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How Much Do Brain Surgeons Make

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Working Inside the Brain

Because the brain is tucked away inside the skull, cutting into it seems like one of the most difficult and important jobs on the planet. Perhaps that’s why brain surgeons are considered to be among the world’s smartest people. And that may be entirely true, given the kind of money they make. The average salary is more than enough for a working mother to afford private schools and Ivy League colleges for every one of her kids. The median salary of a brain surgeon in this country is $394,497.

Job Description

Brain surgeons operate on the brain. These doctors treat problems inside the skull, such as bleeding and hemorrhaging, infections or tissue and nerve damage. If there are tumors inside the brain, they remove them. They also treat brain diseases. Many brain surgeons are trained in neurosurgery, which means that their job description may include operating on the spinal column.

Education Requirements

As you may imagine, you’ll have to work hard to become a brain surgeon. College is a must, and although many students opt for a bachelor’s degree in pre-medical studies, it isn’t required. You can major in anything you like as long as your total coursework contains all of the classes necessary for medical school, such as mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry.

You’ll have to take the MCAT, the Medical College Admission Test, in your junior year of college. You will apply to medical school and begin the four years of classwork and clinical rotations. After you graduate from medical school, you have another round of applications to undergo to obtain a spot in a brain surgeon residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. You will work in general surgery in the first year, but during the remaining years, at least five and sometimes more, you will focus on brain surgery. You must take the Board of Neurological Surgery’s primary examination and complete the residency before you are eligible for certification. You’ll also have to provide a letter from your residency program stating that you are competent to engage in the profession that documents at least 100 cases you handled the prior year. If you pass the exam and provide the letter, you will become a board-certified neurosurgeon.

According to PayScale, the median salary for a board-certified brain surgeon in this country is a few dollars under $400,000. Median means that half of the neurosurgeons in the country earn more than this amount, and the other half earn less.

About the Industry

Brain surgeons work in medicine. They may be employed by hospitals or work from their own professional offices.

Years of Experience

According to PayScale, salaries for brain surgeons range from $102,296 to $815,084, with an average salary of just under $400,000. Entry-level positions pay some 24 percent less, at around $300,000. Experienced brain surgeons make 5 percent more than average, around $414,000, and those with decades of experience behind them can earn 12 percent more.

Geographic State and Metropolitan Salary Map for Surgeons

Job Outlook Trends

According to CNN Money, employment outlook for brain surgeons should rise more than 24 percent over the next decade.


Teo Spengler has worked as a trial lawyer, a teacher and a writer at various times in her life, which is one of the reasons she likes to write about career paths. Spengler has published thousands of articles in the past decade including articles providing tips for starting a job or changing careers. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson,, and Working Mother websites. She holds a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley, an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in fiction.

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