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Neurological Surgeon: Education and Career Information

Surgery is a complicated process. Although there are a number of hurdles to cover, a neurological surgeon is one of the most prominent careers in the medical profession. If you are interested in the intricacies of the brain and how it works in other areas, this could be a rewarding career path to take. This requires a detailed and complicated skill set, but is a financially lucrative choice.

What does a neurologic surgeon do?

This position specializes in the operative management and diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, critical care, prevention and rehabilitation of individuals with disorder in the peripheral, autonomic and central nervous systems. Neurological surgeons treat children and adults who have disorders of the brain, skull and their blood supply. A neurological surgeon also treats congenital anomalies, tumors, trauma, infection of the brain, vascular disorders, and spine, stroke or degenerative diseases that occur in the spine.

How much does a neurologic surgeon earn?

Although salaries differ based on location, facility, private practice, experience and a host of other variables, the average yearly salary for this position is about $219,770. A surgeon with extensive experience and specializations can make up to $700,000 per year.

What types of skills do a neurologic surgeon need?

This is a very detailed position that requires a specific skill set. Some of the skills needed in this position include:

Decision-Making: A surgeon must be able to make specific decision in the spur of the moment before, during and after surgery to make sure the patient receives the best care possible for a full recovery.

Problem Solving: A surgeon must be able to assess and evaluate concerns and offer solutions in their diagnosis that will assist the patient’s condition. Their problem solving skills must be transferred to other areas as well as in dealing with other medical personnel and families.

Critical thinking: A surgeon must be able to think critically about the ramifications of a misdiagnosis, or alternative routes of treatment if the initial recommendation does not work. They must be able to extend their expertise of science and research to make informed decisions.

Monitoring: There is a consistent requirement for monitoring in this career field. A surgeon must be able to closely monitor the patient before, during and after surgery to make sure all assessments and diagnoses are accurate, in addition to making sure there are no complications after the surgery.

Coordination: Being able to coordinate care on all levels is an important task of a surgeon. They must be able to coordinate with other medical personnel in providing the best possible care for their patients.

Administration and Management: Although a surgeon may have a competent staff and medical team, being able to coordinate the administration and management of the team is important, as they are ultimately responsible for recommending and administering the care of their patients.

Science: Knowing the intricacies of how the body works and how science plays an important role is key in this profession. It is important to be able to fully process what is going on with the nerves and other components of the body based on scientific evidence to draw sound conclusions.

Attention to detail: A surgeon must have acute attention to detail and be able to execute each step of their treatment flawlessly. During surgery, they must have excellent hand/eye coordination, and be able to foresee complications before they occur.

Tolerance for Stress: This is a highly stressful position, and a surgeon must have a high tolerance for stress and patience in working with others.

Internship requirements

The internship requirements for this position are rigorous. There must be a one year internship in general surgery, then a five to seven year residency in a neurosurgery program. After the residency, there may be a fellowship to specialize in certain areas, and there is always ongoing continuing education requirements that must be completed.

Education requirements

A bachelor’s degree is needed to begin the journey to becoming a neurological surgeon, with a pre-med curriculum as the foundation. Coursework in the pre-med curriculum includes a year of chemistry with labs, a year of organic chemistry with labs, a year of biology with labs, a year of physics with labs, a year of English, and a year of calculus and advanced math classes. Other coursework includes biochemistry, microbiology and human anatomy. In order to progress to medical school, candidates must have at least a 3.5 GPA and have done well competitively in their bachelor’s degree program.

Students wishing to go on to medical school must take the MCAT, or the Medical College Admissions Test, which will evaluate the training of a candidate and determine whether or not they will be a good fit for medical school. While preparing for medical school, students should shadow neurosurgeons and volunteer in areas where they can gain practical experience.

Once the candidate has been accepted into medical school, they will have to complete a 4-year program that will grant them the Doctor of Medicine designation. Studies should be tailored to advanced classes that will tailor their educational training for neurosurgery. Once the doctoral degree has been obtained, students will sit for the United Stated Medical Licensing Examination, or the USMLE. This test can be taken during the residency, or right after medical school has been completed.

Once they have earned their MD, an internship and neurosurgical residency program ensues, where aspiring surgeons learn the management of patients while developing other skills needed in this career. They work with licensed surgeons to become familiar with the skills and techniques that will be essential in doing a good job.

After the residency requirements are satisfied, neurological surgeons can apply for licensing. If they have had a few years of practice, they can also apply for board certification in neurosurgery by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. This is a field that is always updating knowledge and skills. Consistent continuing education requirements are a mandatory requirement of this profession.

Scholarships for Students Interested in Becoming a Surgeon

Bill Kane Undergraduate Scholarship CANfit Program Scholarships Gates Millenium Scholarship
The Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship The Leopold Schepp Foundation Scholarship The Marion B. Pollock Fellowship
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Tylenol Future Care Scholarship Gallagher Health Careers Scholarship
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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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