How competitive is neurosurgery residency?

In this brief guide, we’ll answer the question: question¨How competitive is the residency in neurosurgery? ¨ We’ll provide basic concepts of what is neurosurgery, what is needed to have a competitive neurosurgery career, and how residency in neurosurgery looks like.

How competitive is a neurosurgery residency?

Neurosurgery residency is very competitive. The professional with the best qualifications, knowledge and collaboration will be the one who has the most opportunities for success in their career.

Over the years neurosurgery has evolved in science and technology, which has made professionals in this area have to adapt and improve their techniques to carry out the functions they need. 

This implies that they’ve to excel and innovate new techniques in order to attract attention and get glory and fame with which they can generate a good reputation and get a greater number of patients.     

Neurosurgery as well as other specialties such as cardiology, oncology, traumatology, among others, are very complex specialties so to enter they have to perform several very difficult tests and only a small group of these will be admitted, so doctors will have to strive and thus overcome their competition to enter the specialty, so it will generate a loop of always want to be the best and not everyone can be so they must compete for that position.

Neurosurgery is one of those residencies that is very difficult to access.

This is the most competitive residency program among others.

Some people say that it’s almost impossible to do it because it’s necessary to have a lot of experience in the previous educational stages. It seems that you need to have at least:

  • High scores.
  • Many academic publications.
  • A reputation for hard work.
  • Large application for admission.

As for the last point, you should create a truly impressive personal statement of residency that can be a ticket to your program. This is the only thing you can elaborate on when you apply and increase your chances of being accepted because here you have 1 or 2 pages where the admissions committee can read how passionate this particular program is and why they should give you this spot. even if your scores are equal to other students.

What is neurosurgery?

Neurosurgery is the medical science that studies the diseases that affect the nervous system that requires or may require surgical treatment at some point in their evolution.

Therefore, it has a very close connection with Neurology, since many of the diseases to be studied and treated are common to both specialties.

The surgical treatment is performed in very specific places of the hospital, requiring an infrastructure of operating rooms, anesthesia and resuscitation, as well as intensive care units, which are also shared with other surgical and medical specialties.

But it also requires other human resources and hospital infrastructure that are provided by other specialties or subspecialties about the nervous system. All together they form the group of the Clinical Neurosciences.

It covers the surgical, non-surgical, and stereotactic treatment of adult and pediatric patients. Patients with diseases of the nervous system, both of the brain and the meninges, the base of the skull and its blood vessels, including surgical and endovascular treatment of pathological processes of the intra- and extracranial vessels that supply the brain and the spinal cord.

It treats injuries of the pituitary gland; certain injuries of the spinal cord, the meninges, and the spine, including those that may require treatment by fusion, instrumentation, or endovascular techniques and disorders of the cranial and spinal nerves, all along with their distribution.

What are the steps for a residency in Neurology?

Step 1: Explore the Specialty

Before pursuing a career in Neurosurgery, it’s important to be well informed about the specialty. It’s necessary to investigate thoroughly what neurosurgery is and what it’s all about to be well aware of all that it entails being a neurosurgeon.

Step 2: Review Neurosurgery Match Data

Neurosurgery remains one of the most competitive specialties and it’s a very complicated specialty since it involves many years of preparation and a lot of discipline. 

Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria

“Our program is very competitive, and we receive applications from many of the top medical students in the country,” writes the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Utah. “For the 2016 match, we received over 280 applications and interviewed 47 candidates for our three positions.”

To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in neurosurgery, you must become well informed as early as possible. In particular, you need to know the criteria residency programs use to select residents.

Step 4: Develop your Strategy for Success

As competition for positions in the neurosurgery residency intensifies, it’s more important than ever to have the “right” strategy for success. Knowing how to develop techniques and strategies that help us stand out from the crowd helps when it comes to making the specialty.

Step 5: Make the Most of your Preclinical Years

Make the most of your preclinical years. 

The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in neurosurgery. It helps with both mental and physical preparation to be ready for any situation.

Step 6: Apply for Scholarships and Awards

Winning medical school scholarships and awards can provide a major boost to your residency application, and set you apart from your peers. Awards can be placed in the application, MSPE (Dean’s Letter), letters of recommendation, and CV. We have found that interviewers often ask about awards during residency interviews.

Step 7: Assess your USMLE Step 1 Score or COMLEX 1 Score

The USMLE or COMLEX is an important factor in the neurosurgery residency selection process. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX 1 score among matched students were 241 and 621, respectively. Among unmatched U.S. seniors and osteopathic students, the mean scores were 234 and 570, respectively.

Step 8: Strive for Success During Clerkships, Observerships, and Externships

Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to neurosurgery residency programs. In an NRMP survey of neurosurgery residency programs, 76% cited “grades in required clerkships” as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. Neurosurgery rotations are also of obvious importance to international medical graduates seeking positions in the field.


Step 9: Prepare a Powerful Residency Application

In my experience working with applicants, errors are common in the ERAS Application.  Although spelling and grammatical errors are frequently seen, equally common and dangerous are the less well-appreciated errors.

Step 10: Develop a Powerful Personal Statement

When it comes to presenting yourself in interviews, you need to have a strong and clear opinion of yourself, that will show confidence and that you know what you’re doing. You need to give a powerful personal statement that will leave others surprised and not doubt you.

Step 11: Deliver an Impressive Interview Performance

An invitation to interview is exciting news, and confirmation that you’re considered a competitive candidate for a residency position. However, your work is not done, and you need to be diligent in your interview preparation to maximize your chances of success.

What is a medical residency?

