How Can I Become A Neurosurgeon In 2023? Schools, Licenses, Salary & Cost

Ever heard about the most amazing neurosurgery story ever told? The separation of the siamese twins by Dr. Ben Carson in 1987.

This is the biggest neurosurgery story I know. The medical profession is ever-evolving and there is a need for medical experts who will outdo what history already has.

This article is written to teach you how to become a neurosurgeon, career requirements, and schools where you can acquire your training.

While there may be other amazing stories about successful surgeries carried out by highly talented neurosurgeons around the world, the first successful separation of Siamese twins by Dr. has stood out all the time.

You see, without mincing words, having a successful career in neurosurgery is not what you just stumble upon.

The psychological conflicts and all of the tension between the thrill of undertaking a difficult procedure and the nagging thought of whether surgery is really the right thing to be doing in the first place is what you will need to deal with. 

Now, what if the procedure is not successful and you lose your patient? How do you deal with that?

What if the procedure becomes successful and you save a life? Have you thought about it? That begins your swell time in your career as a neurosurgeon.

As demanding as the profession could be, pursuing a career in neurosurgery is the biggest shot you’d want to take. Do follow me closely as I take you on this walk.

Who is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon is a physician or doctor who has been trained to specialize in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system ion human beings. This practice is called neurosurgery.


Neurosurgery is simply the surgery involving the nervous system. It is the medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of patients with injury to, or diseases/disorders of the brain, spinal cord and spinal column, and peripheral nerves within all parts of the body.

Usually, neurosurgeons handle cases like congenital anomalies, trauma, tumors, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.

Like I told you this profession involves undertaking some of the most daunting, and risky operations you could ever think of on the human brain.

The career is physically and intellectually demanding and requires excellent hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

What do Neurosurgeons do?

Aside from conducting surgeries on the brain and other nervous systems, part of what you will be doing if you become a neurosurgeon is preventing, diagnosing and treating disorders of the brain, spine, and nerves. You will also be involved in the management of conditions that affect the flow of blood to the brain.

Some specific conditions that may require the attention of a neurosurgeon includes:

  • Congenital malformations, such as anencephaly, aneurysm, hydrocephalus, or spina bifida
  • Traumatic injuries of the spinal cord, peripheral nerves, or brain (including skull fractures and brain hemorrhage)
  • Benign or cancerous tumors of the brain or spine
  • Vascular disorders, including arteriovenous malformations (AVM) and capillary telangiectasia
  • CNS infections, such as meningitis, encephalitis, vertebral osteomyelitis, and epidural abscess
  • Degenerative spinal disorders, including spinal stenosis, spinal muscle atrophy (SMA), and spinal disc herniation
  • Epilepsy and movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease
  • Treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders, including severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, and major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Intractable pain associated with cancer, trauma, or other causes

A neurosurgeon may be specialized in a particular subspecialty. This is because the function of the brain and nervous system is so vast and diverse, so it is normal for neurosurgeons to limit the scope of their practice to specific population groups or areas of the nervous system.

Below are some of the subspecialties you may need to focus on in your practice as a neurosurgeon.

  • Endoscopic cranial surgery
  • Functional neurosurgery (used to treat movement disorders)
  • Neuro-oncology (involving brain tumors and cancer)
  • Neurovascular surgery
  • Pediatric neurosurgery
  • Peripheral nerve surgery
  • Skull base neurosurgery (used to treat benign or cancerous growths on the underside of the skull and upper vertebra)
  • Spinal neurosurgery
  • Stereostatic neurosurgery

What are the Requirements to be a Neurosurgeon?

The requirements to become a neurosurgeon are demanding and the road is necessarily a long one but however, individuals who meet the requirement often have promising career prospects.

Personal skilled required

One wouldn’t say there is a particular personality type or trait that describes all neurosurgeons but even so, there is usually something common amongst them and that is the ability to collect and use scientific information is essential.

Moreso, an apt understanding of anatomy, physiology, and other related disciplines are also required. Due to how delicate and sensitive their work is, a budding neurosurgeon would require the ability to analyze and understand these spatial relationships between the various elements of the nervous system.

Furthermore, an aspiring neurosurgeon will also some mechanical ability. This is because all operations will require some degree of manual dexterity.

