How hard is it to be a neurosurgeon?

Having a successful career in neurosurgery hides many secrets. The psychological conflicts and challenges faced by neurosurgeons. 

All the tension between the excitement of undertaking a difficult procedure and the nagging thought of whether surgery is really the right thing to do in the first place is what a neurosurgeon will have to deal with on a daily basis, what if the procedure is unsuccessful and loses your patient? How do you deal with it? But what if the procedure is successful and you save a life? 

In this brief guide, we’re going to answer the question “How hard is it to be a neurosurgeon?’’ how to become a neurosurgeon and what neurosurgeons do.

How hard is it to be a neurosurgeon?

To finally become a neurosurgeon you must go through an internship and after that complete a neurosurgical residency program that includes completing a six to eight-year residency in neurosurgery.

The 10 AOA-approved neurological surgery residencies are now eight years in length, as are the 103 neurosurgery residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Being a neurosurgeon requires hard work physically and emotionally.

Many neurosurgical procedures take only an hour or two, but complex operations, such as the removal of invasive brain tumors, can take 15 hours. Students with hip problems, back problems, and other physical limitations should probably not select this specialty

Being a neurosurgeon isn’t easy, neurosurgery is a specialty that isn’t characterized by being monotonous most of the time you’ll perform spinal surgeries and almost all patients are a high-risk case, which can make this job feel incredibly Important, like any other medical specialty, being a neurosurgeon will give you prestige in society, but it’s also very stressful.

The brain, the commune, the entire nervous system itself has limitations and has very little power to recover or heal. Neurosurgeons should be able to feel satisfied with small improvements, so poor results in most other specialties in neurosurgery are a hit. This is the dark side of being a neurosurgeon.

The brain has less capacity to heal itself, sometimes people get better, but it doesn’t heal like skin or muscle. When the air touches your brain, you’re never the same.

Neurosurgeons, therefore, often deliver bad news, need enormous empathy and interpersonal skills while managing the expectations of patients and their families. However, you can’t treat every patient as if they’re your son or your wife because you couldn’t do the job.

The problem is that you’ve to withdraw to a certain extent. The difficulty isn’t losing compassion and kindness to patients. Don’t be the neurosurgeon who has become cruel because they see the patient as a technical problem, not as a suffering human being.

Being a neurosurgeon involves years of study, making life and death decisions every day, many emergency calls, emotional balance, busy schedule, personal sacrifices in terms of relationships, family, and hobbies, and many limitations to help patients, without it’s certainly a great challenge.

What’s neurosurgery?

Neurosurgery is the medical specialty that is responsible for surgical management (including education, prevention, diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, intensive care, and rehabilitation) of certain diseases of the central, peripheral, and vegetative nervous system.

How to Become a Neurosurgeon?

A career as a neurosurgeon will require a lot of commitment and perseverance. The steps to becoming a one are:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A specific degree isn’t required for undergraduate level studies to become a neurosurgeon. Aspiring neurosurgeons may choose to concentrate courses in advanced biological sciences, such as a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences, to meet the admission requirements for medical school.

Take the MCAT and Apply to Medical Schools

All medical schools require potential students to take an entrance exam known as MCAT® (Medical College Admission Test).

You’ll have to get a minimum score if you want an admission interview at any medical school. Since admission to these schools is highly competitive.

If you want to know more about the MCAT, you can consult the American Medical Association or the American Association of Osteopathic Medical Schools (AACOM).

Attend Medical School

Medical school will take four years to complete.

Medical school is a very challenging four-year study that is divided into two parts. The first part, which comprises the first two years of schooling, focuses on laboratory and course work that prepares students intellectually for interaction with the patient.

The second part of medical school, the second two years, is called Rotations. During this time, students have the opportunity to experience a variety of medical specialties and a variety of medical settings under the supervision of experienced physicians.

Pass the medical licensing exam

The National Board of Medical Examiners and the Federation of State Medical Boards administer the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). It’s a legal requirement for aspiring physicians to pass the exam before practicing medicine in the United States.

Can be taken after medical school or in the first part of a residency program.


After completing medical school, graduates wishing to pursue a career in neurosurgery must spend a year as interns at the hospital.

Neurosurgical Residency Program

After completing an internship, physicians must enter a neurological surgery residency program, which generally lasts between six and seven years.

Neurosurgery residencies are assigned through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges.

During the residency, future neurosurgeons will learn to manage and develop skills and techniques essential to the field.

What does a Neurosurgeon do?

There are diseases that put brain and spinal functions at risk. These modify the function or activity of both the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, cerebral spine, and pituitary), as well as the peripheral nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, and the support structures of the same systems.

Conditions such as cervical, dorsal, and lumbar disc hernias; sciatic pain, degenerative spinal diseases, arteriovenous malformations, congenital disorders, hemorrhages, craniofacial fractures, and brain tumors, among others; require treatment of pathological and surgical processes and technological advance, for their medication and progress.

