How to Become a Neurosurgeon

How to Become a Neurosurgeon

Neurosurgery is a discipline of surgery that concentrates on treating conditions and diseases affecting the brain, spinal cord, central nervous system, and peripheral nervous system. Neurosurgeons are specialist surgeons that perform a variety of neurological surgical procedures.

What does a neurosurgeon do?

Neurosurgeons focus on diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the neurological system such as the brain, spinal cord, and related nerves and arteries. They perform a variety of procedures to treat a variety of conditions such as brain tumors, head trauma, spinal stenosis, infections, cerebral aneurysms, epilepsy, tumors of the peripheral nerves, malformations of the central nervous system, and strokes. They discuss procedures with patients and provide follow-up treatment. Neurosurgeons often work with other physicians in the plan of treatment of patients. Some specialize in specific areas of the body such as the brain or spine. Others sub-specialize in a specific area such as pediatric neurosurgery, open vascular neurosurgery, epilepsy neurosurgery, stroke neurosurgery, and micro neurosurgery.

What kind of training does a neurosurgeon need?

Like all surgeons, neurosurgeons must complete undergraduate education, medical school, and internship and residency training. Medical school provides intensive classroom and laboratory instructions as well as clinical rotations of all major medical disciplines. Many aspiring neurosurgeons shadow experienced neurosurgeons to gain insight into the occupation. After medical school prospective neurosurgeons must complete internship and residency training in neurosurgery. After residency training, some neurosurgeons pursue advanced training in fellowship programs to specialize in specific areas. All prospective neurosurgeons must be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduation from medical school, completion of internship and residency training, and passing a written examination. Neurosurgeons also usually become board certified from American Board of Neurological Surgery. Neurosurgeons participate in continuing education and training throughout their careers to keep their skills up to date and stay abreast on advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a neurosurgeon?

Employment of all surgeons is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1).

Job prospects should be very good especially for neurosurgeons with extensive experience and specialty training. Numerous job openings will stem from the need to replace neurosurgeons that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do neurosurgeons make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of neurosurgeons earn annual salaries between $359,804 and $579,840. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $690,309 (2).

A career as a neurosurgeon is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in neurosurgery and performing a variety of neurological surgical procedures. Neurosurgeons must have a solid understanding of the function of the brain, spinal cord, central nervous system and related areas. Manual dexterity, eye-hand coordination, patience, detail orientation, and motivation are essential characteristics. Neurosurgeons must have excellent communication and be able to make patients feel at ease. They must be able to work under pressure and make effective decisions in emergency situations.

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