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.
Neurosurgeon: A Day in the Life
As you learned in our neurology series, this specific medical field is complex and needs years and years of education before you can join a private practice.
Although you are now acquainted with this information and the amount of schooling you need, you may still wonder what a typical neurologist and neurosurgeon day are like. Is it worth the time and cost? Is that something that you would like?
We will review a typical day for both physicians to assist you in answering these questions –what’s different between them and what’s prevalent to both. While there may be some differences between doctor and doctor, it provides you a good idea of what you can expect.
A Typical Day in a Neurologist’s Life Daily Tasks
A neurologist’s day can begin as soon as 8:00 a.m. A neurologist will see patients at the start of most days. Individuals create appointments or are referred to the neurologist because their nervous system may have something incorrect.
The neurologist’s goal in a first conference is twofold. He requires to know the complaint, as well as how it affects their lives. Is this preventing certain operations? Does one exercise have pain, but no pain with another? The pain’s place is another indication of the potential issue. The answers to these specific questions enable the neurologist to tailor a treatment plan and restore the patient’s health.
If a neurologist has entered a subspecialty, there will be different aspects of daily work between doctors. But in every case, the task is to solve what’s going on inside their patients ‘ brains. An ultimate diagnosis determines treatment and prognosis. In some cases, a referral to a neurosurgeon or other specialized doctor results from the appointment.
Neurologists are allowed to operate in hospitals or private offices. They have an average week of about 40 hours. If you are going into this profession and want to keep consistent hours, consider opening a personal practice or working in a research or medical school. You may find a hospital environment more to your liking if you don’t mind working longer hours (50 or more). You will be creating a range of emergency and emergency instances in a hospital environment.
A neurologist’s day is fast-running. It can be very stressful, as well. Seeing scared patients, and many of them are, is not simple. A neurologist has to give somebody bad news a few days. Imagine the emotional difficulty involved in telling a patient that they have multiple sclerosis or epilepsy. Patients will be angry and start a grief process, no matter how well they break that kind of news. The neurologist must show compassion, patience, and comprehension.
Because many operations start early in the morning, a neurosurgeon’s day may start as soon as 5:30 a.m. A neurosurgeon’s main task is to perform surgery to correct nervous system issues. It takes hours to perform surgical procedures, so neurosurgeons don’t meet as many patients as a neurologist does.
Neurosurgeons see patients by appointment if prospective surgery is not an emergency. In other cases, patients are disabled because, like a car accident, they have suffered some trauma. Either way, the patient and their relatives are frustrated and angry as surgery can be involved in getting the patient back to health. As a neurologist, it is the surgeon’s responsibility to collect a history of medicine to determine what is wrong and how it can be corrected. An evaluation must be carried out as rapidly as possible in emergencies.
Patient-friendly people can provide objective observations on how they eat, sleep, and engage in daily operations. These views are clues that lead to a diagnosis. Also, the family may be more open about how well the patient sees or hears, both of which may point to nervous system impairments. Neurosurgeons address continuing care and how family members assist during post-operative conferences.
A surgeon will remove a brain tumor in a few days. The next procedure could be to repair harm to the nerves. Although patients are required to undergo surgery, other procedures may be optional. Elective surgery is generally planned later in the day as it is not such a high priority. However, it is typical to postpone planned elective surgery at the last minute due to the need for unplanned emergency surgery. Emergency surgeries, owing to head trauma, include aneurysms, strokes, or even craniotomies. Because neurosurgeons must make emergency allowances, their day may not go as initially intended. They have to be flexible.
Neurosurgeons have arduous hours at times. In a single day, they often conduct various activities. Some are straightforward, and it doesn’t take a long time. Others are complicated and last for hours, like brain surgery. Successful neurosurgeons may begin the day before dawn and will not return home at night until 9:00 or 10:00.
A neurosurgeon’s job is intense. That is why the neurosurgeon salary is so high. A neurosurgeon has important stressors and pressures. An emotional stressor is interactions with patients getting poor news. It requires hours and hours to perform a life-saving procedure, placing a surgeon under significant stress. You must be able to work under continual stress if you want to become a neurosurgeon. You also need to be confident in your ability to make choices, particularly as some choices need to be made rapidly.
Similarities between a Neurosurgeon and Neurologist
Patients are on the brink, and in both emergency and non-emergency circumstances, these physicians must be able to manage severe emotional circumstances. Both types of medical professionals must communicate with all types of personality styles. Family conflict over prospective medicines, diagnostic anger of a patient, and other intense emotions are important aspects in patient and neurological interactions. You need to be ready to handle unpleasant discussions if you want to join the field of neurology.
If the neurological situation of somebody is not an emergency, the doctor will have time to establish relationships and trust. He or she has more chance to explain processes, prospective results, and any continuing prognosis. But confidence needs to be earned rapidly in emergency circumstances. Especially if someone’s life is at risk, emotions are extreme. Regardless of the scenario at hand, reporting must be created.