When it comes to neurosurgeons, it’s seldom known what specific surgical treatments they undertake, much less what all the functions they perform. And it’s that a neurosurgeon isn’t exclusively dedicated to spinal surgeries or brain tumors.

The intervention of a neurosurgeon can be surgical, but most of the time it’s not surgical

Today, neurological surgery is a specialty medical and surgical discipline that attends to adult and pediatric patients, in the treatment of pain or pathological processes of these disorders and diseases.

For their part, neurosurgeons are the specialists focused on treating non-surgical aspects (prevention and diagnosis), including the interpretation of images, treatments not limited to the care of the neurological patient in critical condition (intensive therapy and rehabilitation). Likewise, it provides care for surgical treatments, the operative management of their use and interpretation of associated images (endovascular, functional, and stereotactic radiosurgery)

The common diseases neurosurgeons treat:

  • Tumors that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, skull, or spine.
  • Spinal problems causing neck or back pain, pinched nerves with pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs.
  • Injury or compression of the peripheral nerves causing pain, numbness, weakness, and atrophy of the muscles of the face, arm, hand, or leg.
  • Neurovascular disorders such as strokes, brain hemorrhages, aneurysms, vascular malformations, traumatic or non-traumatic blood clots affecting the brain or spinal cord, and carotid artery disease.
  • Brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, or malformations that affect the brain from birth.
  • Infections involving the brain and spinal cord, the fluid that surrounds these structures, or the spinal vertebrae and discs.
  • Traumatic injuries to the brain, spinal cord, spinal bones, nerves, and skull.

So, being a neurosurgeon is hard?

Yes, from the beginning, neurosurgery will be one of the biggest challenges you’ll take in your life, you’ll have to fight with great demand and little offer of places to enter the university, presenting thousands of exams having to be intelligent in each of them and stand out with very high notes.

You must remember that it will be a career that will take you years to complete, with many endless hours of study, and in which each year the complexity and demand will be even greater on your shoulders.

Although if you enjoy the challenges and complexity, this will undoubtedly be your thing.

Neurosurgery will produce enormous emotional stress and frustration since the limitations to perform procedures can be great, after all, the brain and the nervous system is a machine that works in a complex way. Much of this terrain remains a neurosurgery mystery.

Yet at the end of the day, this specialty is one of the most rewarding, realistic, and satisfying in medicine.

No two operations will ever be the same, so a neurosurgeon must enjoy the intellectual challenge of dealing with constant learning and change.

Neurosurgeons are decisive and take full responsibility for their decisions in surgery. They’re also involved in cutting-edge research, helping to find ways to help or even heal patients who are seriously ill or injured.

Neurosurgery offers subspecialties in pediatric neurosurgery, interventional neuroradiology, vascular or spinal surgery, and neuro-oncology, and while improper movement can ruin motor or speech skills, or even kill the patient, there are emotional rewards that come with the pressure of neurosurgery.

Successful operations will improve someone else’s quality of life by providing opportunities, such as the ability to walk, speak, or even feel emotions. Neurosurgery can also free people from severe pain or save their lives.

It’s certainly gratifying to see a patient get up and walk again, or to be able to speak or even recognize their children again. So no matter how difficult it may be, at the end of the day, it’s a career that will not be for everyone, but for those who do exercise it, they’re capable heroes with many emotional rewards.

FAQSs: How hard is it to be a neurosurgeon?

Who is the richest neurosurgeon?

The richest neurosurgeon at the moment is Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a net worth of $ 4.5 million. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is CNN’s chief medical correspondent with his own health show. In his medical practice, Gupta focuses on spinal surgery and neurosurgery and has offered his medical support in both Haiti and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Do neurosurgeons get days off?

Yes, despite having one of the most tedious and busy jobs that exist, neurosurgeons have some free time, however, the duties of a neurosurgeon never rest so there may be nights and weekends off that are urgently required.

Can neurosurgeons make millions?

Yes, neurosurgery is one of the most prestigious and highest-paid professions out there, so you could easily become a millionaire, so maybe 20 or so years of study isn’t that long after all.

Who is the youngest neurosurgeon?

Ncumisa Jilata is the youngest neurosurgeon. Dr. Jilata’s medical journey began in 2003 when she was in the eleventh grade. Her rigorous path included a packed course program condensing three years of biology into just one year, and in 2017 Ncumisa Jilata became the youngest neurosurgeon in South Africa at age 29.

Which country pays neurosurgeons the most?

The United States is the country that pays the most neurosurgeons with a salary of $ 810,192.

In this brief guide, we answered the question “How hard is it to be a neurosurgeon?’’ how to become a neurosurgeon and what neurosurgeons do.

So, isn’t neurosurgery an interesting specialty?

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


Scheepers, S. (2017, November). A Day in the Life of a Neurologist and Neurosurgeon – The Apprentice Doctor. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from The Apprentice Doctor website:

Interested in Neurosurgery as a Career. (2020). Retrieved October 5, 2020, from website: