Become a Neurology Surgeon: Required Qualifications and Career Info

Neurology surgeons require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Neurology surgeons use surgery and non-operative methods to treat the nervous system of their patients. They are licensed physicians that have completed medical school, a residency, and often times a fellowship for further specialized training. They are knowledgeable about the nervous system, common disorders, patient interaction, and surgical techniques.

Essential Information

Neurology surgeons, or neurosurgeons, treat disorders of the nervous system through surgery, as well as non-operative means. They also manage problems related to the supporting structures of the nervous system, such as the skull, vertebrae, meninges and blood vessels. Many years of education and formal training, including a medical degree and a residency, is required to work in this medical specialty.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy
Training Requirements Six-year residency program in neurosurgery
Licensure/Certification Medical license required by state law; optional board certification available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for all physicians and surgeons
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $202,450 for all physicians and surgeons

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Neurology Surgeon Required Qualifications

Prior to entering medical school, a person must have completed premedical courses, including inorganic and organic chemistry, biology and physics. It is recommended that undergraduate students participate in extracurricular activities while earning bachelor's degrees in order to become more competitive medical school candidates. The next step is to complete medical school, which consists of four years of lectures, laboratory courses and clinical rotations, and results in a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree.

Physicians are required to earn a license to practice medicine in all 50 states. Allopathic, or conventional, physicians will take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to become licensed; osteopathic physicians need to successfully complete the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX).

After a physician has earned a license, he or she may begin a 6-year residency in neurosurgery. During the first year, residents must complete at least three months of clinical rotations in which they learn basic clinical skills. The American Board of Neurological Surgeons (ABNS) states that a minimum of 42 months of training in clinical neurosurgery is required, while at least three months of training must be devoted to clinical neurology ( Up to 24 months may be dedicated to research, neuroscience training and elective rotations in neurosurgery subspecialties, such as pediatric neurosurgery or spine surgery.

Upon completion of a residency, allopathic neurology surgeons may earn optional board certification from the ABNS and osteopathic neurology surgeons may earn optional board certification from the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery (AOBS). Candidates for board certification must pass a written test followed by an oral exam.

Neurology Surgeon Career Information

Neurology surgeons diagnose, treat and prevent disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system and the supporting structures for the nervous system. Surgery constitutes a large portion of their work, but they also examine patients and order diagnostic tests. Some types of surgery that neurology surgeons may perform include stereotactic radiosurgery, spinal fusion, brain surgery and endovascular surgery.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the number of available jobs for all physicians and surgeons, including neurology surgeons, will increase much faster than average; the expectation is that the physician and surgeon category will grow 14% over the 2014-2024 decade. Those employed in rural and other medically underserved areas are expected to enjoy the greatest employment prospects. The average salary for all physicians and surgeons was $202,450 in May 2015.

Neurology surgeons diagnose, treat and prevent disorders of the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system and the supporting structures for the nervous system. There are many qualifications required for entering this field, including pre-medical undergraduate courses, medical school, post-medical school training and professional licensure. Neurology surgeons can also pursue board certification.

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