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STEAM Career Spotlight: Neurosurgeon

By: Clare Schinzel

Today, the medical field is acknowledged as one of the most difficult career paths to pursue. It requires comprehensive study, internships, residencies, and a lot of dedication to get to the endpoint. However, among medical programs, there is one field that is regarded as one only the most intelligent students can succeed in: neurosurgery.

A neurosurgeon is a specialized doctor who treats problems with the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, for example. They can also provide treatment for areas around your nervous system: the skull, spinal vertebrae, spinal disks, and blood vessels are among the common examples. Despite the name, they can prescribe both surgical and non-surgical treatments to their patients ranging from medication to physical therapy.

The path to becoming a neurosurgeon starts like most others who are preparing for the medical field. AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and other advanced science classes in high school help give students a glimpse into the hardcore study program. A major in biochemistry or biology during undergrad is a basic path that most future medical practitioners take. To increase their chances of getting into medical school, most future neurosurgeons volunteer, maintain a high GPA, or job shadow a neurosurgeon. Even learning a foreign language to communicate better with patients will help you stand out in medical school admissions programs.

After undergrad, students take the MCAT and apply to medical schools. The first two years of medical school are a general overview. But during the last two, students can apply for special classes like disease management, medical diagnostics, and surgical practices for neurosurgeons. In these classes, students have the opportunity to work directly under a certified neurosurgeon and get a real feel for the practice.

After medical school, neurosurgeons-in-training will enter an internship. Much like their specialized classes in medical school, students will be able to work under a trained neurosurgeon and interact with patients in a genuine hospital environment.

While completing their internship, students will also search for an accompanying residency program. Non-surgical neurologists have a residency of about three years while surgical residencies are about six to eight years.

After years of residency, trainees have to apply to get board certification. This requires both an oral and written test and it is strongly advised to take a review course before applying.

Even after all of that, continuing learning and pursuing education is necessary to renew medical certifications. Attending lectures, seminars, and fellowships are great ways for practicing neurosurgeons not to get rusty.

Because of the long career preparation and required education, it’s no secret that neurosurgery education is a daunting field. However, all of that preparation does pan out to a hefty salary: the average neurosurgeon in the United States makes about $642,301 with the range being about $483,601 to $812,701. But even with the high salary, students who power through their education prove that they are more interested in medical science than in money, which is a feeling that everyone should strive for, regardless if they pursue the medical field or not.

Works Cited

Neurosurgeon. (2019).


Neurosurgeon: What They Do, Specialties & Training. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic.


Path to Becoming a Neurologist or Neurosurgeon (Part 3). (2017, November 1). The

Apprentice Doctor.


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