How To Become A Neurosurgeon
As highly specialized physicians, all neurosurgeons must complete a 4 years undergraduate degree and 4 years of medical school in order to earn their M.D. designation.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Neurosurgeon
The path to becoming a neurosurgeon is not for the faint of heart. It’s a highly specialized field that requires an exceptional level of skill, intelligence and mental focus. In the U.S., it takes approximately 15-17 years to become a neurosurgeon. This includes:
- 4 years completing an undergraduate degree
- 4 years in medical school
- 1 year hospital internship
- 5-7 years of neurosurgery residency
- 2-3 years of training in a fellowship either after residency or as a senior residency, in order to pursue a sub-specialty.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Neurosurgeon
Step 1: Bachelor’s Degree
While there is no specific undergraduate program for becoming a neurosurgeon, anyone interesting in becoming a neurosurgeon would start their education off by pursuing an undergraduate degree in preparation for medical school. This usually involves completing pre-med coursework focused heavily on biological sciences in order to meet admission requirements for med school. Most medical schools in the United States also require a strong Grade Point Average (GPA), usually at least 3.5 or above. Applicants will also have to complete the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and score at a competitive level in order to be considered for medical school.
Step 2: Medical School
Anyone aspiring to become a neurosurgeon needs to earn an M.D. degree. The first 2 years of medical school is usually medical overview classes, although in the later 2 years aspiring neurosurgeons can tailor their studies to better match their career aspirations. They may want to pursue classes in surgical practice, medical diagnostics, clinical research, and disease management. Aspiring neurosurgeons will also want to pursue neurosurgery rotations at hospitals.
Step 3: Medical Licensing Exam
Once the candidate graduates from medical school, they must complete the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), in order to be a able to practice medicine. Many residency programs also use these scores as part of the selection process when choosing residents. The Medical Licensing Exam is administered by The National Board of Medical Examiners and the Federation of State Medical Boards. The exam can be taken after med school, or during the first year of a residency program.
Step 4: 1 Year Internship
Before their neurological residency, aspiring neurosurgeons need to complete a 1 year hospital internship. During this internship, the aspiring neurosurgeon will usually have rotations in neurology , neurosurgery, neuropathology, neuroradiology, and critical care. This internship helps new residents become familiar with day to day operations, acquire basic skills in neurological examination and diagnosis, gain experience in a surgical environment, and gain important critical care experience.
Step 5: 6-8 Year Neurosurgery Residency
During their years of residency, aspiring neurosurgeons gain the experience, skill, and training needed to become a fully qualified neurosurgeon. The residency program will gradually provide the candidate with greater levels of responsibility in terms of evaluating patients and performing surgery. There are 99 accredited neurosurgery residency programs in the United States, according to the AMA. Neurosurgery residency programs are usually 7 years in length, although some programs are 6 years, while a few require 8 years to complete. At the more junior and intermediate levels of residency, residents will work under the close supervision of senior neurosurgeons. As they gain experience, they’ll have the opportunity to assume greater responsibility and surgical opportunities. During the 5-7 years of neurosurgery residency, the residents will mature from patient care providers and surgical assistants working under close supervision, to independent, fully competent, high-level neurosurgeons. Note: Neurosurgery is one of the most competitive specialties and neurosurgery residencies generally attract the very top students from medical school.
Step 6: State Licensing and Board Certification
Neurosurgeons must be licensed through their state medical board. Applicants must complete and submit an application, pay the requisite fees, and submit their school transcripts and test scores. Neurosurgeons might also apply for Board Certification through the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Requirements for becoming board certified are available here.
Step 7: Complete A Fellowship
Most neurosurgeons continue their education and training by pursuing a fellowship in a sub-specialty. Some examples of sub-specialties include neutrotrauma/neurocritical care, functional and stereotactic surgery, pedediatric surgery, neuro-oncology, movement disorders, spine surgery and skull base surgery. Completing a fellowship entails another 1-3 years of training and education.
Neurosurgeon job description
What does a neurosurgeon do? Neurosurgeons – commonly referred to as brain surgeons – perform surgery on the brain and spinal cord. They operate on patients who may have suffered trauma to the brain or spinal cord, who have brain or nervous system diseases, or who have neurological disorders. The specific day to day duties of a neurosurgeon will depend on their sub-specialty, but here are some of the more common conditions that neurosurgeons treat:
Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors
Neurosurgeons diagnose and treat patients with tumors in the central nervous system. Because of the complexity of tumors in the brain or spinal cord, neurosurgeons work with a team that usually includes a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist, an endocrinologist, and other specialists.
When patients are admitted to the hospital due to trauma to the head, neurosurgeons may be required to examine patients, and depending on the nature and severity of the injury, may need to perform emergency surgery.
Strokes are the result of blot clots in blocking blood flow to brain cells. Strokes can cause brain damage and are one of the leading causes of death. Neurosurgeons use a variety of methods to treat blood clots and also to prevent future clots from forming.
Neurosurgeons treat patients who with neurological abnormalities. There is a wide spectrum of neurological abnormalities, and each condition may require a different form of treatment or surgery.
Alternate Job Titles
- Doctor - Neurology Surgery
- Physician - Neurology Surgery
- Surgeon - Neurology