Career Development

What Does a Neurosurgeon Do?

Find out what a neurosurgeon does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a neurosurgeon.

A neurosurgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in the surgical treatment of diseases and disorders of the brain, spine, and nervous system. Neurosurgeons are highly trained surgeons who must complete at least seven years of training to become board certified.

Neurosurgeon Job Duties

Neurosurgeons have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Performing surgery on the brain and spinal cord to treat disorders or injuries such as tumors, infections, trauma, birth defects, or vascular abnormalities
  • Prescribing medications to treat pain and other symptoms while the patient is recovering from surgery
  • Conducting research to develop new surgical techniques or improve existing ones
  • Discussing treatment plans with patients and families to ensure that everyone understands the risks and benefits of the proposed procedure
  • Operating robotic surgical tools to perform minimally invasive surgeries
  • Performing diagnostic tests such as MRI scans, CT scans, and EEGs to evaluate neurological problems
  • Diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system including the spinal cord and spine
  • Determining the best course of treatment for each patient based on their unique condition and needs
  • Performing surgery on the brain and spinal cord to treat disorders or injuries such as tumors, infections, trauma, birth defects, or vascular abnormalities

Neurosurgeon Salary & Outlook

Neurosurgeons’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of surgery they perform.

  • Median Annual Salary: $315,000 ($151.44/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $495,000 ($237.98/hour)

The employment of neurosurgeons is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

The need for neurosurgeons will depend largely on the health of the population. As people age, they are more likely to develop conditions that can affect the brain, such as strokes and tumors. In addition, technological advances in imaging equipment allow physicians to diagnose some types of brain disorders more easily.

Related: Neurosurgeon Interview Questions and Answers

Neurosurgeon Job Requirements

A neurosurgeon typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Neurosurgeons must complete medical school and a neurosurgical residency program. Medical school takes four years and consists of classroom and laboratory learning. Students study anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, pathology and other medical-related topics.

During the final two years of medical school, students complete rotations in different medical specialties, including surgery, psychiatry, pediatrics and neurology. During rotations, students spend time in different medical facilities and shadow medical professionals to learn about their specialties.

Training & Experience: Neurosurgeons must complete a residency program, which is a period of seven to eight years of supervised training in a hospital setting. During this time, they will work under the supervision of a neurosurgeon. They will learn how to diagnose and treat patients, as well as how to manage the hospital and administrative aspects of the role.

After completing medical school, neurosurgeons must also complete a one-year internship. During this time, they will work under the supervision of a neurosurgeon in a hospital setting. They will learn how to diagnose and treat patients, as well as how to manage the hospital and administrative aspects of the role.

Certifications & Licenses: All medical doctors must earn state licensure to practice. To earn a license, neurosurgeons need to submit an application that provides proof of completion of medical school and passing grades on the USMLE or COMLEX.

Neurosurgeons also need to earn a neurosurgery board certification.

Neurosurgeon Skills

Neurosurgeons need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Neurosurgeons use technical skills to perform procedures and analyze data. They use technical skills to read and interpret medical records, scan and interpret brain images and perform procedures to treat patients. They use technical skills to understand and apply medical research to their practice and to learn new procedures and treatments.

Communication skills: Neurosurgeons often communicate with patients and their families about the diagnosis and treatment options for patients. They also communicate with other medical professionals to ensure the patient receives the best treatment. Neurosurgeons also communicate with patients to explain procedures and answer questions.

Analytical skills: Neurosurgeons use analytical skills to assess a patient’s condition and determine the best treatment. They use analytical skills to research new treatment methods and procedures and determine the best way to treat a patient. They also use analytical skills to determine the source of a patient’s symptoms and the best way to treat them.

Problem-solving skills: Neurosurgeons use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to complex medical issues. They use these skills to develop treatment plans for patients and determine the best course of action when a patient’s condition changes. They also use problem-solving skills to find solutions to technical issues, such as when a patient’s medical equipment malfunctions.

Teamwork skills: Neurosurgeons often work with other medical professionals, such as anesthesiologists, nurses and other surgeons. They may also work with other specialists, such as a radiologist, who interprets the results of imaging tests. Working well with others is an important skill for neurosurgeons, as it can help them to achieve their treatment goals.

