Difference Between Neurologist & Neurosurgeon

Jan 02, 2019

As medical doctors, neurologists and neurosurgeons share some overlapping duties. One of the key differences is that neurosurgeons are qualified to perform surgical procedures. Learn more about how these careers compare in this article.

Comparing Neurologists to Neurosurgeons

Neurologists and neurosurgeons are medical doctors who are involved with caring for patients who have problems with their nervous system. Neurologists are involved with diagnosing patients and determining how to treat them. Neurosurgeons may also diagnose patients, and are qualified to perform operations in order to address their health issues.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)** Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Neurologists Medical Degree and License $204,722 14% (all physicians and surgeons)
Neurosurgeons Medical Degree and License $385,882 20% (all surgeons)

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

Responsibilities of Neurologists vs. Neurosurgeons

Neurologists typically see patients in an office or hospital room setting. They discuss patients' health concerns and review their medical files as they assess the patients' conditions. Their work can involve ordering tests and prescribing treatment. Neurosurgeons may also see patients and diagnose their conditions. However, they operate on patients who are suffering from things such as tumors or damage to their spines.


Neurologists are medical doctors who specialize in the field of neurology. After they've earned a medical degree they must fulfill the residency and internship requirements to specialize in this field and obtain a medical license. It's most common for neurologists to work in an office or hospital. As neurologists, they need to have good communication skills so that they can get an accurate description of symptoms from patients. The types of problems their patients may have can include things like sleep disorders.

Job responsibilities of a neurologist include:

  • Reviewing patients referred to them by other medical professionals
  • Assessing patient's condition
  • Referring patients for medical tests
  • Determining the best treatment for the patient
  • Prescribing medication
  • Traveling to see patients when required


Neurosurgeons primarily work in a hospital setting. They are required to complete the medical training needed to become a licensed surgeon. This includes earning a medical degree, completing an internship and residency, and obtaining a medical license. They work with sensitive areas of the body, such as the brain, and must have exceptional fine motor skills to perform surgical procedures. Since their patients may be suffering from neurological illnesses or things that are impairing their ability to communicate, it is very important that neurosurgeons are patient with the people they treat and take their time to do a thorough medical assessment.

Job responsibilities of a neurosurgeon include:

  • Responding to emergencies when on call
  • Examining patients
  • Having medical tests done
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Identifying treatment options
  • Discussing medical issues with patients and their family members

Related Careers

Individuals thinking about pursuing a career as a neurologist may also be interested in becoming a veterinarian, since veterinarians may diagnose and treat neurological problems in animals as part of their duties. For aspiring neurosurgeons, a career as an anesthesiologist may also be appealing, since anesthesiologists are also medical doctors who work with patients during surgical procedures.

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