The world of neurosurgery is evolving every day. Procedures that were once solely theoretical are now possible. Surgeons specializing in the brain and spinal cord can correct conditions that once meant certain paralysis or even death. With this ever-changing discipline becoming more and more impactful, the demand for neurological surgeons will only increase. In this article, we will go over the standard neurosurgeon salary, career path, list of specialties, and more. The following is a list of specialties and branches within the occupation and corresponding neurosurgeon salaries.
What is a Neurosurgeon?
Before we dive into the neurosurgeon salary and specialties, we will first answer the question ‘what is a neurosurgeon?’ This type of physician deals with diagnosis and surgery of complex disorders affecting the central and peripheral nervous systems. Some of these anomalies include tumors, trauma, vascular disorders, brain infection, stokes, and degenerative spinal diseases. As you may already know, the career path and training to become a neuroscientist are one of the most grueling in the entire medical field. To become a neurosurgeon, you must complete the following (at minimum):
- Four years of pre-medical school at a four-year university
- You will also need an additional four years of medical school resulting in either an M.O. or a D.O. degree
- A one-year internship in general surgery
- Five to seven years of experience in a neurosurgery residency program
- Some aspiring neurosurgeons also complete a fellowship after their residency to hone in on a particular aspect of neuroscience they would like to specialize and practice in
- There is also the continuing education aspect. This includes annual meetings, conferences, writing for scientific journals, and conducting research
What is a Neurologist?
When people are looking into neuroscience, they often conflate the career of a neuroscientist with that of a neurologist. For those of you who don’t know the difference, we are here to help. Similarly to a neuroscientist, a neurologist also treats patients with complex neurological disorders as mentioned above. However, a neurologist does not perform surgery to remedy the health issue. Neuromedicine is the comprehensive health care plan under which neuroscientists, neurologists, and other medical professionals work together to provide patient care for those with complex neurological health ailments.
Types of Neurosurgeons: Job Description
Emergency Trauma Neurosurgeon
A trauma surgeon based out of an emergency room will face a plethora of injuries and sudden neurological episodes demanding surgery. One in this area of expertise will require the ability to think quickly and critically as time is of the essence.
The average neurosurgeon salary in terms of emergency-based professionals is an annual income of about $304,000. This average jumps all the way up to $354,000 for critical care . The division of surgeons are responsible for performing surgery in literal life or death situations.
It generally takes years for one to require the tact, precision, and calmness under pressure to reach the critical care unit. If one were to stay in the same unit in the emergency room, throughout the years, the average income would steadily rise.
After 5 years, the average income would rise from $304,000 to around $337,000. At 10 years, the average climbs to $344,000. If a surgeon in the emergency department stays within the same organization for 20 or more years, this neurosurgeon salary makes another jump to $358,000.
Surgeons specializing in surgery for children are generally compensated higher than their surgical counterparts focusing on adults. The realm of neurosurgery is no different.
Pediatric neurosurgeons have the task of treating children. They are responsible for performing surgical tasks on juvenile brains and spinal cords.
As delicate as the adult brain is, the brain of a child is nowhere close to fully developed. A single mistake could result in irreversible damage that can stagger normal growth and development. The average pediatric neurosurgeon salary will be around $383,000.
This is a highly specialized branch of neurosurgery. It deals with the repair of blood vessels that are responsible for supplying oxygen to the brain. The most common procedures that a cerebrovascular surgeon performs are surgeries to correct both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.
An ischemic stroke correction involves removal of the blockage that causes the lack of oxygen to the brain.
A hemorrhagic stroke prevents oxygen from nourishing the brain due to the rupture of a blood vessel. A neurosurgeon here is responsible for removing the pooling blood and repairing the blood vessel. This adequately prevents future ruptures and lower the risk of another stroke.
Other tasks of a cerebrovascular surgeon include dissection and repair of genetically malformed blood vessels that can cause a vast array of neurological disorders. The average neurosurgeon salary of a doctor specializing in cerebrovascular damage and disordersranges from $328,953 to $454,377.
Stereotactic neurosurgery is a minimally invasive discipline. Iy utilizes a physical external mechanism that acts as a point of reference to accurately target tumors and other masses.
