There are no degrees that focus exclusively on neurosurgery. Students wishing to specialize in neurosurgery must first complete a medical degree, then a neurosurgical residency, where they are trained by experienced neurologists and neurosurgeons. The admission process for a medical degree program includes submitting transcripts and MCAT scores as well as letters of recommendation, a personal essay and an interview process.
A Doctor of Medicine (MD) program takes four years of full-time study to complete. The first two years of any medical school program focus on classroom instruction. In the last two years, curriculum combines clinical practice (called clerkships) with classroom studies. Clinical clerkships must be completed in a variety of specializations, including neurology. Medical students may have to complete a short internship and then transition to residency course during their final year.
To become a neurosurgeon, a doctor must complete a rigorous 7-year residency program after medical school. Neurosurgical residents move up through the ranks to become chief residents their final year. Residents who successfully complete the program become full-fledged neurosurgeons. In all, it takes about 11 years of post-graduate study and clinical training to become a neurosurgeon, as well as completion of the United States Medical Licensing Exam.
Doctorate Degree Programs in Medicine
These programs cover many aspects of medicine in addition to studies of the human body. Typical classes in a medical school curriculum include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Human genetics
- Obstetrics and gynecology
- Inpatient medicine
Residency Programs in Neurosurgery
Graduates of medical school usually continue on to a surgical internship, followed by a residency in their area of interest. Doctors interested in being trained in neurosurgery can apply to teaching hospitals that offer neurosurgical residency programs. Candidates for residency can expect heavy competition, since most residency programs only have a few openings each year. Participants focus on a different aspect of neurology every year that they are in a residency program. Topics covered during a neurosurgical residency include:
- Neurosurgery ICU
- Pediatric neurology and neurosurgery
- Brain and spinal injuries
- Clinical research
Career Outlook and Salary Info
Job opportunities for physicians and surgeons are expected to increase 14% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. The expansion of the health care industry and the increasing elderly population are factors in the growing demand for surgeons and physicians. The BLS, citing statistics from the Medical Group Management Association, notes that those practicing general surgery earned a median annual income of $395,456 as of 2014.
Continuing education opportunities are available through the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (www.cns.org) and American Association of Neurological Surgeons (www.aans.org). Both organizations offer upcoming course presentations at their annual meetings. Professional classes and post-graduate training are offered by some teaching hospitals and medical schools.
Though no degree programs exist specifically for neurosurgery, the completion of a medical degree followed by extensive and rigorous post-graduate training provide the preparation needed for a career in neurosurgery, where job growth is expected to increase and salary potential is very strong.