Does the complexity of the brain fascinate you? Are you good with your hands? Do issues such as phantom pain interest you?
Neurosurgeons care for two of the most delicate and complex parts of the human body: the brain and the nervous system. The name neurosurgeon is slightly misleading as neurosurgeons do much more than just operate on the brain or spinal cord. They are also nonoperative caretakers of the nervous system and all of its surrounding blood supply. As such, they are critical to the health and well-being of the many people who have experienced brain injuries or have nervous system disorders.
Neurosurgeons most often work for a hospital or an outpatient surgery center, in a sterile and bright environment. You can expect to work long and odd hours, spending much of that time in surgery and on your feet.
You need to be alert, attentive, and ready to problem solve the entire time you’re working. You never know when a delicate surgery on a brain tumor may take an unexpected turn, or when a patient’s seizures may suddenly require surgical intervention.
Becoming a neurosurgeon: education and training
If you want to be a neurosurgeon, you need to have both a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree. Since both undergraduate school and medical school are four years long, you can expect to be in school for a total of eight years.
During med school, you will take classes and spend time in laboratories covering the basics, such as anatomy, biochemistry, and pharmacology to name a few, for the first two years. Your last two years will be spent rotating through different specialties to get experience working directly with patients, under a physician’s supervision. After med school, you will mostly likely spend between three and eight years doing internships and a residency. (A residency is basically a paid internship in your area of specialty.)
Note that med school is very difficult to get into, so you should work hard as an undergraduate so that your transcripts are excellent, take care to get good letters of recommendation, and study hard for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Before admission to med school, you can also expect to sit down for an interview with each school’s admissions committee so that you can be evaluated face to face.
Salary and career outlook
Medical school is demanding and expensive, but the job prognosis, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, is very good.
As a neurosurgeon, you are part of a field that is seeing numerous advances in treatment options and many new ways to help people with serious and debilitating illness, thanks to technology.