Brain surgery. It doesn’t get any simpler than that to explain what a neurosurgeon does. Neurosurgeons are physicians who are specialists in surgical disorders of the brain and spinal cord. Simple to say but in truth, neurosurgery is an extremely complex, awesome field.
I mean, this is your brain we are talking about. Without it, our livelihood and personality are gone. A physician of this magnitude is very important and highly respected. And because it’s a surgical field dealing with high risk surgical procedures, physician compensation is very high.
Just how much do neurosurgeons make? Neurosurgery is the 2nd highest paying medical specialty after orthopedic spine surgery. It’s no surprise why when you consider what they operate on!
The median expected salary for neurological surgery is $592,811 whereas the average salary is $767,627!!
Straight out of residency, a neurosurgeon can make $354,000. This number quickly rises to the median expected salary after at least 2-3 years. The maximum reported salary for neurosurgery is $936,000.
Neurosurgery is one of the longest residency programs in the medical field. It takes 7 years of training in order to be board eligible in neurosurgery. Thankfully, this is one of the fields where you do not have to do a surgery residency first before specializing. It’s just 7 years straight of neurosurgery.
Neurosurgeons can further subspecialize after their residency by doing fellowships. These fellowships usually last 1-2 years (mostly just one year). Below is a sample list of fellowships you can pursue:
- Peripheral Nerve Surgery
- Spine Surgery
- Neurovascular Surgery
- Brain Tumors
- Neurocritical Care
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery
The competition is pretty tough as there are only 101 residency programs that offer about 200 spots. US medical students took 90% of these spots last year.
During one of my many residency adventures, I remember distinctly one patient who was so grateful for this specialty. He used to walk everywhere but something was wrong and progressively he was unable to walk or stand, unable to move his legs or control his bowels. A neurosurgeon found a neurofibroma that was impinging on his spinal cord and caused his bilateral leg weakness and near paralysis. The neurosurgeon removed it within the hour and the patient ended up fully recovering. His first steps were priceless. That was amazing.
Neurosurgery is a high risk, high pay field. Majority of the practice is in the operating room and call duty is expected. However, the long training is worth it when you think of the magnitude in which you impact a patient’s life.
Cejka Search, Physician Compensation Survey
Allied Physicians – Physician Salary Survey
Beckers Hospital Review, 16 Statistics on Surgeon Compensation by Specialty
NRMP 2011 Match Statistics
Jamin, Watching Brain Surgery