How Do I Become a Neurosurgeon?

If you have an interest in anatomy and medicine as well as the calm and focused demeanor necessary to operate on such important body parts as the human brain, you might be wondering how to become a neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon performs surgical procedures to treat and repair disorders and damage to the nervous system. While these physicians may be better known as “brain surgeons,” they may also operate on the neck, the spine and nerves located throughout the body.

The nervous system heavily influences the performance of the human body, including cognitive and physical functioning and the processing of sensory information, such as visual and auditory stimuli. When serious damage occurs to the brain, spinal cord or nerves as the result of an injury or illness, it can impact a patient’s life severely. Neurosurgeons help patients with neurological disorders and injuries live fuller, healthier, and longer lives. Examples of neurosurgical procedures include the removal of brain tumors, surgical treatments of spinal disc herniation, and procedures to repair damaged nerves in the cases of conditions such as carpel tunnel syndrome.

Because neurosurgeons operate on very complex and important parts of the body, especially the brain and spinal cord, they must be thoroughly educated and develop their surgical skills over time. Like other physicians, aspiring neurosurgeons begin their adult educational careers by earning an undergraduate college degree in pre-medical studies, biology, chemistry, or related subjects within the fields of science and mathematics. Candidates must then earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree by successfully completing their education at an accredited medical school and cultivating their skills through the internship that follows. Finally, aspiring neurosurgeons are expected to complete a neurosurgery residency program that can take as long as five to seven years. Some neurosurgeons choose to apply for board certification next, while others keep building their skills through a competitive fellowship.

While neurosurgery can be a stressful field of medicine and any mistake can have dire consequences, their extensive education prepares candidates for the challenges and helps them to succeed in this fulfilling career. Prospective neurosurgeons should have a knack for science, the focus and dexterity to perform an operation carefully and a desire to help improve or even safe the lives of sick or injured patients. In 2012, CNN Money included neurosurgeon on its list of the “best jobs in America,” citing high ratings of personal satisfaction and benefit to society. The list also took into account the 24 percent anticipated increase in job opportunities for all physicians and surgeons as well as the high pay rate of a $368,000 median annual salary and a high salary topping $600,000 per year.

If you have an understanding of anatomy and medical procedures and a desire to make a major difference in the lives of injured and ill patients, knowing how to become a neurosurgeon can help you start a career with the potential to earn a profitable living while saving lives.

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