How Much Does A Neurosurgeon Make?

Neurosurgery is one of the most demanding medical specialties, requiring at least 15 years of education and training beyond high school. Neurosurgeons perform delicate operations on the brain, spine and nerves, so compensation is commensurate with the skills and pressures involved. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The average neurosurgeon in the United States earns between $400,000 and $800,000 per year.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore various factors that influence how much a neurosurgeon makes, including education, experience level, geographic location, reputation and subspecialty. We’ll also look at projected job growth and provide a final takeaway on neurosurgeon salaries.

Educational Requirements to Become a Neurosurgeon

Medical School

One of the first steps to becoming a neurosurgeon is completing medical school. This typically involves obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in a science-related field, such as biology or chemistry, followed by attending medical school for four years. Medical school provides aspiring neurosurgeons with a solid foundation in basic medical knowledge and skills.

During medical school, students will take courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology. They will also gain practical experience through clinical rotations in various medical specialties, including surgery.

It’s important to note that admission to medical school is highly competitive, and candidates are evaluated based on their academic performance, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and performance on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).


After completing medical school, aspiring neurosurgeons must complete a residency program in neurosurgery. A neurosurgery residency typically lasts for seven years, during which time residents receive specialized training in the field.

During their residency, neurosurgery residents work alongside experienced neurosurgeons and gain hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions. They perform surgeries, manage patient care, and participate in research activities. The residency program also includes rotations in related specialties, such as neurology and critical care.

Neurosurgery residency programs are highly competitive, and candidates are selected based on their academic achievements, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and performance on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).


In addition to completing a residency program, some neurosurgeons choose to pursue further specialization through a fellowship. Fellowships allow neurosurgeons to gain expertise in a specific area of neurosurgery, such as pediatric neurosurgery, spine surgery, or neuro-oncology.

Fellowship programs typically last for one to two years and provide advanced training in the chosen subspecialty. During a fellowship, neurosurgeons work closely with experts in the field, conduct research, and further refine their surgical skills.

While not mandatory, completing a fellowship can enhance a neurosurgeon’s knowledge and skills in a specific area and may open up additional career opportunities.

For more information on becoming a neurosurgeon, you can visit the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) or the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) websites.

Experience Level of a Neurosurgeon

Neurosurgeons are highly skilled medical professionals who specialize in treating conditions related to the nervous system. As with any profession, the salary of a neurosurgeon can vary depending on their level of experience. Let’s take a closer look at the starting salary, mid-career salary, and late-career salary of a neurosurgeon.

Starting Salary

When a neurosurgeon is just starting their career, they can expect to earn a substantial salary. According to the latest data from the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), the average starting salary for a neurosurgeon in the United States is around $400,000 per year. This figure can vary depending on factors such as geographical location, hospital size, and level of expertise.

Mid-Career Salary

As a neurosurgeon gains experience and establishes themselves in their field, their salary tends to increase. At the mid-career level, a neurosurgeon can expect to earn an average salary of $600,000 to $800,000 per year. This increase in salary is a reflection of their expertise and the demand for their specialized skills.

Late-Career Salary

Neurosurgeons who have reached the late-career stage of their profession can often earn a significantly higher salary. The highest-earning neurosurgeons can make upwards of $1 million per year. However, it’s important to note that this level of income is typically achieved after many years of experience, dedication, and specialization.

It’s worth mentioning that these figures are based on general trends and can vary depending on various factors. Additionally, neurosurgeons may have additional sources of income, such as private practice or research grants, which can further contribute to their overall earnings.

If you’re interested in learning more about the salaries of neurosurgeons or exploring career opportunities in this field, you can visit reputable websites such as the American Medical Group Association or the American Association of Neurological Surgeons for more information.

Geographic Location and Salary Variations

The salary of a neurosurgeon can vary depending on their geographic location. Factors such as cost of living, demand for healthcare services, and local economic conditions can all impact the earning potential of neurosurgeons in different states.

Highest Paying States for Neurosurgeons

Several states are known for offering higher salaries to neurosurgeons due to various factors. California, for example, is often regarded as one of the highest paying states for neurosurgeons. With its large population and high demand for specialized medical services, neurosurgeons in California can command higher salaries. New York and Texas are also known to offer competitive salaries to neurosurgeons, thanks to their busy healthcare systems and higher cost of living. According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for neurosurgeons in these states can range from $500,000 to $700,000.

