Neurosurgeon Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Neurosurgeon, or Brain Surgeon, is responsible for using surgical techniques to diagnose and treat problems with the nervous system, including the brain and spine. Their duties include ordering tests for patients based on their neurological symptoms, operating robotic mechanisms to perform non-invasive procedures, and removing brain and spinal tumors.

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Neurosurgeon Duties and Responsibilities

A Neurosurgeon specializes in surgical procedures dealing with the brain and nervous system. This narrows their duties and responsibilities down to everything dealing with that process. Some of these duties may consist of:

  • Assessing and diagnosing patients to determine if and what kind of surgery they may need
  • Meeting with the families of patients to keep them updated on the patient’s condition and surgery details
  • Keeping records of patients, their diagnosis and medical history
  • Writing prescriptions for patients for all needed medication dealing with their condition
  • Filling out all paperwork involved in each process
  • Performing any emergency surgeries that may come by, such as patients with a stroke or aneurysm
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What Does a Neurosurgeon Do?

Neurosurgeons work at hospitals and surgery centers to provide specialized surgical care related to neurological conditions and injuries. They collaborate with Neurologists, Nurses and General Practitioners to identify the likely cause of a patient’s chronic pain, discomfort, mood swings or other symptoms. Neurosurgeons decide which surgical techniques have the best chance of success and research other similar cases to refine their strategy. They communicate with patients about the surgery and the recovery process before beginning the operation. Neurosurgeons often conduct research on brain trauma, neurological disorders and surgical techniques as part of their role.

Neurosurgeon Skills and Qualifications

A Neurosurgeon candidate should possess a wide array of skills and qualifications to perform their job correctly and efficiently. When it comes to performing surgery on some of the body’s most vital organs, a Neurosurgeon candidate is highly recommended to have skills such as being detail-oriented to not commit any mistakes during a procedure and problem-solving for immediate problems that arise and need immediate solutions. Other skills Neurosurgeon have are:

  • Motor skills are a must in order to keep hands steady during a procedure and good hand-eye coordination to avoid any slips
  • Teamwork skills help when it comes to working with nurses, technical staff, other doctors and any medical students in the workplace
  • Leadership skills to manage the team within the operating room easily
  • Critical thinking skills to come up with creative decisions quickly and efficiently in emergency situations
  • Physical stamina to handle the high number of patients they may have at a time and the long hours that come with the job

Neurosurgeon Salary Expectations

Based on submissions made to Indeed, the average salary for a Neurosurgeon is $123,532 per year. This information is based on 35 salaries anonymously submitted to Indeed by employees and users, along with information collected by past and present job advertisements.

Neurosurgeon Education and Training Requirements

A Neurosurgeon should have four years of pre-medical education at a college or university, followed by four years of medical school to gain their M.D. or D.O. degree. Neurosurgeons should also continue their education afterward by attending conferences, annual meetings and reading scientific journals to stay up to date with all advances made in this complex field. Neurosurgeons also need to become licensed in the medical field by either submitting an application to their state’s medical board or apply for board certification through the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

Neurosurgeon Experience Requirements

Further requirements in the extensive process to become a Neurosurgeon are to complete a one-year internship for general surgery and at least five to seven years in a neurosurgery residency program. It can take at least 16 years for a candidate to become a neurosurgeon through all the education and further training required. For these reasons, only the most rigorous surgeons become Neurosurgeons.

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Frequently asked questions about Neurosurgeons


What is the difference between a Neurosurgeon and a Neurologist?

Neurosurgeons and Neurologists are both Doctors who specialize in the central nervous system, but Neurosurgeons perform operations while Neurologists use non-surgical methods to diagnose and treat patients. Neurologists may refer their patients to a Neurosurgeon if they believe they need invasive surgical intervention for a condition. Neurologists prescribe medication, perform neurological exams, complete imaging of the brain and spinal cord, conduct physical therapy and use other techniques to form a treatment plan. Neurosurgeons may work closely with a Neurologist to prepare a patient for surgery and develop a post-operative treatment and recovery plan.


What are the qualities of a good Neurosurgeon?

Because they operate on extremely delicate parts of the nervous system, Neurosurgeons need to have a steady hand, good hand-eye coordination and depth perception. They should be able to confidently make precise movements with surgical instruments, following through with their incisions and using self-control to make small cuts and limit unnecessary bleeding. They should thrive in high-pressure situations and be able to react logically if an emergency situation occurs during surgery. Successful Neurosurgeons are good leaders who communicate with their team of Nurses, Surgical Assistants and Anesthetists to keep the patient stable during surgery.


What are the daily duties of a Neurosurgeon?

On a typical day, Neurosurgeons can spend long hours performing extensive surgeries, meet with patients in between multiple smaller surgeries or work on research and clinical trials. Neurosurgeons at hospitals may also be on-call to perform emergency surgery on trauma patients. After meeting with a patient, they interpret MRIs, CTs and PET scans to assess the patient and decide on a surgical plan. They brief the patient and their healthcare team on the procedure, risks and recovery process. During surgery, they follow protocols to keep the operating room sterile and safe for the patient.


What are the different types of Neurosurgeon?

Neurosurgeons can train in a particular type of neurosurgery during their residency program in medical school or during a fellowship after graduation. Some of the specializations within neurosurgery include endovascular neurosurgery, neuro-oncology, critical and trauma care, functional neurosurgery,  radiosurgery, cranial base surgery and pediatric neurosurgery. These specialties involve performing different types of procedures depending on the type of condition, with some types of Neurosurgeons directly operating on patients to remove tumors and stop acute brain bleeds while others use micro incisions to manage nerve pain and other chronic issues.

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