In addition to these skill sets, a successful neurosurgeon must also have certain personal qualities which include empathy toward your patients, understanding, dedication to duty, team spirit and a touch of professionalism.

Neurosurgeon education requirements

The first step in the path to becoming a neurosurgeon involves a pre-medical undergraduate education. This usually includes a core curriculum consisting of all sciences; maths, physics, chemistry, biology, English.

After your pre-medical, the next step typically is to attend an accredited U.S. medical school. Toward the end of medical school, medical students interested in a career in neurosurgery will apply for a residency training program at an academic medical center.

In a nutshell, below are the educational requirements to become a neurosurgeon.

  • Go to a premedical school
  • Get into medical school
  • Complete an intern year
  • Complete two years of core training in surgery
  • Complete six years of higher specialist training in neurosurgery
  • Pass all your exams

READ ALSO: How can I become a Psychiatrist? Schools, Career, Cost & Salary

How long does it take to become a Neurosurgeon?

It can take anywhere from 14 to 16 years of education to become a fully board-certified neurosurgeon. The steps in the progression include four years of studying as an undergraduate and earning a bachelor’s degree.

Next, prospective neurosurgeons will need to apply to and get accepted into medical school which will take another four years. The last part of the process is a six-year residency program.

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Which schools can I acquire my neurosurgery training?

There are many notable neurosurgery schools around the United States where you can acquire your neurosurgeon education and training. Aspiring neurosurgeons can find various neurosurgery programs in these neurosurgery schools. Below is our list of best neurosurgery schools as ranked by USNEWS.

List of best Neurosurgery Schools

  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)
  • University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Columbia University
  • Stanford University
  • Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (Alix)
  • University of California–Los Angeles (Geffen)

1. Johns Hopkins University

The neurosurgery department at John Hopkins has been ranked as the best neurosurgery school.

The Department aims to improve the lives of patients by sharing ideas across disciplines and joining forces to develop the strongest individualized treatment plans—this is truly what sets Johns Hopkins apart from any other medical institution.

The school offers various programs in neurosurgery and neurology.

The physicians are able to bring new and exceptional treatments to patients faster because of our tight network of experts.

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READ ALSO: Johns Hopkins University Acceptance Rate in 2023 | Admission

2. Duke University

The Department of Neurosurgery at Duke University is second-best maintains a highly skilled clinical practice with a national and international referral base and reputation. The clinical services include 32 neurosurgeons who are engaged in all clinical subspecialties of neurosurgery.

The comprehensive residency training program is among the best in the U.S., and fellowships are offered in six sub-specialty areas.

The entire leadership team is dedicated to the training of doctors wishing to specialize in the field of neurosurgery – and ensuring that the trainees leave Duke with the surgical skill and expertise needed to manage the most complex of patient needs; the ability to lead others; the highest level of professionalism, and marketability as they move on in their careers.

Take a quick flight to the school through the link below.

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3. Harvard University

Harvard Medical School established the Department of Neurosurgery as an academic department on October 1, 2013.

The decision to develop neurosurgery into an academic department at Harvard University was driven in part by the knowledge that, as a discipline, neurosurgery is recognized as a specialty distinct from general surgery in terms of training programs, fellowships, and specialty boards.

Harvard University has been named the third best place for brain surgeon schooling in the United States.

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4. University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)

Penn Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery has a rich history and tradition of contributions and innovations in the field of neurosurgery.

Penn Neurosurgery offers clinical programs of excellence for every subspecialty of disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system. Their research offers innovative opportunities in a variety of areas.

The Penn Neurosurgery department has been ranked fourth in the list of best neurosurgery schools in the US. Take a quick flight to the school using the link below.

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5. University of Michigan

Over the years, this school has provided comprehensive, careful, and compassionate treatment of the entire range of neurological surgical problems for our adult and pediatric patients.

The school has an expansive physician group made up of multidisciplinary collaborators committed to achieving the best outcomes.

The neurosurgery program at this school has been noted to be one of the best in the United States.
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READ ALSO: 13 University of Michigan Summer Programs in 2023

You can find the other Neurosurgery Schools Here


The dream of becoming a neurosurgeon can at times seem unobtainable but can be achieved with persistence and hard work. Every individual’s path to becoming a neurosurgeon is unique, but they all start with the same first step. We hope the information in this article will guide you in your decision and encourage you to take advantage of all the available resources in this write-up.

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