine - $281,470
Arizona - $280,860
Ohio - $280,030
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Surgeons, Except Ophthalmologists, OCC Code 29-1248, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon is a physician who specializes in performing surgeries on the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Neurosurgeons may treat a variety of disorders, such as trauma, tumors, congenital anomalies, degenerative disorders of the spine, strokes and many more.

Many neurosurgeons work long, irregulars hours, with overnight schedules being very common.

In order to be able to successfully perform surgeries on the brain and the spine, neurosurgeons need dexterity, patience, leadership skills, and physical stamina.

Communication skills, compassion, and problem-solving skills are other important qualities a neurosurgeon needs.

How much does a neurosurgeon make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgeons, in general, earned, on average, around $255,110 per year, as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including the specialty, the place of employment and the surgeon’s level of experience.

How much does it cost to become a neurosurgeon?

Neurosurgeons need many years of rigorous training before earning their license to practice.

If you want to become a neurosurgeon, the first step is to complete four years of pre-medical education.

Pre-med programs at public schools cost, on average around $41,000 per year for out of state students.

Students who want to apply to medical school must first take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

One year at a public medical school costs, on average, around $58,000 for out of state students.

After graduating from medical school you will need to complete a one-year internship in general surgery and afterward, you must complete 5 to 7 years of residency in neurosurgery.

A fellowship may also be needed if you want to specialize in a particular subspecialty of neurosurgery.

What is the demand for neurosurgeons?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of surgeons, in general, is expected to grow 1 percent from 2018-2028, slower than the average for all occupations.

New technologies are expected to allow surgeons to treat more patients, and thus will reduce the number of surgeons a healthcare provider needs to hire.

However, demand varies depending on the specialty and employment opportunities are expected to be good for neurosurgeons who specialize in treating illnesses that affect aging baby-boomers.

How long does it take to become a neurosurgeon?

Neurosurgeons need many years of rigorous training before earning their license to practice.

If you want to become a neurosurgeon, the first step is to complete four years of pre-medical education.

Afterward, you will have to enroll at the medical school which means another four years of study.

After graduating from medical school you will need to complete a one-year internship in general surgery and afterward, you must complete 5 to 7 years of neurosurgery residency.

A fellowship may also be needed if you want to specialize in a subfield of neurosurgery.

In conclusion, you will need around 14-17 years of higher education before being able to work as a neurosurgeon.

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