Neurosurgeon Work Environment

Neurosurgeons work in hospitals or in private medical offices. They usually work long hours, including evenings and weekends. They are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When they are on call, they may be required to work at any time, day or night. They may work in shifts, which means they work for a set number of hours and then are off for a set number of hours. They may also work on a rotating schedule, which means their hours vary from week to week. Neurosurgeons often work more than 40 hours per week.

Neurosurgeon Trends

Here are three trends influencing how neurosurgeons work. Neurosurgeons will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Virtual Reality in Surgery

The use of virtual reality (VR) in surgery is becoming increasingly popular as it offers a number of benefits to both surgeons and patients.

For surgeons, VR can be used to help them prepare for complex surgeries by allowing them to practice on a virtual model of the patient’s brain. This can help reduce the amount of time that they spend preparing for surgery and allow them to focus on other aspects of the procedure.

For patients, VR can be used to help them feel more comfortable with the idea of having surgery. By putting them in a virtual environment that resembles the operating room, they can become more familiar with the sights and sounds of the hospital setting. This can help to reduce their anxiety about the procedure and make them more likely to agree to it.

Neurosurgeons who are able to utilize VR in their practice will be at an advantage over those who cannot. They will be able to provide their patients with a more realistic view of what to expect during surgery, which may lead to fewer complications and better outcomes.

More Focus on Preventative Care

As preventative care becomes more important, neurosurgeons will need to shift their focus towards providing this type of care.

Preventative care involves identifying potential problems before they become serious, and then taking steps to address them before they cause any damage. This includes things like regular checkups and screenings, as well as early detection of diseases.

By focusing on preventative care, neurosurgeons can help to keep their patients healthy and avoid costly treatments down the road. In addition, they may also be able to build trust with their patients, which can lead to referrals and additional business.

How to Become a Neurosurgeon

A neurosurgeon career path can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s important to consider all the factors that will influence your success, including your personality, skills, and interests.

If you’re a perfectionist who thrives on challenges, enjoys working with your hands, and has an interest in neuroscience, then a neurosurgeon career may be right for you. However, it’s important to note that this is a highly competitive field, so you’ll need to be prepared to work hard and put in long hours.

Advancement Prospects

Neurosurgeons can advance their careers by taking on more complex cases, teaching other surgeons, or conducting research. Some neurosurgeons become department heads or chief surgeons at hospitals. Others go into private practice. Some neurosurgeons start their own companies to develop new medical technologies.

Neurosurgeon Job Description Example

We are looking for a highly skilled and experienced neurosurgeon to join our team. The ideal candidate will have experience in performing a variety of neurosurgical procedures, including but not limited to: craniotomies, laminectomies, brain tumor resections, and aneurysm clipping. He or she will also be responsible for postoperative care of patients, as well as working with a team of nurses, physician assistants, and other support staff. The ideal candidate will have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, as well as a strong commitment to providing the highest quality of care to our patients.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide comprehensive surgical care for patients with disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves
  • Perform a variety of complex procedures, such as craniotomies, spinal fusions, and stereotactic surgery
  • Work collaboratively with other members of the neurosurgical team, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, anesthesiologists, and nurses
  • Use sophisticated technology and equipment, such as intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring, to ensure safety and optimal outcomes
  • Manage pre- and postoperative care for patients, including pain management and rehabilitation
  • Keep abreast of new developments in neurosurgery through continued medical education and research
  • Serve as a resource for other physicians and health care providers regarding neurosurgical conditions and treatment options
  • Participate in administrative duties, such as hospital committees and peer review
  • Maintain accurate patient records and documentation
  • Adhere to all applicable legal and ethical guidelines
  • Supervise residents and medical students
  • Provide on-call coverage as needed

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in pre-med, medical science, or related field
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from an accredited medical school
  • Completion of a neurosurgery residency program
  • Board certification by the American Board of Neurological Surgery
  • Active state medical license
  • Ability to obtain hospital privileges

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Fellowship training in a subspecialty area of neurosurgery
  • Academic appointment at a medical school
  • Research experience
  • Leadership experience in a professional organization


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