Lowest Paying States for Neurosurgeons

On the other hand, some states may offer lower salaries for neurosurgeons compared to the national average. States with smaller populations or lower demand for specialized medical services may not have the same level of compensation for neurosurgeons. For example, states like Montana, Idaho, and Arkansas may offer lower salaries for neurosurgeons compared to other states. However, it’s important to note that even in these states, neurosurgeons can still earn a substantial income, often exceeding six figures. The average annual wage for neurosurgeons in these states can range from $300,000 to $400,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s worth mentioning that salary figures can also vary within states, depending on specific cities or regions. Urban areas with higher populations and more advanced healthcare facilities may offer higher salaries compared to rural areas. Additionally, factors such as years of experience, qualifications, and individual hospital or practice settings can also influence a neurosurgeon’s salary.

Ultimately, while geographic location plays a significant role in determining a neurosurgeon’s salary, it’s important to consider other factors such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, and opportunities for professional growth when choosing a career in neurosurgery.

Reputation and Specialization

When it comes to the salary of a neurosurgeon, several factors come into play. One of the significant factors is the reputation of the hospital or academic institution where they work. Neurosurgeons working in prestigious hospitals often earn higher salaries due to the reputation and quality of the healthcare provided. These hospitals usually attract patients seeking top-notch medical care, and as a result, they can afford to pay their neurosurgeons more. Some well-known hospitals in the field of neurosurgery include John Hopkins Hospital, Mayo Clinic, and Cleveland Clinic.

Prestigious Hospitals and Academic Institutions

Neurosurgeons working in prestigious hospitals have access to state-of-the-art technology, cutting-edge research, and a wide range of resources to enhance their practice. This exposure allows them to develop advanced skills and expertise, which in turn increases their market value. Additionally, these institutions often have strong connections with industry leaders and renowned neurosurgeons, providing opportunities for collaborations and professional growth.

It’s important to note that working in a prestigious hospital or academic institution doesn’t guarantee a high salary. Factors such as years of experience, patient volume, and individual performance also play a significant role in determining a neurosurgeon’s income.

Neurosurgery Subspecialties

Neurosurgery is a broad field with various subspecialties. Neurosurgeons who specialize in a particular area often command higher salaries due to their specialized knowledge and skills. Some common subspecialties in neurosurgery include:

  • Spine Surgery: Neurosurgeons who focus on spine surgery treat conditions such as herniated discs, spinal deformities, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Tumor Surgery: Neurosurgeons specializing in tumor surgery diagnose and treat brain and spinal tumors.
  • Vascular Neurosurgery: This subspecialty deals with conditions affecting blood vessels in the brain, such as aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).
  • Pediatric Neurosurgery: Pediatric neurosurgeons specialize in treating neurological conditions and disorders in children.

Neurosurgeons who have specialized in one of these subspecialties often have a higher demand for their services, which can translate into higher salaries. Additionally, the complexity and risk associated with these specialized surgeries may also contribute to the increased earning potential.

For more information on the salaries of neurosurgeons, you can visit reputable websites such as Medscape or Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Outlook for Neurosurgeons

Projected Job Growth

The job outlook for neurosurgeons is expected to be positive in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physicians and surgeons, including neurosurgeons, is projected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029. This growth is attributed to an aging population and the increasing need for neurological care. As more people require treatment for conditions such as brain tumors, spinal disorders, and neurological trauma, the demand for skilled neurosurgeons is expected to rise.

Competition for Jobs

While the job growth for neurosurgeons is promising, competition for positions can be fierce. Becoming a neurosurgeon requires extensive education and training, including completing medical school, a residency program, and possibly a fellowship. The path to becoming a neurosurgeon is rigorous and highly competitive, with only a limited number of spots available each year.

Furthermore, the number of medical school graduates each year exceeds the number of available residency positions, resulting in a competitive job market. Aspiring neurosurgeons must demonstrate exceptional academic performance, clinical skills, and a strong commitment to the field to stand out among their peers.

It is important for aspiring neurosurgeons to gain relevant experience and build a strong network within the medical community. This can be achieved through research opportunities, volunteering at hospitals, and establishing relationships with mentors in the field. By demonstrating a passion for neurosurgery and continuously striving for excellence, individuals can increase their chances of securing a coveted position as a neurosurgeon.

For more information on the job outlook and career path for neurosurgeons, you can visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.


In summary, neurosurgeon salary in the U.S. can vary widely but the average ranges between $400,000 to $800,000, with top earners making more than $1 million per year. Compensation is closely tied to education, skills, experience, reputation and geographic region. While securing one of these highly coveted positions is competitive, the field is growing due to our aging population’s need for neurological care and treatment.

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