A residency results from the need and interest of a general practitioner to expand his or her professional development with knowledge, skills, and values about a medical specialty, so that he or she can deepen his or her knowledge.

The resident decides which specialty he or she is going to do, thus renouncing the practice of general medicine and committing himself or herself to the chosen specialty by learning the knowledge, skills, and values of the specialty in the institution that he or she considers most appropriate for his or her professional development and where he or she can also be most useful to patients and society.

The resident has the option to choose the specialty that interests him/her and therefore assumes the form of work of each institution, having to recognize the obligations and duties to the university to which each course is incorporated and also to comply with the regulations and culture of the host institution.

It must also accept and participate in an excellent interrelationship with teachers, colleagues, residents of the different years of each residency and also establish adequate communication with the health personnel where it’s taking the program, involving in this process maturity in all senses on the part of the resident, manifested by a behavior according to a medical professional.

Medical residencies in many institutions behave in the same way, creating inertia in the different courses, often without making the necessary changes when there are modifications or new rules to follow.

The professors also, at times, continue to consider a false solidity in the format of the medical residency under their leadership and continue to produce and graduate specialists without the necessary knowledge to adequately practice the specialty, and they do so without true self-criticism or self-evaluation in the educational process, even when they’re aware of problems, defects, and weaknesses that often generate inappropriate behavior, but also and more seriously, it’s difficult to obtain the planned goals.

What are the general objectives of the neurosurgeon’s residency?

The Neurosurgery Residency objectives are that the neurosurgeon is trained to:

  • Diagnose the main entities of the neurosurgical clinic.
  • Indicate the appropriate complementary methods to certify in form preoperative these entities.
  • Implementing therapeutic, medical, and surgical decisions necessary to solve them.
  • To propose a correct diagnosis of the situation, a precise indication, a correct choice of opportunity, and a good selection of the procedure.
  • Understand the delicate risk/benefit balance of any indication of Neurosurgery.
  • Acquire the cognitive, dexterity, and emotional responses to resolve postoperative complications.
  • Develop skills in the area of communication with patients, their families, and other members of the health care team having in The special framework that gives this relationship the gravity, morbidity, and mortality of the diseases. neurosurgical pathologies.
  • To understand the importance of continuing medical education in a to become an independent, self-regulating scholar, throughout his professional life, from the different sciences and disciplines that are the basis of neurosurgery. So that you can self-manage their learning process.
  • Understand the importance to the specialty not only of the results of applied research but also of the basic aspects of the Nervous System
  • Respect ethical, moral, and professional responsibility principles that guide the specialist in any type of decision making.
  • Understand the importance of accepting the mistakes made and achieving learning from them.

So, is residency in neurosurgery difficult?

It’s very difficult to obtain a residency in neurosurgery; Neurosurgery is one of the most difficult training programs in the world. And one needs to constantly learn and prove oneself. The margin of error is close to zero in neurosurgery. And mistakes have bad consequences.

A very important part of the residency is teamwork. The residents become a close-knit group of people and learn to trust each other and depend on each other, a lot. It’s just like things. 

On the other hand, there is no room for complacency or incompetence.

According to NRMP’s 2014 Charting the Outcomes, the average USMLE Step 1 score of someone who qualified at NS was 244 for US graduates, 240 for independent applicants. USMLE Step 2 247, 251, respectively. All of these students had double-digit research papers (abstracts, papers, publications, etc.). Thus, neurosurgery is among the most competitive specialties.

FAQSs: How competitive is neurosurgery residency?

Is it hard to get into neurosurgery residency?

Yes, it’s very difficult to obtain a neurosurgical residency worldwide. Once you are in, it’s one of the most difficult training programs. And you need to learn and test yourself constantly. The margin of error is close to zero in neurosurgery. And mistakes have bad consequences. With good grades and recommendations from faculty residents, it’s quite possible.

What is the easiest residency for medicine?

The easiest to enter is Family, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics. The easiest to go through is Psychiatry, then Family Medicine and PM&R. However, it depends on the personality. Surgical residencies are the most difficult to get and to bear the pressure: obstetrics, surgery, neurosurgery, plastics, etc.

How much does a Neurosurgery Resident make?

The national average salary for a Neurosurgery Resident is $160,483 in the United States. Filter by location to see Neurosurgery Resident salaries in your area. Salary estimates are based on 185 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by Neurosurgery Resident employees.

How smart do you have to be to be a neurosurgeon?

To be a surgeon, especially a neurosurgeon, the most important quality isn’t intelligence.

Neurosurgery is a physical job rather than a scientific research study. It’s quite common for neurosurgeons to spend seven to eight hours or more to remove a brain tumor. So, to be a neurosurgeon, you don’t have to be very, very smart, the most important property is the responsibility, patience, and energy.

What are the training requirements for neurology residency?

Daily Conferences, Morning Briefing and Faculty Rounds, Patient-Oriented Research Curriculum, Boot Camp Neurosurgical Basics, Major Rounds of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgical Board Review Course, Conferences, and Workshops.

In this brief guide, we answered the question: question¨How competitive is the residency in neurosurgery? ¨ We provided basic concepts of what is neurosurgery, what is needed to have a competitive neurosurgery career, and how residency in neurosurgery looks like.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.


Find The Right Neurology Residency Programs. (2018). Retrieved October 12, 2020, from website:

Neurosurgery Resident. (2020). Retrieved October 12, 2020, from Glassdoor website:,21.htm

How competitive is neurosurgery residency? – Quora. (2020). Retrieved October 12, 2020, from website:

How smart do you have to be to be a neurosurgeon? – Quora. (2020). Retrieved October 12, 2020, from website: