Neurosurgery is the medical specialty that manages and delivers care to patients with disorders of the nervous system and their supportive structures, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and spinal column.
Physicians who specialize in neurosurgery are referred to as neurosurgeons or brain surgeons. These individuals are highly regarded in the medical field and often a source of information for other healthcare professionals. This medical specialty is a challenge, though. Brain surgeons usually work long hours, and perform procedures that can be lifesaving or life-ending. For this reason, residencies are long, and the numbers of practicing neurosurgeons are low. Continue reading below to find out how much education you need to become a neurosurgeon and what you can expect in terms of compensation.
Medical graduates looking to pursue a career as a neurosurgeon need to complete their medical residency in neurosurgery, which lasts seven years. This is a significant time frame when compared with other medical specialties, which generally have residencies lasting between three and four years. According to the American Council for Graduate Medical Education, there were 1,462 neurological surgery residents between 2018 and 2019. Of these 1,462 residents, 110, or just over 10% identified as international medical graduates.
Those looking to subspecialize can expect to tack on a one- or two-year fellowship depending on the subspecialty. Subspecialties of neurosurgery include functional neurosurgery, pediatric neurosurgery, neuro-oncology, neurovascular surgery, traumatology, skill-base surgery, and spinal surgery.
Practicing as a Neurosurgeon
At present, there are roughly 3,689 neurosurgeons in the United States. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, this number is not sufficient to meet the demands of the current and growing U.S. population. This shortage is not predicted to lapse anytime, as the rigor and length of a medical education in neurosurgery can be intimidating to medical graduates.
Perhaps this demand explains the extraordinary salary for these healthcare professionals. The average annual salary for this population is $602,800, with the most highly sought out neurosurgeons making around $800,000 each year.
Part of the reason why brain surgeons are paid so well is that their work is demanding. It requires considerable technical skill, knowledge, and a willingness to learn new things. With scientific and technological advances, neurosurgeons must change the way they operate. Often this requires supplemental training and education.
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