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Brain Surgeon: Salary, Schooling & Job Outlook

If you're interested in the medical field, you might consider a career as a brain surgeon. Learn about the educational and licensure requirements, potential salary, and job growth to see if this is the professional option for you.

Career Information at a Glance

Brain surgeons are physicians who do the delicate work of operating on the human brain and central nervous system, usually to remove growths, cure infections and help patients with degenerative neurological disorders. Neurosurgeons, as they are often called, go through nearly a decade of schooling and internships before being licensed. Refer to the table below for more information on a career as a brain surgeon.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Education Field of Study Medicine
Training Required 1-year internship, 5-7 years of residency
Key Skills Patience, dexterity, organization
Licensure Required State medical license
Job Growth (2018-2028) 1% (for all surgeons)*
Median Salary (2018) $255,110 (for all surgeons)*

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What is a Brain Surgeon?

Brain surgeons are physicians who concentrate their skills on disorders of the brain, spinal cord and the entire central nervous system. Brain surgeons diagnose a wide range of ailments, from strokes and tumors to head trauma and illnesses of the spine. Once diagnosed, a brain surgeon might work with other medical professionals to devise a plan for treatment. If that treatment involves surgery, the brain surgeon will perform the tricky, fragile work of fixing it under the knife or with lasers.

How Much Do Brain Surgeons Make?

Because of the expertise the job demands (and the years of schooling), surgeons are relatively well-compensated. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgeons enjoy some of the highest salaries in the country. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for all surgeons was $255,110 in May 2018.

What Degree Do You Need to Become a Brain Surgeon?

The educational path for brain surgeons is a long one. They go to undergraduate school for four years and then go to medical school for four years. At the end of that, they hold a medical MD (Doctor of Medicine) or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). After graduation, brain surgeons do a year-long internship and another five to seven years of residency in a neurosurgery program.

What License Do You Need?

After medical school, surgeons must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to get a medical license. After the internship and residency, doctors can apply to their state medical board to obtain a license for neurosurgery. In order to become board-certified, graduates from accredited programs must adhere to a rigorous set of standards set forth by the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS).

What's the Job Outlook for Brain Surgeons?

Due to new technologies, the medical field of surgery, including brain surgery, is quickly evolving and expanding. The BLS compiles employment data and does extensive analysis to determine the change in employment for a given profession. A specific prediction for brain surgeons isn't offered, but a 1% rise in employment for all surgeons is projected between 2018 and 2028.