Whether working in an office or hospital, neurologists usually see 14 to 16 patients a day for follow-up visits, many of them. Neurosurgeons will see fewer patients as one surgery can cover the same amount of time as a neurologist seeing five patients. One of the greatest problems and disappointments for both physicians is to watch a patient decrease without being able to solve their issue. However, helping them recover from serious neurological setbacks is one of the biggest benefits of working with patients.
At some stage during the week or day, neurologists and neurosurgeons have administrative information. They must keep documents, write prescriptions, and complete documentation. They will meet with any employees who work for them if they operate a personal practice. They can serve on boards and hospital committees that need to be scheduled in their days. Both of these specialized doctors can provide medical learners or staff members with training. Besides, medical technicians or surgical nurses may be supervised.
Other administrative needs include calling back, reacting to messages, and dictating case notes. Although they may have some support employees, they can only do some stuff. To be a successful neurosurgeon or neurologist, it’s all component.
Neurologists and neurosurgeons actively engage in ongoing schooling and collaboration. They do this to stay educated about trends in the sector that are changing. They can study with peers or acquire extra medical organizations certifications. They may pick up a confraternity.
Because brain problems overlap with many circumstances, neurology doctors and surgeons often operate outside of their field with physicians. Neurologists and neurosurgeons meet speech therapists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists in addition to interacting with physicians.
Best Personality Traits for Neurologists and Neurosurgeons
High Stress Tolerance
Neurologists and neurosurgeons operate in extremely stressful settings as you have read. Either of these career choices requires an individual to concentrate on all types of circumstances and perform extremely well even under intense stress. Patients seeking a doctor are themselves under significant stress owing to a neurological disorder, so even the most trusting relationships are tense. These relationships between doctor and patient generate emotional stress over the pressure of the job setting. You need to be able to handle all this efficiently without hurting your relationships and without reducing outstanding patient care norms.
Displaying Empathy and Compassion
Neurosurgeons must be sympathetic and show empathy while creating and retaining professional limits. It is hard to maintain strong limits because physicians may have emotional reactions to their patient’s circumstances. It enables if people in these professions have powerful assistance in their own life from friends or family. Physical operations can also alleviate these stress factors.
These medical workers spend a lot of time watching patients and tracking their brain activity. Neurodoctors, therefore, need to be patient and follow these findings through. It may be their last hope for relief when individuals see a neurologist or neurosurgeon. If you’re pursuing a neurology career, it can imply interruptions in your private lives, particularly if you’re a neurosurgeon with emergency surgery training. You may need to set aside everything else in your lives to care for your patients because of the diligence and commitment needed in this sector.
Openness to New Diagnostic Exams and Therapies
The neurology sector is constantly evolving as you have seen. If you are going into this region, it is vital to be open to fresh thoughts and fresh approaches to neurological issues. While most individuals may find it hard to adjust to change, neurology doctors need to create changes, particularly fresh therapies and processes that enhance patient care. The higher the standard of care they can provide for their patients, the more open neurologists and neurosurgeons are to medical breakthroughs.
Attention to Detail and Accuracy
Attention to detail and accuracy are perhaps two of neurosurgeons and neurologists ‘ most significant features. You must have a high degree of manual dexterity and coordination if you become a neurosurgeon. If you don’t, many of the necessary surgical tasks will be difficult to perform. Exceptional attention to detail is essential for both experts. In offering precise and suitable neurological diagnoses, details of medical history are essential.
Are You Still Serious about Pursuing a Career in Neurosurgery? Read More Here.
Most neurosurgeons can likely recognize what originally attracted them to their specialty: a particular patient’s tale, a compelling repetition. Ask a neurosurgeon what their reasons for selecting their field are. Regardless of the near triggers, several prevalent topics seem to draw most neurosurgeons into this profession.
The neurosurgeon-patient bond is distinctive in all medicine. Neurosurgeons work on the brain and spine that, unlike any other organ, house our motions, voice, ideas, and personalities. The level of confidence between neurosurgeons and their patients is unmatched, resulting in long-lasting interactions between neurosurgeons and their patients.
It goes without stating that the patients in the hospital who need neurosurgeons intervention are among the sickest. Before seeking care, many will endure unspeakable pain, many will not recover completely, and many will pass away. It is an honor for neurosurgeons to take care of these patients and shepherd them and their families through what is often the hardest component of their life.
Neurosurgeons are often the hospital’s first nurses and often the last to leave. They have a unique focus on attaining their patients ‘ best possible results. Neurosurgeons are always prepared to go beyond and beyond to assist their patients, regardless of day or night time.
The Pursuit of Excellence
At the hands of iconic figures such as Harvey Cushing, Walter Dandy, and Gazi Yasargil, the pursuit of excellence has been an intrinsic element of neurosurgery since its founding. There is an ideal that neurosurgeons are motivated to strive for perfection by the bodies on which they work. It is intrinsically inspiring to surround yourself with individuals who are not happy with interfering with mediocrity, but who are constantly pushing themselves to excellence.
