Neonatal Surgeon: Job Description and Education Requirements

Jan 08, 2020

What Is a Neonatal Surgeon?

Neonatal surgeons are surgeons who specialize in the surgical correction of birth defects in newborns. Some neonatal surgeons may specialize in surgical interventions for congenital cardiac, abdominal, or urologic issues. They may monitor the development of the fetus to determine the necessity of surgery and to prepare for surgery when the baby is born. Neonatal surgeons work with a team of medical professionals, such as nurses and assistants, to care for the surgical needs of newborns.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
General surgery residency
Neonatal-perinatal or pediatric surgery residency or fellowship
Other Requirements Medical license
General Pediatrics and Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine board certification through American Board of Pediatrics
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 1% (for all surgeons)*
Average Annual Salary (2019) $291,054 (for pediatric surgeons)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Neonatal Surgeon Salary and Projected Job Growth

While salary information specifically for neonatal surgeons isn't available, the site reports that, in 2019, pediatric surgeons made an average salary of $291,054. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a job growth projection for neonatal surgeons. The BLS projects that jobs for all surgeons will grow at a rate of 1% between 2018 and 2028.

Neonatal Surgeon Education

Bachelor's Degree and Medical Degree

Neonatal surgeons must have a medical degree, either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). To get a medical degree, aspiring neonatal surgeons must first complete a bachelor's degree. A science major or a pre-med program is recommended. To apply for medical school, undergraduates must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Medical school programs take around 4 years. The first two years are focused on coursework, including courses on the human body, medical practice, and medical ethics. The final two years will be spent in clinical rotations, where students will be exposed to a variety of medical settings and patients.


Aspiring neonatal surgeons will first complete a five-year general surgery residency, where they will learn basic operative skills and will progress steadily towards more advanced operative skills. They will study in a variety of settings, including oncological, transplant, and acute care. Upon completing their general surgery residency, they must then complete a 2-to-3-year residency or fellowship in neonatal-perinatal or pediatric surgery. During both residencies, residents will observe and work in clinical settings, attend classes and conferences, and do research.

Licensure and Board Certification

During medical school and their residency, aspiring neonatal surgeons will take a three-part standardized national license exam. Candidates pursuing an M.D. will take the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). Candidates pursuing a D.O. will take the Comprehensive Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX-USA). The first two parts will be taken during medical school and the final part will be taken during the residency.

After they have completed their residencies and fellowships and earned their medical license, neonatal surgeons must become board certified through the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). They must first earn an initial certification from the ABP in general pediatrics. Then, they must earn board certification in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Neonatal Surgeon?

It will take over 16 years to become a neonatal surgeon. The time it will take to become a neonatal surgeon will depend upon the length and the number of residencies and fellowships the candidate chooses to complete.

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