With the use of a three-dimensional coordinate system, surgeons can more accurately locate the problematic mass and remove it without damaging or disrupting healthy tissue. This allows for targeted biopsies as well as pinpoint implantation of devices that can help reduce complications of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease.
This crucial and high demand specialty currently has a median neurosurgeon salary of $792,256.
Spinal and Nervous Surgeon
The nervous system consists of two parts, the central nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system which encapsulates all the nerves outside of the former.
Neurosurgery deals not only with corrective procedures of the brain, but also covers procedures of the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Surgeons within this specialty may work in disc removal or repair, scoliosis, stenosis, and pinched nerves to name a few of the many complications within is discipline.
A common procedure for surgeons specializing in peripheral nervous system repair is the maintenance of diabetic neuropathy. The slightest mistake or inaccuracy in this realm of surgery can lead to immediate paralysis or other life-altering complications due to the sensitivity of these body structures.
The current median neurosurgeon salary of a doctor specializing in spinal and nervous complications is currently $736,710.
The Advanced Education of Neurosurgeon
These salaries are quite impressive. An extensive amount of time in studies and surgery shadowing are require within this heavily specialized field. To obtain a license to practice surgery, you need up to 18 years of schooling and training.
As we mentioned earlier, students must first receive a 4-year undergraduate degree. Although not necessary, it is optimal for this degree to be in a field of study related to surgery such as biology.
After completion of the undergrad degree, the next step is to successfully pass the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT as it is commonly known. To save some time, it is highly advised for students to take the admission test during their sophomore or junior year of college to leave adequate space for the admissions process. This will also allow the student to go right into medical school following graduation from the four-year school.
Once medical school has started, the student will face another four years of schooling — which is much more specialized than the undergrad degree. During these four years, the student will learn a vast variety of coursework all geared towards preparing the student with all the knowledge and practicality required to work as a medical doctor.
Time spent in medical school early on will heavily emphasize the importance of developing a firm understanding of the human body through anatomy, physiology, and neurobiology amongst other crucial fields of study.
As the four years in medical school draws closer to a close, the students will develop knife skills and surgical knowledge that will guide them through their careers.
Upon graduation of medical school and once the student obtains their MD officially, it is time to begin a three-year residency to take the blank slate of the medical doctor and turn him or her into a competent surgeon.
During the residency, an approximate three-year paid training period, the would-be surgeon will practice on real patients under the supervision of an already established surgeon in their chosen specialty. This period of paid training extends 5 or 6 years depending upon the exact chosen specialty.
Although not mandatory for general neurosurgeons without a specialty, it is upon completion of the residency that the surgeon can now enter a fellowship program. This 1 to 3-year long program will allow the surgeon to train and study under established licensed surgeons within the chosen specialty such as pediatric cerebrovascular surgery.
Officially Becoming a Neurosurgeon: Final Review
After all training is complete, the final step to becoming a licensed neurosurgeon is to pass the board-certified exam.
Once you pass the exam and complete all other licensing requirements, you are fully prepared to begin your practice or find a hospital setting to perform surgery without supervision or guidance.
This board certification will be valid for a total of ten years and before expiration, the subject must return to the board for renewal of his or her credentials. The entire period from the start of schooling towards a bachelor’s degree to the obtaining of a license can take upwards of 16 years and is an extremely grueling process and makes it clear why surgeons make the high salaries that they do.
As with any field of work, experience and neurosurgeon salary are a direct function of each other. The longer the surgeon stays within an organization, the more the doctor earns financially.
Other Contributing Factors
Along with time served, there are other contributing factors that play a role in the exact neurosurgeon salary earned.
Several hospitals offer bonuses and other performance-based incentives that add to the surgeon’s pay at the end of the year. Outside of the operating room, surgeons can choose to go into publication with a particular finding or other offering based around their work experience. On average, a published surgeon will make more than a surgeon without any research publications.
Certifications in various skills can also lead to more pay. Surgeons who seek out the seminars and certification in new advancements and techniques in their specific fields. These new skills will help separate the surgeon from the rest of the pack and lead to greater employment opportunities.
Neurosurgeon Salary Takeaways
Do you have an interest in helping improve people’s lives, admiration for neuroscience, and the mental fortitude to make it through up to 16 years of schooling? If so, neurosurgery may be a great career path for you to consider. It will be an incredibly rigorous experience, but you will come out the other side with the gift of improving and saving lives.