Paul Kalanithi also wrote, “The ethos of neurosurgery–of excellence in all subjects –retains that excellence in neurosurgery is not enough.” Neurosurgery is a field in this spirit that is incorporated with neuroscience research. Nearly every residency program includes elective study time. Most academic neurosurgeons engage in some sort of studies, from fundamental neurobiology to clinical research.Neuroscience is a rapidly expanding scientific discipline still in its infancy, and a valuable asset to the field is the unique access that neurosurgeons have to the human brain and spine.
Neurosurgeons are among the hospital’s most committed, motivated, and enthusiastic individuals, and finding an inspiring senior partner as a mentor is simple. Neurosurgery is a tiny, but very tight-knit, elite community. Inhabitants and attendees meet at domestic meetings regularly. Many are close friends outside the professional environment, having first met on the interview path. The days of malignant hospital settings are mostly gone; most resident cohorts see each other as families.
The cerebral and spinal anatomy is hypersensitive; it is lovely, complex, and most importantly, the creative crown jewel. Like the conquered Everest Summit, many neurosurgeons join neurosurgery with a desire to master and comprehend the complicated neurosurgical anatomy.
The necessary technical abilities provide a stimulating effort that is rewarded with outstanding results. Taking up this technical challenge offers the surgeon with a distinctive chance to distinguish himself or herself from other surgical team members.
Understanding Neurosurgery as a Career Route
The route or trajectory of neurosurgical practice in the United States usually comprises of the steps described below: medical school: 4 + years in an accredited MD or DO program (or international equivalent). Most medical learners interested in neurosurgery will undertake substantial medical school studies, possibly including a mixed MD /Ph.D. At the end of the first clinical year or in the second clinical year, most students complete sub-internships (sub-Is) in neurosurgery at their home institution and/or several other institutions in preparation for residency through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).
Seven years in a residency program accredited by ACGME, each program accepting 1-4 inhabitants every year. The design of the program differs significantly, but usually follows a fundamental outline: (internship): separate rotations in neurosurgery, neurology, neuropathology, neuro-radiology, ICU neuroscience or other surgical specialties (junior residency): main residents taking in-house appeals, admitting fresh patients to the service, rotating through neurosurgical facilities, while learning fundamental processes. Note that 1-2 years of elective, safe time are generally integrated into these years for research or clinical fellowships.
Head of Residency
Neurosurgical Service and Junior Resident Education Officer. Operating on the most complicated service instances daily and improving the abilities particular to the subspecialty selected by the resident.
After residency for 1-2 years. For further specialization in pediatric neurosurgery, a fellowship is needed and is optional but often conducted to acquire the abilities needed for an educational role in subspecialties such as cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery, complicated and minimally invasive spine surgery, mushroom base surgery, and functional neurosurgery. Many residency programs offer “enfolded” fellowships in which the 1-2 years of protected elective time can be used to focus on the resident’s choice subspecialty, thus avoiding the need for additional training after residency. Fellowship accreditation rules are in flux at the moment; expect them to be different as long as you are a resident. In this guide, these rules will be updated.
In general, clinical neurosurgeons pursue one of two routes: academic or private practice. Most academic neurosurgeons operate in university-affiliated medical facilities and are accountable for seeing patients at residents, fellows, and medical students in clinics, operations, and teaching.
Academics require active study involvement in either bench-based studies, clinical research, or engineering/innovation work, either as the main investigator of a laboratory or as a collaborator. Neurosurgeons in private practice often work for tiny to medium-sized group procedures and have operating rights in one or more clinics where they see their patients. Of course, in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device sectors, as well as in finance, army, or public facilities, there are other career choices accessible to neurosurgeons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of a Career in Neurosurgery
As with any career decision, neurosurgery has advantages and disadvantages: the opportunity to assist the sickest hospital patients with catastrophic neurological diseases Technically challenging procedures on intriguing and complicated anatomy Motivated and enthusiastic peers Endless study possibilities Disadvantages: Extensive study possibilities
Friends, family, colleagues, physicians, and even neurosurgeons can tell medical learners interested in neurosurgery that they should study another field. As with all the pieces of advice, be sure to evaluate whoever gave them the context and intentions, and always take advice with a grain of salt.
The best advice is the one that applies most accurately to the circumstances of your life (although at the time this may not always be evident). Take into account your situation and remember that, while valuable, the experiences of others will be almost always different from your own.
If you are recommended not to practice neurosurgery, it is essential to know yourself, and even the advisor, why this proposal has been made. Is the advisor requesting you to be more frank with yourself and reflect on your character, which can be severely impacted by stress and the results of patients? Is it a family friend who is a physicist who tells you what neurosurgery includes in a “terrible” lifestyle? Sometimes counseling that discourages you from pursuing your objectives to the fullest may reflect the own constraints of the advisor. While asking around, please consider the context of the giver’s advice and perspective.
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.