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How Long Does It Take to Be a Neurosurgeon?

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A career in neurosurgery is rewarding for those who have the patience and knowledge to complete the requirements. Although neurosurgery is one of the toughest medical fields to get into, it’s also an extremely lucrative career choice. The average brain surgeon salary makes all of those neurosurgeon schooling years well worth the time and effort.

Neurosurgeon Job Description

A “neuro” or brain surgeon specializes in diagnosing and surgically treating disorders of the peripheral nerves, brain and spinal cord. Such disorders include brain or spinal trauma, tumors, stroke, infections and vascular disorders. They also include diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and the treatment of severe headaches such as migraines.

The neurosurgeon job description goes beyond performing surgery, however. Neurosurgeons consult with patients and other doctors and coordinate with their medical teams, so good communication skills are essential. Also part of the neurosurgeon job description is the ability to assess, research and analyze scientific data, and to handle precision instruments with skill and dexterity. If a neurosurgeon is running a practice, business acumen is also necessary.

Neurosurgeons can be private practitioners or work for a health care network or hospital. They must pass an exam and have a license to practice medicine and perform surgery.

Neurosurgeon Schooling Years

A neurosurgeon’s knowledge must go beyond that of the brain. They also have to understand the intricacies of the nervous system and have expertise in anatomy, physiology and other sciences. Because of the sophisticated nature of their work, neurosurgery students must have an excellent spatial understanding of the brain, blood vessels and spinal cord. As a result, the neurosurgeon schooling years are longer than in many other professions.

An aspiring neurosurgeon should expect to spend four years studying pre-med in a college or university before attending another four years of medical school. Required fields of study include chemistry, biology, physics, English and advanced math classes.

General Surgery Residency Length

Neurosurgery schooling years don’t end when students graduate from medical school and earn their M.D or D.O. Though not in a traditional classroom, the education continues as they’re expected to complete a year as a general surgery intern and another four years in a neurosurgery residency.

The aspiring neurosurgeon can elect to complete a fellowship to develop a specialty in a particular area. All neurosurgeons, regardless of where they are in their career, are encouraged to continue education long after school ends to stay current on new products, procedures and methods.

Brain Surgeon Salary

A brain surgeon’s salary is dependent on experience, skill and employer. A brain surgeon salary can range from $102,000 to $812,000. This amount can include bonuses, profit shares and commissions. In the U.S., the median brain surgeon salary is about $585,000.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Neurosurgeon?

All in all, it can take 12 years or more to become a neurosurgeon, which includes the completion of schooling, residencies and fellowships. However, most agree that it's worth the investment in time, knowledge and money for such a rewarding career.


Deb Ng is a freelance writer and published author with over 17 years of experience in creating content for the web. Prior to her freelance career, she worked for over 12 years in traditional (print) publishing. Specializing in job search techniques, Deb also founded a blog and job board to assist freelancers and telecommuters in landing their dream jobs.

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